Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs on Copenhagen Climate Change Talks
21 Dec 2009
Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Minister Buyelwa Sonjica, on Copenhagen Climate Change Talks (22 December 2009)
Assessment of Copenhagen Talks
Climate change negotiations closed on Saturday 19 December without reaching an internationally legally binding agreement, which is disappointing for SA who had pushed for a two-track agreement – amendments to the Kyoto Protocol setting up a 2nd commitment period, and a legally binding agreement under the Convention to bring in the US, bind finance for adaptation and mitigation and, in return, allow some developing countries to commit to actions on mitigation, with support.
These very substantial issues have not been capable of agreement in the UNFCCC for the last two years – four on the Kyoto track. In Copenhagen, Parties were still too far apart – and too involved with process rather than substance – to reach agreement in the formal negotiating process. Process is important, since it determines outcomes, but some ill-restrained interventions combined with poor decisions by those guiding the process meant that process problems caused the loss of three days – precious time indeed.
To move forward the process, the COP Presidency (taking over the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen from his Climate Minister, Connie Hedegaard) convened a ‘commitment circle’ of Heads of State and Government drawn from the UN process. These included chairs of regional groups and key interests (e.g. OPEC, small islands, least developed countries), but notably excluded Latin American Bolivarian countries – the ALBA group – not helped by the fact that Latin America has for years not coordinated the region effectively.
With the direct involvement of South African President Jacob Zuma and other world leaders, Copenhagen did reach a political agreement on many of the issues preventing progress. Those central to critical disagreements were able to resolve issues politically – but not all. And without representation from ALBA, the political deal could not – and indeed should not have been – agreed in the Conference of the Parties, the formal UNFCCC process. In the end, the Copenhagen Accords were put into a box – attached to a very short decision that also forwards the bracketed negotiators’ texts to the next meetings and to the COP in Mexico
In particular, the political deal resolved important issues:
Bringing the US in, by agreeing how to record economy-wide binding emission reduction targets for developed countries, including the USA; these would need to be turned into commitments attached to a legally binding instrument; Simultaneously, for the first time, creating a space to record at international level the emission reduction actions by the more advanced developing countries. Information from China, India, Brazil, South Africa, but also Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, as well as some small countries Philippines, Maldives was available, but formally must be submitted by 31st January 2010, at the same time that developed countries must put in their quantified emission reduction commitments.
The leaders represented also agreed how to internationally measure, report and verify developing countries’ mitigation action, resolving a key dispute over review vs transparency;
Actions will be supported by transparently accounted finance $10 bn per year up to 2012, i.e. approaching $30bn immediately up to 2012 and $100 billion per year by 2020. The long-term finance is still beset by conditionalities, but it is the first time that this scale of money is on the table.
The broad institutional architecture for a technology development and transfer mechanism.
The Copenhagen Accord did not deliver on other issues. There was lack of agreement on the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. An attempt by South Africa in the final plenary to get the Kyoto ratifiers to agree to continue the second commitment period was again blocked by the EU – even after the decision had been gavelled through. The level of ambition of developed countries targets remains low (14-19% below 1990 level by 2020) – which implies that developing countries must do more, or the finance will have to become real, unconditional and internationally verified. In short, there needs to be agreement on the equitable sharing of the remaining carbon development space (very little left), a long term target to cut emissions (the language on 50% reductions by 2050 from 1990 levels was dropped) and a comprehensive international adaptation programme as a priority. These gaps, together with process problems, prevented consensus agreement to adopt this deal by all 193 countries.
This first reading suggests that work can go forward. Much more reflection and analysis will be needed to fully digest what really happened in Copenhagen. Certainly it was not the break-through that the world expected and the climate needed. It is weak, in that it is partial, and political rather than legally binding. But with some key issues resolved among world leaders represented should help move forward.
Where, how and when that happens will occupy us for a while.
COPENHAGEN CLIMATE CHANGE MEETING
20 DECEMBER 2009
THE OUTCOME IN COPENHAGEN
South Africa is extremely disappointed with the outcome in Copenhagen as we had high hopes that these negotiations would finally produce an ambitious, fair, effective and binding agreement to urgently address the long term global challenge of climate change. In reality, the international community was unable to reach a binding agreement on a future international climate change regime in Copenhagen. After 2 years of intensive negotiations under the UN Convention on Climate Change and its’ Kyoto Protocol, the final session of the Copenhagen Climate Change meeting closed on Saturday afternoon of the 19th December 2009, without a final conclusive agreement.
