Thursday, December 17, 2009

No Deal is Better Than a Bad Deal

Algerian envoy Kamel Djemouai, who speaks for 53 African nations, expressed the views of many inside and outside the Copenhagen summit today when he said: "No deal is better than to have a bad deal, particularly for Africa”. But the pressure is on for something to be done so that the world leaders, now arriving in droves, can sign something tomorrow.

The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference of the Parties is the fifteenth such conference and the cumulation of two years of negotiations. These began in Bali in 2007, moved to Poland the following year and were supposed to culminate in Copenhagen. It now looks likely that many of the key issues will be postponed for further negotiations through the G8, G20 and then another negotiation in Mexico in six months time.

A small victory was won today by the developing nations. All along they have been arguing that what is required is the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol, given that the current phase ends in 2012. They have won this argument, at least from a procedural point of view. The summit now has two tracks – one for those Kyoto signatories (including Canada) and one for those nations (US for one) who either did not sign up to Kyoto or wish to revoke their commitment to the Kyoto.

The US, through the work of its Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, has offered to provide assistance in solving another problem. The problem is that the developing nations have been demanding a sizeable fund – they asked for between $500 billion and $800 billion a year – for reparations for climate change damage and for support for the growth of their economies, while making investments in renewable energy. Clinton has offered to work with others to secure a $100 billion annual fund by 2020. She has not offered to provide these funds, only to work with others to develop the fund. But there are conditions. One is that there should be complete transparency in assessing C02 emissions and the impact of fund investments in seeking to secure lower emissions. The other condition is that the attempt by the US, working with others, to corral $100 billion annually, is that there is a strong accord on climate change – something currently not at all evidence. The US has said it will “pay its share”, but has yet to make clear just what its share is. While many are reading this as a concrete promise, it is a clever piece of rhetoric. The US will “try” only “if” is not a strong commitment.

The developed world is not budging on the 2C target for the targeted limit for increases in global temperature, despite the resolute demands from many nations that the target be 1.5C. Even the African Union, led on this occasion by Ethiopia, has accepted the 2C target. There also appears to be the basis of an agreement on forests and reforestation, again dependent on new funds.

What is not agreed on is what the emissions targets will need to be under Kyoto 2.0 or the parallel agreement or what counts as an acceptable mechanism for achieving recognized reductions. The summit has postponed, but not ruled out, the use of carbon capture and storage as a mechanism at this time.

So, fraught, tense, fast changing, the conference remains without a real focus on a single strategy and is already split into two camps – Kyoto 2.0 and not Kyoto. There is no real deal on emissions, only a vague promise to keep temperature rises down to no more than 2C, which in itself requires a 40% cut in emissions by 2020 to provide just a fifty-fifty chance of achieving this modest goal. Right now the emissions “offers” on the table amount to around 18% by 2020.

So overall, whatever the communiqué that is signed, the world looked at the future and failed to act.

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