TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Nov09/07)
23 November 2009
Third World Network

Dear Friends,

Please find below a report on the informal meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York held on 19 November.

With best wishes,

Third World Network

Climate:  G77/China attack downgrading of Copenhagen expectations

New York, 20 November 2009 (Meena Raman)- Developing countries attacked the downgrading of expectations at the forthcoming Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held next month, at an informal meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York yesterday.

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, said news reports had recently portrayed that Copenhagen is destined to be a “disappointment.” He said that this was wrong, and countered this perception with examples of individual countries' pledges on emissions reduction. 

However, the Chair of the G77 and China said that it was extremely disappointed that the Copenhagen Conference did not seem to be able to result in the final outcomes needed and this was a major setback.  Parties should not pretend otherwise by using words such as a “legally binding political declaration”, said Sudan, speaking for the Group.  

For the G77 and China, Copenhagen's most important outcome should be adopting the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (the treaty that implements the legal commitment of industrialised countries to reduce greemhouse gases emissions as agreed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).  Instead the developed countries are moving to exit from this Protocol, and this is the main cause of the present impasse.  Without a Kyoto Protocol decision, Copemhagen cannot succeed.

Grenada, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said the group was concerned over attempts to water down results of Copemhagen.  It insisted that an internationally legally binding outcome at Copenhagen is both technically and legally feasible.

At the end of the 2-hour session, Ban acknowledged the deep concerns of the G77 and China and its member states about there being a major setback or deep disappointment as there would be no treaty agreed upon in Copenhagen. But this should not be seen as a failure as Copenhagen will lay the foundation for a legally-binding agreement, he said.

However, as the meeting ended, the mood among many delegates, at least those from developing countries, was that there would be a setback in Copenhagen.  Several delegates said they had the impression after listening to the speakers that the  conference would not result in a final legally binding outcome, and they were uncertain whether there would be a clear decision on the emission reduction commitments of developed countries, which is the foundation of many other decisions.

The informal meeting was convened by the President of the General Assembly to hear a briefing by Ban, a senior representative of the Government of Denmark, (which is hosting the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC ) as well as Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. The purpose of the meeting was to brief UN members on the status of the ongoing negotiations under the UNFCCC in the run-up to the Copenhagen COP which will be held 7-18 December.

President of the 64th session of the UN General Assembly, Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki of Libya, hoped that the informal meeting would throw light on the status of the negotiations leading up to the Conference of Parties (COP) that will inspire and advice on how best to move forward for a successful outcome in Copenhagen.

Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad of Sudan, speaking for the G77 and China, said that the Group had expected that the Copenhagen Conference will produce the final and detailed outcomes of the working group on the Kyoto Protocol as well as the working group on long-term cooperative action (under the UNFCCC, both being distinct tracks).  The mandated deadlines for concluding the work of these two groups is the COP in Copenhagen.

The Group stressed that there is need to have conclusions as soon as possible because of the increasingly disastrous  situation on the ground regarding climate events.  The victims are mainly from developing countries.

The Group was extremely disappointed that the Copenhagen Conference did not seem to be able to result in the final outcomes and is a major setback.  Parties should not pretend otherwise by using words such as a “legally binding political declaration”.  

For the Group, the most important outcome of Copenhagen was to have been the finalizing and approval of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.  The first period ends in 2012 and the second period is to begin in 2013.  The Group was told that it takes a few years for the developed countries to prepare the transition from the first to the second period and this is why there is a firm deadline of December 2009 to finish the negotiations on this second period.

The working group on Kyoto Protocol has been working for four years.  Yet there has been very slow progress.  On top of this, the Group is very concerned by the indications that many members of the Kyoto Protocol want to move away from this Protocol and move towards another agreement whose nature is not understood.

There is a danger of a downgrading of the commitments of developed countries from an internationally legally binding commitment in the Kyoto Protocol to an inferior agreement involving each country pledging its national programme, with no aggregate figure for Annex I countries overall, and which is not legally binding.  It was also very disappointed with the very low overall reduction figure arising from the national announcements from developed countries so far, which is only 16-23 percent if we do not include the US and only 11 to 18 per cent if we include the US.

