Climate ‘negotiations’ and the World in peril...

From Copenhagen to Cancun: Low expectation prevails

The COP 16 of 2010 UNFCCC climate conference began in Cancun from 29th November for 12 days amidst much lower expectation of achieving significant commitment from the developed countries for lowering the emissions. After the failed climate conference of the COP 15, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, there is not much to expect from Cancun. The struggle of the environmental activists and the delegates of the developing countries resulted only into a non-binding agreement and a compromised text in Copenhagen with questions over its late night drafting process. Climate change conference results have always been disasters so far; same may be repeated in Cancun.

For countries like Bangladesh the climate conference has essentially been reduced into negotiation for climate fund.  A decision to create a new climate fund in the UNFCCC under the authority of the Conference of Parties is now being negotiated. This is the least the Cancun may offer although the details of the fund would still have to be worked out later;  Cancun can at least decide the process.

The UNFCCC meetings in Cancun include the 16th session of the Conference of Parties (COP16), the 6th session of the Conference of Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP6), and meetings of subsidiary bodies -- the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWGLCA), the Ad-hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWGKP), the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice. (SBSTA).

Two issues are important. One is whether the developed countries will commit sincerely to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and the second one, which most developing countries including Bangladesh is looking forward to, is the commitment of funds to developing countries. Given the experience so far there is hardly any possibility for a binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas. The funding possibility may end up in promises and papers. It is feared that the non-transparent small group drafting process that was followed in Copenhagen might be repeated in Cancun of Mexico. We can only pray that Cancun seashore resort has better chance of being much warmer and more sunshine than the ice-cold Copenhagen.

The negative impact of the bad result of the Copenhagen COP 15 is that although all the predicted and unpredicted disasters and climate changes had happened in different parts of the world, but due to non-binding agreement there was hardly any response from the developed countries. There have been many catastrophic natural disasters including the floods in Pakistan which are linked to Climate change. In just one year, the climate issue became much less important in the global agenda.  On the other hand, the elites of the developing countries and particularly the Environment Ministries who were dreaming of getting billions of dollars as their share of the adaptation to the climate disasters were very disappointed. No money finally came. 

In the scenario of global economic crisis and intense competition for growth ability of Cancun conference to bring out a global climate change agreement has much reduced even compared to Copenhagen. Experts feel the chances are not bright at all. The unfinished tasks of Copenhagen do not attract the world leaders to take initiative to solve the problems; rather pre-Cancun meetings show lack of interest among the politicians. One of the major global actors, such as the US administration is reluctant to make commitment to cut its emissions to the required extent according to the Kyoto Protocol. It is almost clear that Congress will not adopt a comprehensive climate bill. Following the US, the other developed countries are also taking advantage of delaying their commitments in the Kyoto Protocol's second period that is to start in 2013. Countries like Japan are not even interested to extend Kyoto Protocol from its first period which will end in 2012 and if it is extended then it will start in 2013. But it is learnt that Japan itself may oppose Kyoto extension at COP 16. It seems that other developed countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada will support Japan as they are also against Kyoto's second period. European Union may prefer to shift to a new system. Among the developed countries it is only Norway which agrees to a second Kyoto period.

It will mean that in COP 16, the Kyoto Protocol may be ended which was the only scope for the developing countries to pressurise the developed countries. The demand is to cut emissions by more than 40% by the developed countries as a group by 2020 (compared to 1990). The figures have to be re-calculated to fit 2013-2017 as the second period proposed by the G77 and China.  

The arrogant behaviour of the developed countries is revealed by top climate scientists in a new UN Environment Programme which shows that instead of reducing emissions by at least 25-40% below 1990 levels in 2020 as required developed countries will actually increase their emission by 6%. Developing countries were demanding reduction by more than 40%, as demanded by developing countries. This is being anticipated if their pledge is low and loopholes in the protocol is used. A better scenario could be like cut by 16% if their pledges are higher and they restrain from using the loopholes. The calculations are based on the pledges the developed countries made under the Copenhagen Accord.

These pledges, together with the figures from announcements made by some developing countries, show that the world is moving in the direction of a global temperature increase of between 2.5 to 5 degrees Celsius before the end of this century, according to the UNEP report.  This is far removed from the 1.5 or 2 degree “safe limit”, and is a recipe for catastrophe. This means in Cancun, one of the major and very hard problem to solve will be the U-turn in the attitude of most developed counties towards their own emission reduction.

