Expectations from COP15
Published 03rd December 2009 - 3 comments - 2922 views -
The Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen’s breakfast speech at the recent APEC meeting called for a ‘politically binding deal’ and for Copenhagen meeting to serve ‘the purpose of providing for continued negotiations on a legal agreement’. The response of the leaders from the 18 other APEC members is ambiguous but it is clear that the landmark conference, beginning in less than a week, is not expected to achieve the original outcome that was hoped for.
But the ‘failure’ of COP15 does not necessarily bring us closer to climate change doom or a reversal of all momentum already gained in the past few years. Contrary to popular belief the Kyoto Protocol does not ‘expire’ in 2012 and Copenhagen will provide a definite assessment of each country’s current commitment to tackling climate change which is a necessary step to achieving a final legally binding deal.
The Kyoto Protocol came into force in February 2005, eight long years after it was adopted in 1997. The fact that it took so long for countries to ratify it is evidence of the Kyoto Protocol’s flaws and of the enormous complexities of climate change negotiations. There is a consensus that Kyoto Protocol though ambitious was an inequitable and inefficient agreement which did little to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Aiming for a similarly ambitious but toothless deal in Copenhagen will be the cause of immediate celebrations but long-term failures. The recent months have brought out into open the multitude of issues that need to be worked out before a comprehensive deal can be signed and there’s little to be gained from hastily working them out for the sake of a adopting a legally binding deal. The developed nations especially need more time to create domestic consensus and domestic laws necessary to make strong commitments to mitigation as demanded by developing nations. After all there’s very little incentive for countries to rework a bad deal once it is signed.
At Copenhagen countries must make significant progress towards an agreement on major contentious issues like mitigation and financing commitments from developed nations; mitigation plans of developing nations; and urgent adaptation issues in island states and least developed countries. Additionally countries must also recognize the interconnectedness of various actions; address trade competitiveness; discuss structural changes required in our economies to reduce emissions and not merely offset them; and reengineer market mechanisms to avoid boom and bust cycles expected after such a deal.
There is certainly a lot of time before Copenhagen for countries to make commitments necessary for a fair and equitable legally binding treaty but we should be wary of a bad agreement at Copenhagen that is portrayed in a better light by political leaders. An example would be the recent American announcement of emission reduction targets of 15% from 2005 levels or 4% from 1990 levels compared to the 25%-40% reductions being called for.
Failure to reach a final agreement at Copenhagen is no doubt a setback but there is much to hope out of Copenhagen and beyond.
About the author
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