Live From Copenhagen: Stark Positions and Unraveling Negotiations

Yesterday the COP/CMP were suspended in the aftermath of a proposal from Tuvalu to create a new legally binding ‘Copenhagen Deal’ with stricter targets including for developing (non-Annex 1) countries and to move negotiation of the deal to a new informal contact group.  While small nation states and many developing countries including Brazil support the proposal, big emitters like the United States, China, India and Australia strongly rejected the proposal.  Meanwhile Todd Stern, US Climate Envoy, has demanded that China put its domestic announcements into an international agreement to achieve a deal in Copenhagen, and has stated that they will not receive any funding from the US.  Amidst the deadlock the potential for an outcome is now uncertain, and it is likely non-Annex 1 countries will be further subdivided to try to break the deadlock.    As a result many meetings were postponed or canceled today, including a contact group meeting on REDD.

Several of the major players expressed their views in press briefings.  He Yafei, Vice Foreign Minister of China expressed his view that the goal of the UNFCCC was to help developing countries to combat climate change, because they are the victims.  He then suggested that China too is a developing country, with a per capita GDP of $3000 per year and that they have done much to combat climate change in their country by working to combat poverty. Furthermore they have committed to domestically legal target of reducing energy intensity per capita by 40-45%.  He stressed the need to stick to the original framework and for all Annex 1 countries to meet the targets they agreed to in the first phase of the commitment, before trying to transfer responsibility to the developing world.   With an undertone of threat Mr. Yafei called Mr. Stern’s suggestion US would not offer funds to China ‘arrogant and irresponsible,’ especially in light of the joint technology development agreement that was achieved during President Obama’s visit to China.  Although China has a point that it is still industrializing and faces considerable poverty challenges, the position is clearly intended to benefit China’s national interests, not all developing countries.  If it can commit to a 40-45% energy intensity target within its own national legislation there should be no reason to stop it from proposing to join a new international agreement under a similar framework.  The real problem is that it would no longer have the protection of ‘developing’ country status when called to account.

Lumumba Di-Aping, head of the G77 delegation group, made a poignant but scathing speech that chastised the developed nations for seeking to undermine the Kyoto Protocol claiming they are falling to the interests of ‘industrialists and their representatives in their executive branch’.   He in particular singled out the UK and the United States asking them to consider how much money they dedicate to their defense budgets, and the hundreds of billions of dollars they allowed bankers in their countries to pocket, ‘for no purpose other than to incentivize the pursuit of profit.’  Several billion dollars in funding for climate mitigation is insufficient.  He urged that a 2 degree Celsius rise would mean the death of African and small island states, and reiterated China’s considerations that it too is a developing country ‘with more people living in poverty than all of Africa.’  To general applause from the audience, Mr. Di-Aping saucily declared that ‘dividing the G77 or helping to divide the G77 should be left to the CIA, the KGB and the rest.’  The battle lines of the negotiation have been drawn around the distinction of responsibilities of developed and developing countries (particularly China), the level of an emission reduction commitment, and the future of the Kyoto Protocol.  It will be interesting to see how the United States responds, and whether agreement can be reached with such unyielding positions.  At this point prospects look grim.   Meanwhile polar bears need to get to 350 (ppm atmospheric CO2 concentration).

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