(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 27, 2009
THE Copenhagen Climate Conference has ended without achieving anything, the only saving grace being that things could have been even worse. People’s expectations that this meeting of world leaders would finalise a legally binding global arrangement to rescue humanity from calamitous climate change have been rudely dashed. Frustration, anger and disappointment are widespread, but not surprise, since many had predicted just such an outcome including in these columns.
agreement was reached on targets for deep and binding emission cuts by
developed countries. No firm commitments were made regarding finance
technology transfers to help developing countries cope with climate
on mechanisms and measures for effective implementation. None of these
fact on the agenda of at least some countries at
day one, the
as the conference was about to close in complete disarray, a so-called
“Copenhagen Accord” was drawn up by the US along with the BASIC group
Brazil, South Africa, India and China, with the assistance of 22 other
countries drawn from all continents and groupings. The accord is in the
of a political agreement with no legal force or approval by the
as such, its very operational status is very much in doubt. Even though
widely perceived to be weak, flawed and dangerously open to differing
interpretations, it was finally supported, however reluctantly, by most
countries and blocs as providing at least some basis for future
this accord, the
one can seriously call what transpired at
As UN secretary general Ban-Ki Moon put it, “Nature does not negotiate with us.” IPCC has warned that the window of opportunity to prevent runaway climate change and irreversible damage is small and narrowing with each passing day. Indeed, since the release of IPCC’s Fourth Report in mid-2007, evidence has been mounting that the situation is deteriorating even more rapidly than earlier believed. A secret UN report released during the conference showed that, with the low emission cuts pledged by developed countries at Copenhagen, global emissions would not peak (i.e. reach maximum) by 2015 and then start declining as required, which would mean that global temperature rise could reach 3 degrees C by 2050, not 2 degrees as repeatedly promised.
in effect, therefore, the world is now where it was before
great deal of introspection, based on experience of the past few
was difficult to believe that two years had gone by since the Bali
was drawn up and two ad-hoc working groups, one on the Kyoto protocol
for enhanced emission reduction commitments by developed countries and
other on long-term cooperative action (AWG-LCA) towards achievement of
and longer-term goals, were set up. These two working groups had held
consultations with national governments, experts and civil society
around the world in order to promote a convergence of views and prepare
negotiating texts for
took two walkouts by African delegates, with
is a matter of some surprise why these moves by the
fact, if one looks back to developments over the past few years going
even before Bali, it would seem that
India and other large developing countries have paid a heavy price for
along with supposedly “consensus” formulations of the US and other G7
in earlier meetings of the G8 plus G5. This is not just hindsight. As
readers of these columns would know, warning bells had been sounded
even at those
junctures in reviews of climate discussions at these meetings. Joint
of the G8 plus G5 on aspirational goals of limiting global warming to 2
C and collaborative efforts to combat climate change were issued at the
at Heiligendamm in
The mostly unilateral commitments by developing countries such as China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia prior to Copenhagen, which they were not obliged to do under the Kyoto protocol, also need to be re-examined. To some commentators these declarations appeared to have enabled these large developing countries to seize the moral high ground. However, as events unfolded it became clear that, again as forewarned in these columns, they were used by the developed nations to their advantage. The US and allies merely kept pushing the developing countries to cut more, or to concede more ground for instance as regards monitoring and verification, while themselves refusing to increase their emission reduction commitments. The leaked UN report revealed that the mitigation actions volunteered by developing countries amounting to 5.2 billion tonnes of GHGs was considerably more that the emissions cuts pledged by the developed countries amounting to reduction of just 2.1-3.4 billion tonnes! Since the commitments by developing countries were made unilaterally, not conditional upon reciprocal action and deep cuts by developed nations, there was no pressure on the latter. In fact, the US and others also took the opportunity to put a further spin on this saying developing countries had made no concessions at Copenhagen, conveniently glossing over the fact that all these major concessions had been made before!
The real task now lies ahead, hopefully with lessons learnt. First the minefield of the Copenhagen accord. The mines are in plain sight but still need careful navigation to avoid tripping over them and setting them off.
At the very outset, there is no date set in the accord itself for arriving at a global and legally binding treaty. The earlier reference to the next conference in Mexico City in December 2010 has been deleted in the final version. First priority should be to prioritise this goal which, though, is implied in references to the LCA Working Group Report which contains it. Failing this, this will be only an open-ended “national pledge-based” agreement as the US has been pushing for with a review only in 2015.
Targets for global emissions, or for a peaking year, have been left out, not just in the accord but even during negotiations and especially by India which has pretended that that these are of no concern! There is perhaps a fear that, if global emission limits such as 50 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050, or a peaking year of not later than 2015, are mentioned, this will be used by developed countries to adopt low targets for themselves and thrust the balance on to developing countries. But this is where linkages with developed country targets and reciprocal actions come in and should be insisted on. Two degrees C is not an operational target but an outcome that depends on limiting the quantity of emissions and the time within which this is done, both of which can be achieved through targeted actions and monitoring of the same. Current formulations suffer from the same weaknesses as previous ones.
Doors have been opened in the accord for the removal or at least blurring of distinctions between developed and developing countries. At US insistence, even voluntary mitigation actions by the latter will be subject to “international consultations and analysis,” a thinly veil over international monitoring and verification. The provision for funding is worded not as a binding commitment of developed countries but that they would seek to “mobilise” these amounts from various sources leaving open the possibility not only of uncertainty as to amounts but also of diversion of aid money, funding from World bank or IMF etc.
India also needs to think seriously about differences among G77 developing countries that came to the surface in Copenhagen. While India has rightly paid attention to cementing the BASIC alliance, and of course is falling over backwards to please the US in the interests of the “strategic alliance,” it needs to ensure that it cements its natural alliance with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS), the African Union and the bloc of least developed countries (LDCs) together accounting for over 85 nations. There is a deep sense of disquiet among these countries that the “big four” developing nations are making common cause with the developed countries while sacrificing the interests of the most vulnerable. This is one red line India would do well not to cross.