On the other hand new obligations are proposed on developing countries to enhance their mitigation actions; those actions that are internationally supported to be subjected to measurable, reportable and verifiable (MRV) as agreed in Bali.  The finance and technology support provided by developed countries would also be subjected to MRV.  The mitigation actions that developing countries fund themselves do not have to be subjected to an international MRV system.

While the developed countries are not following their own obligations to Kyoto Protcol, they are pushing developing countries to newer obligations called the ‘Bali-Plus obligations’. These proposed obligations include an “international consultation and analysis” (ICA) system to be applied to mitigation actions that are unsupported, and a much more rigorous system of reporting on overall mitigation actions through national communications (once in four years) and supplementary reports (once in two years). It may be recalled that the Copenhagen Accord was not signed by all the developing countries and those who signed did not necessarily agree with the ‘imposed’ text.  So those countries, which did not sign on to the Copenhagen Accord, the need to undertake ICA does not apply to them, and those countries associated with the Accord do not agree with the stringent MRV and ICA systems proposed by the developed countries.  Another obligation that developed countries are seeking to place on developing countries is to give the latter a large contributory role in the overall meeting of long-term global emissions goals, such as a 50% global cut by 2050 compared with 1990. So the situation is much more complex in a more detailed way and it is unlikely that the twelve days in Cancun are enough to resolve these issues.

The is also difference of opinions between the developed and the developing countries.  This difference emerged with regard to the creation of the new climate fund in the UNFCCC and under the authority of the Conference of Parties (COP). The Developing countries are willing to enhance their mitigation actions and to prepare more detailed reports. But to accomplish these commitments they need funds and affordable access to new technologies to. The US has become the major obstacle in reaching to an acceptable outcome.  For the US to agree to that, there are conditionalities attached. They are demanding that there must be a Cancun agreement on mitigation with stringent obligations on reporting and international analysis on the part of the developing countries, and in which developed countries undertake a pledge and review system. The United States has clearly indicated that for it no agreement is possible without agreement on the entire package of elements as contained in the Copenhagen Accord, although these elements were actually ‘not adopted’ in Copenhagen but only ‘taken note of’. But since the draft was actually presented by US, it sticks to it as if it is the Agreement by all parties. This presents a major obstacle in achieving good outcomes in Cancun, such as the establishment of a new climate fund and of the technology mechanism.

Bangladesh is participating in the COP 16, as one of the highest top ranking country according to Global Climate Risks Index (GCRI) 2009, among 193 countries of the world. It is one of the most affected by the adverse impacts of climate change such as rising sea level, flooding and heat waves. The other countries in this list are Mynmar, Hondurus, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Haiti, India, Dominique Republic, the Philippines and China. The Global Climate Risks Index (GCRI) 2009 conducted by Germanwatch on an annual basis since 2007, reported that on average 8,241 people are to die annually in Bangladesh because of climate-change effects. Bangladesh incurs an annual financial loss of 2,189 million US dollars, which is putting 1.81 percent negative impact on the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP). The sea levels in the Bay of Bengal rose about 3 millimetres a year until 2000, but have been rising about 5 millimetres annually over the last ten years. According to the report, Bangladesh had to suffer both from significant number of deaths as well as direct economic losses exceeding 10 billion US dollars (in Purchasing Power Parties) among the countries most affected in 1998-2007 period. While analysing the impacts during the last decade (1998-2007) Honduras, Bangladesh and Nicaragua ranked highest.

The GCRI in its report analysis blamed a total of 37 industrialized countries for the ongoing climate-change impact. So the solution does not only lie in getting more climate funds but to pressurise the developed countries to reduce their emissions to 40%. Reality tells us that there is lack of ability for the developing countries as well as inbuilt weakness within the conference process to assert that pressure.  Climate Fund without pledges of emissions cuts from the developed countries will be to give treatment to the patient who is already dead. Unfortunately, our government delegates are not strong enough in putting pressures, but more efficient in asking for money.

Reference: TWN Cancun News Update No.1 & 2: 29 November 2010

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