20 October, 2009

Copenhagen: Trimming or watering down the deal?

Some would say the Copenhagen deal will be streamlined. Others will argue it is losing substance. The signs coming out of the Major Economies Forum – MEF, held in London this Monday, are that developed countries are relenting on their demand that emerging economies agree to commit to long-term targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Many representatives of major developed countries stressed that they see intermediate targets for 2020 as more relevant.

Sergio Abranches

Dropping or lowering the 2050 targets will make it easier to seal a deal in Copenhagen. That much is clear. Maybe a mid-term deal is the only viable way, only 47 days before the COP-15 opens in Denmark. Political realism would support the view that a good partial deal is better than a loose global longterm deal. Yet, the global warming phenomenon has a very different, unique nature to be directly compared to other issues to which political realism was successfully applied. We are dealing with two demanding deadlines: the 47-day Copenhagen deadline, and the one – unpredictable – posed by the risk of tipping points accelerating global warming to a point of no return. It is clear that we’re already late: some warming and the ensuing climate change are already unavoidable. We are also short on adaptation measures. Perhaps the only hope for Earth would be an ambitious long-term deal, with binding targets to major emerging powers as well. A solution that does not seem to be on the horizon of our possibilities.

Yvo de Boer, top UN Climate Change official, said he doesn’t believe a “fully fledged new international treaty under the [UN Framework] Convention [on Climate Change]” is going to happen in Copenhagen next December, reports Fiona Harvey, for the Financial Times. He thinks governments could agree on the structure of a deal, the technical details of which would be filled in later. In other words, no new Protocol to replace the anemic Kyoto Protocol.

That’s what US chief negotiator Todd Stern hinted at in his public statement during the MEF meeting, in London. “Our view at the G8 in July was that there ought to be both a developed country number and a worldwide number – 80 per cent for developed countries, 50 per cent worldwide. We still think that,” he said, adding he didn’t know “whether that is going to be included or not.”

Ed Miliband, UK’s Energy and Climate Change secretary, sees the climate deal in Copenhagen “hanging in the balance”. He thinks “there is a universal view that we need to get an agreement, but not at any price. It is not a done deal and remains in the balance in my view.”

In spite of host prime-minister Gordon Brown’s strong alert at the opening of MEF, and although some still thinking an agreement looks more “do-able” after the London talks, as Ed Miliband has argued, we seem to be heading to Yvo de Boer’s scenario. A general charter of principles, perhaps with some binding intermediate targets clearly set, and a new roadmap for the 2010 and 2011 climate summits to agree on the technical details and give some flesh and bone to this charter. The deadlock persists: we are still in “an ‘I will if you will’ situation,” as Ed Miliband has defined it at the end of the day.

Tags: , , , , ,