[Annex I countries refer to developed countries listed in the UNFCCC that have internationally binding legal commitments to reduce emissions. The specific targets and distribution of burden among developed countries are set out in the Kyoto Protocol]

The main impasse that has led to downgrading of expectations in Copenhagen is the uncertainty caused by the actions of the developed countries on whether they are willing to commit to a second period for Kyoto Protocol, and whether their emission reduction targets are good enough. 

The G77 and China asked if the Secretary General and the Denmark representative can assure the Group that the present (UNFCCC) Annex I Parties that are members of the Kyoto Protocol will remain in the Kyoto Protocol and will make adequate commitments of at least 40% cut by 2020 (based on 1990 levels), and will finish the negotiations in the Kyoto Protocol track by the time Copenhagen is concluded. Without such an assurance, it will be hard to see how Copenhagen will be a success.

The second issue of concern is finance and technology.  The G77 and China have put forward concrete proposals for the establishment of a major climate fund under the COP of the UNFCCC.   The Group has proposed a technology mechanism to be set up under the UNFCCC with a technology executive body with decision-making authority, and a Technology Action Plan.

It wanted an assurance from the UN Secretary-General and the Denmark representative that the Group's proposals for these two new structures will be adopted in Copenhagen.  Without such an outcome, Copenhagen cannot be considered to be a success.

The G77 and China said there were other issues, including whether there will be adequate finances.  The UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs in its report in September estimated that developing countries require USD 500 to 600 billion a year for their climate actions and that the bulk of this should be from public financing.

It said there is also the question of adaptation.  Developing countries need a more effective instrument to counter the effects of climate change and adequate finances.  A recent UK-based study says that at least USD500 billion a year is needed for adaptation.

The Group said the Copenhagen Conference must not end only with mere rhetorical political statements. There must be concrete commitments from the developed countries on their emission reduction figures, and commitments on finance, as well as decisions to establish a finance mechanism and a technology mechanism. It hoped that whatever outcome there is in Copenhagen will point the way to a further good and fair outcome after Copenhagen


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon  said that reading the latest news reports, one might think that Copenhagen is destined to be a “disappointment.” He said that this was wrong. To the contrary, he believed that Parties will reach a deal in Copenhagen that sets the stage for a binding treaty as soon as possible in 2010.

He said that political momentum was building almost daily. In recent days, U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao promised to work together to reach an agreement in Copenhagen that covers all the issues and has immediate operational effect. Indonesia has announced it will reduce emissions by 26 per cent. At this week's EU summit, Russia indicated that it is ready to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 25 per cent by 2020, if other countries do the same.

The Republic of Korea announced that it will reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2020, compared with “business as usual.” The fact that this commitment is unconditional makes it all the more significant. Brazil already aimed to curb emissions between 38 and 42 per cent by 2020. In Paris earlier this week, Brazil joined France in calling for an even more ambitious target. At the climate change summit in September, Japan unveiled a 25 per cent target and Norway has pledged a 40 per cent cut.

He said that outlines of agreement were shaping up on difficult issues of adaptation, technology and capacity building and that there was convergence, as well, on reducing emissions from deforestation.  Brazil has set a deadline to reduce deforestation by 72 per cent by 2017. This week, the government had reported that deforestation rates fell by 45 per cent last year.

His message was for Parties to stay positive and stay engaged and come to Copenhagen and seal a deal.  There was need for strong commitments in five areas, he said. 

First, there is need for ambitious mid-term mitigation targets from industrialized countries. Secondly, there is need for ambitious mitigation actions by developing countries that go beyond “business as usual”. Third, is the need for financing and technology. Fourth, is the need for an ambitious adaptation package to assist the most vulnerable. 

In the short-term, the developed world should provide roughly $10 billion dollars in fast-track funding annually over the next three years. With this money, there can be a jump-start to low-emission growth in developing countries, limit deforestation and finance immediate adaptation measures. Over the medium term, this needs to be scaled up substantially and has been estimated at $100 billion annually through 2020. Fifth, there was need to create a transparent and equitable governance structure to manage and deploy these resources. It must give all countries a voice. And it must provide for stronger monitoring, reporting and verification of both mitigation and financing.

