Farhad Mazhar

From Copenhagen to Cancun: low expectation prevails

December 2, 2010

6a00d83451644969e20147e0302007970b-800wiThe COP 16 of 2010 UNFCCC climate conference began in Cancun from 29th November and will go on for 12 days though amidst much lower expectation of achieving significant commitment from the developed countries on decreasing carbon emissions. After the failed climate conference, COP 15 held in Copenhagen, Denmark, last year, there is not much to expect from Cancun. In Copenhagen, the struggle of environmental activists and delegates of the developing countries resulted only in a non-binding agreement and a compromised and questionable text drafted late night. So far, climate change conference results have been anything but positive; same may be repeated in Cancun.

For countries like Bangladesh, climate conferences have essentially been reduced to negotiation for climate fund. 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 Cancun may offer although details of the fund would still have to be worked out later; but 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 developed countries will commit sincerely to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and the other is, commitment of funds to developing countries — a commitment most developing countries including Bangladesh is looking forward to. Given the experience so far, there is hardly any possibility of a binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas. The funding assurance may end up only 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. We can only pray that Cancun seashore resort has better chance of seeing more sunshine than that of ice-cold Copenhagen.

The negative impact of the Copenhagen COP 15 is that although all predicted and unpredicted disasters and climate changes had happened in different parts of the world, due to non-binding agreement there was hardly any responses from developed nations. There have been many catastrophic natural disasters including floods in Pakistan which are linked to climate change. As it seems, in just one year the climate issue has become much stale in the global agenda. On the other hand, the elites of developing countries and particularly the environment ministries who were dreaming of getting billions of dollars as their share of the adaptation to climate disasters became dejected. No money finally came.

In the 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, the US administration, is reluctant to make any commitment to cut emissions following the Kyoto Protocol. It is almost clear that the 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, only Norway agrees to a second Kyoto period.

It means that in COP 16, the Kyoto Protocol may see its demise which was the only scope for the developing countries to create pressure on the developed nations. The demand is to cut emissions by more than 40 percent 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 attitude of the developed nations is revealed by top climate scientists in a new UN environment programme which shows that instead of reducing emissions by at least 25-40 percent below 1990 level, by 2020, developed countries will actually increase their emission by 6 percent. Developing countries were demanding reduction by more than 40 percent. This is being anticipated if their pledge is low and loopholes in the protocol are used. A better scenario could be like emission cut by 16 percent 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 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 disaster. This means in Cancun, one of the major and very difficult problems 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 developed countries are not following their own obligations to Kyoto Protocol, 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 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 emission goals, such as a 50 percent 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-day Cancun summit is enough to resolve these issues.

There is also difference of opinions between the developed and the developing countries. This difference emerged with regards 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 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 the 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 countries 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, floods and heat waves. The other countries in this list are Myanmar, Honduras, 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 puts 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 10 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 industrialised 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 percent. 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 emission cuts from the developed countries will be like giving 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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Farhad Mazhar is a poet, social and human rights activist and the leading exponent of biodiversity-based ecological agriculture and lifestyles affirming joy of living within the community. He is also the Managing Director of UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative).

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One Response to “ From Copenhagen to Cancun: low expectation prevails ”

  1. Ahmed zaman on December 4, 2010 at 1:19 am

    I am happy again to see the brilliant column of Mr. Mazhar. He is coninuously giving us a real picture of the wealthy countries political and geo-polital views towards other weak and under developed countries. We are living in dreams. There will be no climate fund rather it is a pledge like Kyoto protocal…I appreciate his excellent writings. hope to see more from him.

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