14 June, 2010

Bonn: no “grand accord” possible

Sergio Abranches

The preparatory Climate Change meeting in Bonn has closed showing small progress. It should be clear by now that UNFCCC will never lead to a “grand accord”.

The best way possible is to build upon the Copenhagen Accord: targets and actions already filed represent 86% of total global carbon emissions. The sum total is still not enough. But it is far more than the Kyoto Protocol will ever be able to deliver. The task, now, should be to operationalise the Accord, design a mechanism to review the portfolio of national actions every two years, put REDD and the fast-track finance in place, and start working towards the long-term fund.

Many observers say that the major outcome from the Bonn preparatory talks was the climate of mutual engagement and trust that marked the meeting in spite of the rifts that remained. Yvo de Boer said that “countries started talking to each other rather than at each other”.

But the most significant political signal of the meeting was the veto imposed by Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and a few other oil-producing countries to the request by small island states for an update on the latest scientific evidence for global warming. The request was based on the fact that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is not due to complete its fifth assessment until 2014 and doubts have been cast on some elements of its fourth assessment, published in 2007. It seems only sensible that  an update of all solid peer-reviewed scientific work should be consolidated under the IPCC umbrella to guide the climate negotiations. (See Mood thaws on climate change).

As Christiana Figueres has said a global, binding, meaningful agreement will probably never be possible within the confines of the UNFCCC. The only viable outcome would be an ongoing, always provisional, agreement to be revised and improved over the years ahead. The best we can hope is always a compromise that “would not meet all needs of everyone but at least meet the basic needs of everyone.”

A new look at the Copenhagen Accord would show that, in spite of all the frustration it brought against the backdrop of inflated expectations, it is the best outcome we’ve ever had from any global climate negotiation since the Rio ’92 meeting. To enforce the targets and actions all major carbon emitters have filed, and the commitments the Accord contains would be a much more concrete and definitive step, than keep investing on the unending phrase by phrase negotiation that would hardly lead to anything better than the Accord we already have.

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