An agreement in Copenhagen that clearly addresses these elements will be a success. He expressed confidence that Parties will lay a solid foundation for moving ahead. He believed that Parties can and will reach a full and legally binding climate change treaty as soon as possible in 2010.

Yvo De Boer, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC said that the signs for Copenhagen are promising. The Summit on Climate Change, convened by the Secretary-General earlier this year had ended with a call by world leaders for a comprehensive deal that ensures enhanced action to assist the most vulnerable and the poorest to adapt to the impacts of cliamte change; ambitious emission reduction targets for industrialised countries; nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries with necessary support; significantly scaled-up financial and technological resources; and an equitable governance structure to manage the resources.

These, he said ,are the key components of a Copenhagen deal that need to be captured and safeguarded, possibly by means of decisions. A set of decisions needs to include ambitious targets for industrialised countries on an individual basis; short-term finance; a cost-sharing formula for industrialised countries on long-term finance; as well as the nature of nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries.

The decisions also need to include a deadline for negotiations towards a legally binding instrument in 2010. The decisions also need to unleash prompt implementation of adaptation actions; technology cooperation; action on deforestation in developing countries; and capacity-building, which needs to be enabled with short-term finance on the table in Copenhagen. Such an outcome would ensure action now and up to 2012, while opening up the possibility of safeguarding the level of ambition as the basis for a legal instrument in 2010.

For a Copenhagen deal to be truly effective, it is essential that all industrialised countries come forward with ambitious, individual mid-term targets. To date, the aggregate pledges of industrialised countries fall short of the range estimated by the scientific community at 25-40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. They need to raise their level of ambition, he said.

Ambassador Carsten Staur of Denmark said the Danish Prime Minister had presented to APEC leaders in Singapore recently a vision for Copenhagen, for an ambitious binding agreement in all areas of the Bali mandate, reinforcing a comprehensive legal agreement i.e one agreement with two purposes. The COP is not likely to conclude a new legal regime but the focus remains on  strong specific action, both in the short and longer-term. There is need for real action now and a strong mandate and a time frame for further work on the legal framework to be concluded as soon as possible.

The Copenhagen Agreement would capture the progress in the negotiations and provide the basis for the next. There has to be concrete targets for actions that are binding and agreement on finance. Developed countries should take the lead in reducing emissions and in providing finance. There is need for numbers., he said. 

There should be a mandate for a legal outcome and a deadline for conclusion, sooner rather than later. It should have solid content on all the Bali building blocks of shared vision, mitigation, technology and finance and will provide strong impetus on a legal framework. It should provide immediate finance. It should be ambitious in limiting global temperature rise to 2 degree C and build on the legal instruments and principles, such as common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

It will be binding and not be the usual political declaration, even if Parties cannot hammer out a legally binding agreement. It would be a formal decision among all Parties that includes precise language on all aspects of the Bali mandates. It will have underlying annexes with specific commitments of individual countries which are negotiated and subject to measuring, reporting and verification. This approach is the only way ahead.

Sweden for the European Union said that it was commited to a global, comprehensive and ambitious agreement to keep global warming below 2 degree C. It said that the shared vision for global emission reductions should be a global 50% cut by 20250 based on 1990 and for developed countries to reduce by 80 to 95 per cent, while developing countries must deviate from business-as-usual in the range of 15 to 30 per cent. The agreement should be detailed and include mid-term commitments by developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries.

It should build on the Kyoto Protocol and incorporate all the essentials. Global emissions must peak by 2020. The EU can do 30 per cent reductions by 2020 provided other developed countries do comparable efforts and developing countries also contribute. A deal on financing is a central part with significant scaling up. Parties could work towards $33-74 billion by 2020, as the EU considers the proposals by the G77 and China for global climate funds.

The EU said there is need for a high-level forum to provide the overview of international sources of climate financing. Proposals for a framework on adaptation are also important. Incentives should be provided for the private sector. Research and development should be scaled up, and safe and clean technologies diffused. There is need for carbon markets based on robust cap and trade systems, including a reformed Clean Development Mechanism, and sectoral crediting and trading in developing countries. 

