TWN Info Service on Climate Change
12 February 2010
Third World Network
No.1, 10 February 2010
SOUTHVIEWS is a service of the South
Centre to provide opinions and analysis of topical issues from a South
the Way Forward
By Martin Khor
The global negotiating framework for
climate change is in a state of flux because of the confusing manner
in which the Copenghagen Conference ended last December.· The way forward
is to quickly resume the negotiations in the multilateral arena of the
UNFCCC and its two working groups.
The UNFCCC Copenhagen Conference in December
2009 ended in some disarray and confusion because of a clash between
two processes taking place.
On one hand there was the open, transparent
and multilateral process of the UNFCCC and its two working groups on
long-term cooperative action (LCA) and further action in the Kyoto Protocol
(KP). They worked for the past two years to follow up on the mandate
of the Bali Conference of December 2007, continued their work (including
through late nights) for two weeks in Copenhagen and produced two
reports with draft texts for further negotiations that were adopted
by the Copenhagen Conference.
This was the real work formally taking
place and built the foundation for another year of work after Copenhagen.
The reports give a fair view of the state of play of the extremely complex
negotiations. Everyone knew that Copenhagen
could not produce a final detailed outcome, and the two reports should
have been (and still could be) the stepping stone to the 2010 process.
On the other hand there was the two-day
meeting, on the sideline, and held in secrecy, of 26 or 29 (no public
information is available) political leaders convened by the Danish Presidency
of the Conference without the knowledge of the other member states or
the other almost hundred political leaders who were present but not
According to various reports, it was
a messy and often stormy meeting, and headed for total failure until
a last-minute understanding was reached by the leaders of the US
and four developing countries (China,
India, Brazil, South Africa). This process
produced a Copenhagen Accord which was presented to the plenary which
“took note” of it but did not adopt or endorse it.
The inclusive and well-ordered multilateral
process and the exclusive and messy “group of 29” process (each going
on without reference to each other) eventually had to meet. It
did, in the final plenary, and the results were tumultuous. The
consequences are messy and confusing.
Two months after, the reverberations
of this confusing clash in Copenhagen are still being
felt. Climate change is too serious an issue to get lost in the
confusion. Thus, the process for 2010 should get sorted out so
that the negotiations can resume.
But on what basis? The existence
of the Accord and how this may or may not fit into the multilateral
process is being hotly debated. Some Western countries even proposed
that the UN process be sidelined and a new process involving only the
29 leaders be created to make decisions more quickly. Or
else to get an exclusive body like the G20 or the Major Economies Forum
to take over the climate negotiations.
A press report (Guardian 14 January)
said the US had doubts about yielding primary control of climate negotiations
to the UN and quoted its top climate negotiator Todd Stern as wanting
to design a regime different from the present one where it is “frustrating”
to “debate whether a particular idea is consistent or not consistent
with such-and-such an article of a previous agreement.” He proposed
setting up a “structure and a regime” that can solve this problem.
This sounds like the US
does not want to negotiate within the UNFCCC with due respect for the
legal tenets and provisions of this treaty, and would like to set up
a new legal regime with different principles and provisions.
In this scenario, the basis for the negotiations
would be the Copenhagen Accord, which would thus overthrow the two UNFCCC
working group reports. The UNFCCC process itself would be slowed
down or stopped. The Convention and its Kyoto Protocol themselves
seem to be under threat.
The Danish Prime Minister and the UN
Secretary-General seemed to opt for expanding the legally and substantially
thin Accord into a full blown regime. In a 30 December joint letter
to the 28 or 29 leaders who attended the exclusive Copenhagen meeting,
they stated: “The Copenhagen Accord represents the essential first
step in a process leading to a robust international climate change treaty….We
must now work very quickly and diligently to get all the other Parties
to sign onto the Accord.”
According to media reports from Delhi,
the Indian Prime Minister took exception to this letter and replied
that it was India’s
understanding that the Accord was not a legal document and was not intended
to lead to a treaty.
When the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC
sent out a notice to member states requesting them to write to him about
their intentions whether to associate with the Accord, there were replies
from some developing countries questioning his role in the Accord and
his use of the phrase “In the light of the legal character of the Accord.”
On 25 January, Mr. Yvo de Boer clarified
on the UNFCCC website that the Accord does not have any legal standing
within the UNFCCC process. He stated: “Since the Conference
of Parties neither adopted nor endorsed the Accord, but merely took
note of it, its provisions do not have any legal standing within the
UNFCCC process even if some Parties decide to associate with the Accord.”