However, the Copenhagen conference did note a political agreement reached among 28 countries on some of the major and extremely difficult issues that have divided the international community since negotiations began 2 years ago. The particularly difficult questions addressed in this non-inclusive agreement relate to “how to share and reflect responsibility, commitment and action among developed and developing countries”; “how to verify and ensure compliance with respective commitments” and linked to this, the question of “who pays”.
Effectively, the conclusion reached in Copenhagen is to continue negotiations next year on the basis of the past 2 years work under the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention.
SOUTH AFRICA’S EXPECTATIONS OF COPENHAGEN
In Copenhagen, South Africa’s focus was on reaching an international agreement that would prioritise both mitigation of GHG emissions and the adaptation to climate change impacts equally; as well as balance both climate and development imperatives. In this regard it would equitably share the limited remaining carbon space in order to give developing countries a fair chance in the development space based on the Convention principles of “equity and “common but differentiated responsibilities”.
In line with these principles, our demand was that this agreement would be structured along the 2 tracks agreed to in Bali in 2007. First, developed countries would take the lead by making commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (with the USA taking a comparable commitment under the Convention due to the fact that they have not joined Kyoto). Second, developing countries would commitment to national action under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In this way, the future climate agreement would give real meaning to the principles of “equity” and “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” by firstly, setting ambitious binding economy wide commitments to reduce GHG emissions by all developed countries beyond 2012; with developed countries taking economy wide commitments through an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol and the USA taking on a comparable binding economy wide commitment under the Convention. Secondly, to record Developing Countries commitment to nationally appropriate action to reduce growth in GHG emissions relative to “business as usual” (BAU) as well as action to adapt to the impacts of inevitable climate change.
THE COPENHAGEN PROCESS
During the negotiations it became evident that there was substantial disagreement on how to resolve the key issues under negotiation.
To move forward, the COP Presidency (the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen) convened a small ‘commitment circle’ of Heads of State and Government to develop a Copenhagen Accord. Representation was drawn from the chairs of regional groups and key interests (e.g. OPEC, small islands, least developed countries), but notably excluded Latin American Bolivarian countries – the ALBA group.
With the direct involvement of South African President Jacob Zuma, African and other world leaders, Copenhagen did reach a political agreement on many of the issues preventing progress. Those countries central to critical disagreements were able to resolve some issues politically – but without representation from ALBA. This political deal could not be agreed by the Conference of the Parties in the formal UNFCCC process. In the end, the Copenhagen Accord was noted in a separate box – attached to a very short decision and the real decisions taken were to forward the negotiation text developed under the Convention and its’ Kyoto Protocol to the next negotiators meetings and to the COP in Mexico next year.
From the meeting of 28 world leaders, the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen was able to get agreement on the Copenhagen Accord which outlines political agreement among these leaders representing different regions and interest, on many of the major issues which have prevented the international community from reaching agreement for the past two years. In particular, these political agreements were related to the following issues:
1) How to record economy-wide binding emission reduction targets for developed countries, including the USA;
2) While simultaneously, for the first time, creating a mechanism to record, at international level, the emission reduction actions by developing countries (and developing countries, such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, as well as some small countries such as Philippines and the Maldives submitted information on their commitment to act at the meeting);
3) How to internationally measure, report and verify this action; which will be
4) supported by and transparently accounted for finance ($10 bn per year up to 2012) and $100 billion per year by 2020; and
5) A broad institutional architecture for a technology development and transfer mechanism.
However, it is important to note that the Copenhagen Accord lacks agreement on other key issues and that this prevented a consensus agreement by all 193 countries to adopt this deal.
Outstanding issues include:
1) Whether or not the Kyoto Protocol will continue beyond 2012,
2) Acceptance of the low level of ambition pledged by developed countries (collectively these pledges add up to between 14-19% below 1990 level by 2020)
3) Associated with this low level of ambition from developed countries is the inability to agree on global goals, which would include the equitable sharing of the remaining carbon development space and long term global targets to cut emissions;
4) Currently there is still disagreement on a comprehensive international adaptation programme as a priority or whether it should be an adaptation framework.
The process taken by the Danish Prime Minister was about resolving issues between contending parties and bringing proposed solutions back to the larger international forum. The rejection of this outcome here in Copenhagen proved that this approach is extremely difficult. Nevertheless, the political agreement reached on the sub-set of major elements may provide the international community with a foundation for reaching a comprehensive, fair, effective and binding agreement next year.
We have high hopes but there is still much to be done
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