Crunch time in Copenhagen

14 December 2009

As delegates return to the Bella Center today, they are joined by ministers and subsequently by heads of state/government. What issues should they focus on to achieve a fair, ambitious, binding and timely deal? ECO is glad you asked, because we have some very clear suggestions.

Mitigation: On Saturday AOSIS again drew attention to the threat to survival for many small island states and LDCs. They are not playing negotiating games.  When they push for 45% cuts by developed countries on 1990 levels by 2020 they are defining their right to survive above water.

And yet as we enter the second week of negotiations, developed country pledges for 2020 emission cuts in aggregate remain desperately low.  Ecofys and Climate Analytics put the total cuts at a dismal 8-12% on 1990 levels. Once loopholes such as dodgy LULUCF accounting and hot air are taken into account, this could end up as a 4% increase on 1990 emissions.

This low ambition has not been helped by the EU. It could have sent a positive signal to the talks by raising their target at their leaders summit, potentially starting a chain reaction of raised ambition among other developed countries. But no, the EU dodged its opportunity to lead at this key moment.

Not only are targets a problem. Countries continue to bicker over the widely accepted baseline of 1990, there is still no clarity on the straightforward issue of a five-year commitment period, nor on a scientific review clause by 2015 at the latest, to be informed by the IPCC’s fifth assessment report.

So ECO draws the attention of all developed country ministers and heads of state/government to the real challenge before them.  They must raise their targets, close the loopholes, agree on a 1990 base year and five-year commitment periods, and impose an early scientific review. For small island states and other poor and vulnerable countries this is non-negotiable as it is surely a matter of survival.

Adaptation: The unavoidable loss and damage from climate change must be adequately addressed, since it is a result of developed countries failure to mitigate in the past. Greenwashing must not sacrifice the most vulnerable.

Hence, adaptation is a crucial element of the Copenhagen agreement. Recalling in-depth studies by the World Bank, UNFCCC and others, ECO wants to see at least US$50 billion annually for adaptation in developing countries in the next commitment period, increasing to US$100 billion by 2020. The delivery of this finance must be measured, reported and verified. It must be additional to development aid commitments and not current commitments repledged over and over again. The existing Adaptation Fund should play an important role in the delivery of this finance and also as part of fast-track action.

As developing countries implement adaptation, ECO expects they will give priority to the people and communities most at risk from climate change.

Finance:  Last week saw the unveiling of a variety of proposals from both developed and developing countries. This is a welcome display of initiative at a time when that is sorely needed, but ECO would like to emphasise two important points.

First, kick-start finance must come as a part of a long term, legally binding agreement to reach the figure of US$195 billion per year by 2020. This amount must be additional to ODA commitments if it is to contribute effectively to sustainable development.

Second, this funding should flow through a consolidated fund under the authority of and fully accountable to the COP.  Direct access to funding and accountability to those most affected by climate change are also essential. Once again clarity is needed on accountability to the COP and the role that affected communities will play in the suggested proposals.

Last week also saw renewed enthusiasm for innovative sources of finance, with the spotlight focusing on fossil fuel subsidy shift, special drawing rights and financial transactions taxes. This shows a useful concentration of minds; but these ideas still need to be transformed from policy concepts into workable text.

And speaking of text, ECO reminds Parties that bunkers are already in the negotiating text with US$25-37 billion per year of reliable and sustainable financing waiting to be picked up by 2020. It’s a good moment for this to gain further momentum among the Parties. While we are at it, why not include some provisions for AAUs auctioning?

Legal Matters: In the first week, legal form issues have taken center stage with Tuvalu taking the lead, and new drafts provided by both Chairs. ECO welcomes the emerging consensus that both AWG tracks are moving towards legally binding text. Time is tight, so Parties must be willing to work seriously with the text that they have. Ministers and heads of state/government must then step in to resolve contentious issues. Early progress this week must occur to raise the prospects of reaching a full agreement on substance and legal form here in Copenhagen.

It is crunch time and these are the core issues that should occupy your minds this week. Success or failure on these questions will not only determine whether an agreement can be reached, it may determine your legacy.

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