Meanwhile, many developing countries
indicated that for them the UNFCCC remains the only legitimate venue
for the climate negotiations and called for the two working groups to
resume their work, with an initial meeting to be held as soon as possible.
The Ministers of BASIC countries (Brazil,
South Africa, India and China)
at their Delhi
meeting on 24 January underscored the centrality of the UNFCCC process
and the decision of the Parties to carry forward the negotiations on
the two tracks of the LCA and KP working groups.
They wanted all negotiations to be “conducted
in an inclusive and transparent manner”, an indication for their preference
for the multilateral UNFCCC process instead of an exclusive 29-country
process or the G20 or MEF.
And they called for meetings of the two
working groups to be convened in March 2010 and ensure they meet at
least 5 times before the Mexico Conference in December. They said
these meetings are essential and funding, logistics and other procedural
issues should not be a constraint to convene these meetings.
It is also significant that when China
sent in letters to the UNFCCC secretariat providing information on their
mitigation actions, they referred to several Convention provisions under
which they were giving the information, and did not refer to the Accord
The Association of Small Island States
in a Press Statement on 3 February also reiterated its commitment to
the UNFCCC as the primary forum for negotiations, and called for the
two working groups to resume their work “as a matter of urgency”
as well as negotiations to be conducted in a transparent and inclusive
It is clear that the developing countries
(including those whose leaders took part in the small-group meeting)
do not want to abandon the UNFCCC process nor the Kyoto Protocol, in
favour of a new process centered on the Accord. On the contrary,
they want the UNFCCC and its working groups to be the basis for
this year’s climate talks which should start as soon as possible.
UNFCCC and the Way Forward
This is the right approach for the Way
Forward. It would be a mistake to abandon or sideline the UNFCCC
multilateral process because the needed climate action requires all
countries to take part.
The LCA group has already made significant
progress in clarifying the issues, placing them into structures, delineating
the areas of agreement and providing options in text form in areas where
there are disagreements. The foundation has been laid for progress
this year and hopefully a conclusion.
It is not true that there has been no
or little progress in the UNFCCC and that it would be impossible to
reach an outcome in this venue. Those who argue for a more exclusive
venue want to have an advantage in another format in which they have
a better chance to get their views accepted, instead of having to go
through the democratic multilateral route that has been so well charted
The experience in WTO also shows that
having an exclusive ‘Green Room’ process that is de-linked from the
whole membership does not work and in the end wastes rather that saves
The Way Forward thus requires a quick
resumption of the UNFCCC process, with the two working groups meeting
again as soon as possible, and planning for a series of meetings leading
to COP16 in December.
Proponents of the Accord can make use
of its points to input into the UNFCCC process.
The reports of the two working groups
adopted in Copenhagen can be used as reference documents
for the resumed negotiations. Parties can be allowed to still advocate
their submitted proposals.
The areas already agreed to can be consolidated
and the options in areas where there is not yet consensus can be seriously
For developing countries, the key issues
of finance and technology as well as adaptation can be expected to remain
key priorities. The institutional aspects (a Fund under the authority
of the COP, a technology policy and implementation mechanism under the
COP) should be agreed on quickly, and the substantive issues as identified
in the LCA Chair’s Report should be further negotiated (such as the
quantum, sources, channels and uses of funding; and the assessment,
financing, access to affordable technology, the approach to innovation
and IPR issues).
On mitigation, the Kyoto Protocol track
should be pursued for ambitious targets for Annex I parties of the KP.
The aggregate target should be in line with what science requires.
The individual national targets should be comparable, so as to have
fair effort sharing.
For the US,
which is not a KP member, the solution envisaged in Bali
should be pursued, i.e. a Decision of the COP that contains the country’s
agreed reduction figure that is comparable with the commitments of the
other developed countries.
The mitigation negotiations will also
address developing countries’ mitigation actions and the MRV (measurement,
reporting and verification) treatment of actions that are supported
by finance and technology (which themselves require a MRV system).
Land and forest issues would also be treated specially in their present
On adaptation, there are issues of structure,
financing and priorities that have also been identified, that can be
On shared vision, major questions include
the integrated nature of all the issues, the long-term global mitigation
goal and the equitable framework within which these goals are to be
The main lesson of Copenhagen
is that hiving off some countries into a separate track with a separate
document is not the right way to conduct global climate negotiations.
The way forward is to return to the multilateral forum, where the complex
issues have to be sorted out into a final conclusion.
Martin Khor is the Executive Director
of the South Centre.
The article above was published in the
South Bulletin Issue No. 43 dated 8 Feb. 2010.
You can also access at: http://www.southcentre.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1233&Itemid=289
TO MAIN | ONLINE
BOOKSTORE | HOW TO