2015 – Setting the Pace in the Race for Ambition
14 May 2012
As delegates bounce back to the Maritim, high off their post-Durban buzz, ECO thinks it’s worthwhile reminding them of the gravity of what they are negotiating. Durban very nearly failed. Had it done so, it would have empowered the formidable naysayers across the global economy, providing them with ample fuel to dismiss not only climate change but the multilateral system altogether.
Whilst the Durban outcome was far from perfect, delegates still had the Cancun prophecy ringing in their ears – “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. What we got from Durban was an opportunity, as opposed to an outcome, of a hard deadline of 2015. And, importantly, we got the world caring again. When the Indians and Europeans battled it out in the grand “huddle”, determined to come to a resolution, international leaders and investors finally looked up from their navels and took notice.
Now, back in the confines of the Maritim, we need all parties to knuckle down, and begin the long, hard slog to negotiate the final outcome. Opening up old wounds will not prevent climate chaos.
As Cancun pointed out, tactical negotiating will not be enough to secure us a 1.5 degrees C future. Skilled diplomacy has not required any of the critical countries to move beyond the red lines we grew to know, love and hate in Copenhagen. Parties acknowledged that the politics aren’t yet right to secure a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal. But what we got in Durban was a grace period.
The politics of 2015 do, however, provide an opportunity for more ambition compared to 2011. “It’s the economy, stupid”, barely encompasses the political preoccupation across Europe and OECD countries. But by 2015, it is likely that the worst of the recession will be over. And importantly, the rhythm of the electoral cycle across a swathe of key polluters to 2015 gives hope and promise to greater levels of ambition and political commitment. Unless countries recognise the very real danger that climate change poses to their national interests, they will not budge any further than their pre-Copenhagen mandates.
But it’s not only the politics of ambition which need to be mastered. That little old chestnut, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, also needs some help. And it would appear as if, finally, most Annex 1 countries have received the message loud and clear (ECO does not need to spell it out; we all know who the deaf countries are). Unless a fair settlement is sought, a deal in 2015 is unrealistic. Fairness is not a hurdle towards greater ambition, but a key component to incentivise a successful deal. Scepticism that 2015 will be “Copenhagen the Sequel” misreads the politics since COP15. Anyone daft enough to think politicians and their negotiators would endure another Copenhagen should be doomed to eat Maritim sandwiches for the rest of their lives. 2015 will be very different.
Firstly, a key advantage for 2015 is that the political change we need to see can now be leveraged off significant quantities of low carbon investment and confidence across a broad range of countries. Adding to this, the UNFCCC has made significant progress in defining the mechanisms which can be ramped up to deliver ambition. Secondly, the embryonic Durban Alliance and Cartagena Dialogue can help keep their Annex 1 partners on their toes, and help shape a Fair, Ambitious and Binding (FAB) deal over the years ahead. And finally, 2015 will no doubt be an important milestone on the road to a global low carbon economy, alongside Rio, Qatar and other high profile events.
But we must not focus on the glitz and glamour at the expense of harvesting incremental achievements, building session by session the systems and instruments needed to deliver success along the way. Putting all our eggs in one basket, when the scale of the challenge is enormous, is no longer a feasible option. Parties are now acknowledging that success in 2015 will be measured by a combination of progress inside and outside the UNFCCC, top-down and bottom up measures, in shaping emissions trajectories to 2030.
In Bonn, ECO will not take the promise of post-2020 ambition as an excuse for lack of short-term measures. Broaching the gigatonne gap, outlining ambitious proposals for the review of adequacy and beginning to map out the process for developing an equitable outcome will be vital in securing a 2015 deal. Haggling over the text that has already been gavelled through contradicts the constructive spirit reached in South Africa.