Outlining a Progressive Future

Copenhagen – Part One

So, A little while ago on Facebook I promised an updated blog whilst I was in Copenhagen. Unfortunately with illness and a crazy schedule, so far I haven’t delivered. But, better late than never! As the week comes to a close, the negotiations are wrapped up and the fall out begins, I think it is worth doing some writing.

It’s really hard to know where to start; this last week has been crazy. I think maybe the best point is to look at the COP15 and where it is at/what we can expect from the last day. Unless a miracle happens over the next 12 hours, I think we can safely say that this whole process will be a disaster, no matter what the worlds ‘leaders’ try to make out of it. There are a few things that point to this:

1) Targets: A leaked draft text from last night provided a possible agreement that would limit temperature rise to 3 degrees. Within current texts there is no mention of the 1.5 degrees science says is what we need, nor the 350ppm of carbon in the atmosphere. It is extremely unlikely that either of these numbers will enter the text soon. In fact, with current targets it is predicted that by 2100 the atmosphere would be constituted of 770ppm of carbon dioxide; over double what is considered a safe level by scientists.

2) Loopholes and tricks: There are so many loopholes in the current text regarding the right to emit that will not be overcome today. Key to these is offsets. Whilst offsets sound like a reasonable idea, they are fraught with problems. The biggest of these is that you cannot account for it. For example, in many cases offset credits are being bought for projects that would have occurred without the money anyway, meaning there is no real reduction in emissions. In other cases offsets are being double counted. For example, evidence has shown that many projects that the UK has invested into China have been counted as emissions reductions for both the UK and China. These problems with offsets are not ones of honesty, but are systematic, meaning that any deal with offsets included will be tarnished.

Other loopwholes include the ridiculous land changes provisions that would allow countries such as Australia to fudge the numbers (through claiming land that ‘would have been logged but wasn’t’ as reductions in emissions, when these numbers can basically be inflated), leading to situations where reductions look a lot more than they really are. Sweden, Finland and Canada have also managed to achieve such provisions, allowing logged forests to still come under ‘sustainable forest management’, meaning they will not be considered as lost carbon credits.

There are plenty of loopholes such as these throughout the currents texts and plans and they don’t look like they will be removed any time soon.

3) Finance: Simply put, the issue of finance is still a big one, with no where near the amount of money required being put into the developing. This is one issue that can be fixed, but don’t expect an agreement until it is.

4) Legally Binding or Not? The North/South Divide: Another big contention over the past week has been whether the agreement made here should be legally binding or not. Basically, at the start of the conference there was a big split between the developing world and the developed world, with the developing world (with the island states at the forefront) pushing for a discussion on extending the Kyoto Protocol, with the developed world rejecting this idea. This lead Tuvalu to suspend the conference and stage a protest in the conference center. After this the Danes (who are chairing the conference) gave in to some demands through creating two ‘streams’ of discussion; one on the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol; one on creating a new agreement. These two streams continue until today and have not been able to come together in any way.

Even within these streams however, there are differences. For the developing world there is a major split between the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) countries who want a continuation of Kyoto without any legal cuts for themselves and the rest of the developing world who want a legally binding deal but with legal cuts for the BASIC countries. This split has also not been resolved.

This problem has underlined some key ‘north/south’ divides within the conference, with the developing world constantly charging that they are being left out of the negotiations. There is not doubt that they are being left behind with the developed world participating in behind the door, secret discussions, leaving out the developing world. They have then aimed at using bullying tactics to pressure the smallest developing countries into line (for example, after the Tuvalu protest, Kevin Rudd called all the heads of state of small island states to tell them to stop being obstructive and get into line). Developing countries have also have problems with the Danish chairing of the conference, with claims that the issues/discussions of the developed world are constantly precedence over that of the developing world.

5) NGO participation: Last point is on NGO participation. I will go into this more in another post later, but essentially the democracy deficit has been high here. Most negotiations have occurred behind closed doors and nearly all NGOs have been blocked out over the last couple of days. Whilst this technically may not affect the actual text it is a serious cause for concern as secret negotiations have taken precedence over open and transparent discussion. This means that in the washup we have to be very careful to go over everything to make sure dodgy deals haven’t been done.

As with everything, the  devil will be in the detail as the end comes close in Copenhagen. So, if by the end of today the talks are declared a success, don’t believe it straight away. Look for the details, because at the moment they are disastrous.


December 18, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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