Time for a Course Correction

30 September 2009

The Bali Action Plan (BAP) provides a clear timetable and outline for negotiations aimed toward a fair and effective deal in Copenhagen. That outline differentiates between the mitigation commitments of developed countries and the MRV actions undertaken by developing countries.

The BAP did not, however, provide space for the crucial overarching discussion on architecture. That includes a discussion about the relationship between an enhanced Kyoto Protocol (or a successor Protocol) and the legal outcome of negotiations under the LCA. This architectural debate goes to the heart of the Copenhagen outcome.

Such a discussion will have to include consideration of the comparability of the efforts of those rich countries that have avoided doing so under Kyoto — especially the United States — and those who have inscribed their commitments in Annex B.  It should fully consider all architectural proposals that aim to flesh out all the requisite responsibilities, as the climate regime evolves and builds on the solid foundation the Convention provides.

ECO has been a bit surprised by the confusion the US was able to create with its call for a discussion of the “common” elements of the BAP.  Indeed, it is the US that is on review until it is ready to commit to doing its fair share, both in reducing its own emissions and taking on a concrete financial obligation. The clock is ticking on the US Senate turning the good intentions of President Obama into legislative action. Today, the main bill from Senate leadership is being released: game on.  The countdown to Copenhagen continues.

As for the developing countries, based on what they have been tabling recently, like China last week, they have nothing to fear.

Developing countries need not be defensive, and they should welcome a broader debate on architecture.
ECO calls on all delegations to enter into this debate with an open mind, without dwelling too much on the motivations of the US. We welcome political statements if they are used as a means to clarify country positions, rather than as detours slowing down progress towards an equitable and ambitious deal that has real environmental integrity.

These refinements to the course of the debate would help shorten the negotiating text to its bare essence, by articulating areas of convergence and divergence in legal terms and conducting actual negotiations, rather than further process discussions. Yet for all the diplomatic niceties: this is a fight worth having.

[Article published in Climate Action Network’s Eco Newspaper, Sep. 30, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand UNFCCC negotiationsfull PDF version here]

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