Grenada, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said that on process, the Group was concerned over attempts to water down results of the Climate Change Summit. It emphasised that an internationally legally binding outcome at Copenhagen is both technically and legally feasible. It is argued that “the time factor and the situation of individual countries” mean that we must aim for what is “possible” only, and that is a mere political statement. The issues that are  being put forward for consideration I the “politically binding” outcome are the same ones that will be considered in the “internationally legally binding” outcome. The work can be done, is being done and will be available for an internationally legally binding outcome.  What is required is the political will to get the job done. Why is political will to do what will benefit the developing world in such short supply?, it asked.

AOSIS also expressed disappointment and extreme concern over the lack of ambition from developed countries in mitigation and finance. In mitigation, the pledges to date of the developed countries represent 12 to 19 per cent below 1990 levels, far from the more than 45 per cent reductions required to restrict long-term temperature increases to well below 1.5 degree C above pre-industrial levels. What is required are global reductions in excess of 85 per cent by 2050 and commensurate with individual reductions.

Adequate financing proposals have not been forthcoming, making it difficult for countries to take action. On the information about initial fast start financing, although AOSIS weclomed this initiative in principle, it falls short of what is eventually required. What about longer term financial needs? Does fast start also mean fast end or will it mean fast start and grow?, it asked.  There is also a continuing attempt to shift the burden of responsibility to developing countries, in violation of the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC and the Bali Action Plan. Developed countries continue to try to erase the distinction between the differentiated responsibilities of developed countries and developing countries actions, enabled and supported by finance and technology. The attempt includes getting developing countries to adhere to new and broad reporting and verification procedures similar to those of developed countries and to get some “emerging economies” to adhere to emission reduction targets which are not part of the Bali Action Plan nor are they in the UNFCCC provisions. 

Egypt said that to achieve success in Copenhagen, there was need to have a common vision on all elements of the outcome. The work of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) should be consistent with the Convention. There should not be efforts to replace the Kyoto Protocol or collapse it and blur the distinction between developed and developing countries. Success will depend on the highest level of political will.

Cuba said that developed countries have not reduced their greenhouse emissions from historical and current levels. It expressed concern that once again, binding commitments will be postponed, referring to the political commitments made by developed countries in relation to the MDGs, eradication of poverty and hunger, elimination of the arms race etc. A well-balanced agreement is sill possible if there was a new political attitude.

Marshall Islands speaking for the Pacific Small Island States, said that lowering the ambitions of the Copenhagen outcome as reported in the media to one that is not legally binding is a disturbing development. Only a legally-binding agreement will ensure that islands have a chance to survive in the future. Failure in reaching a legally-binding agreement will go down in history as a shameful moment. It is critical is for a legally robust outcome and not what is politically feasible. 

Bolivia stressed the importance of repayment of the cliamte debt owed by the developed countries . However, the emission reductions proposed by the developed countries is not enough for a safe and secure planet. Developed countries must do much more by ensuring the re-absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere as there is no space left in the atmosphere for developing countries to undertake development and solve the problem of hunger. There is therefore not only need to talk of emissions reductions by developed countries, but also of the re-absorption of CO2 . The other form of payment is through financing for clean and environmentally-friendly development. Developed countries cannot deviate from their legally-binding commitments and should commit to emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol. There is need for complying with the legally-binding regime and it is not enough to say that countries will do this voluntarily.

The US said that it was committed to meeting the climate change challenge and for a robust outcome. For a successful outcome, a crucial step was to have an operational accord which moves significantly closer to a legal agreement. Copenhagen can lay the foundation for confidence and trust towards a full legal agreement. Key elements include emission reductions for all major economies, scaled-up financing and promotion of tecnology development. All major emitters need to internationalise their targets in a Copenhagen outcome and provide full transparency on their targets and actions.

Japan said that for an effective and fair framework in Copenhagen, the commitment of all major economies is important, with a robust MRV (monitoring, reporting and verificaion) system. 

Following the interventions, Ban said that he had heard the deep concerns of the G77 and China and its member states about there being a major setback or deep disappointment as there would be no treaty agreed in Copenhagen. He said that this should not be seen as a failure as Copenhagen will lay the foundation for a legally-binding agreement. The end goal must remain for a legally-binding treaty.