TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Jan10/02)
15 January 2010
Third World Network

The controversial Copenhagen Accord that emerged from the climate change conference last December and of which the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) merely “takes note” has become the centre of intense diplomatic activity in New York, Geneva and several capital cities.

On 30 December 2009 a note verbale was sent by the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the UN  to all missions of UNFCCC Parties in New York “inviting Parties to the [UNFCCC] to inform the UNFCCC Secretariat of their willingness to be associated with the Copenhagen Accord”. A separate joint letter also dated 30 December was sent by  Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to heads of states and governments, urging them as UNFCCC Parties (especially those in the small group of 26 involved in negotiating the Accord) to “publicly associate themselves with the Accord”. The joint letter reiterates the deadline of 31 January 2010 contained in the Accord for Annex 1 (developed countries including the US) and non-Annex 1 (developing countries) Parties to submit to the UNFCCC secretariat the following information: for Annex 1 Parties, Quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 with a base year to be unilaterally chosen; and for non-Annex 1 Parties, their nationally appropriate mitigation actions.

While some countries led by developed countries continue to promote the Accord as a first step towards a new legally binding agreement, what is often overlooked in mainstream media reports are the important decisions that were actually adopted by consensus at COP 15 in Copenhagen, that affirm the continuation of the 2 tracks of negotiations under the UNFCCC (on long term cooperative action to implement the UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol (on the further commitments of Annex 1 Parties to reduce emissions beyond 2012). The reports of the 2 Ad Hoc Working Groups with the negotiation text of a range of issues are the basis for the resumed work of Parties to the 2 treaties in 2010.

Meanwhile, reports have surfaced that developing country diplomats and decision-makers in numerous capital cities and in key missions in Geneva are being pressured to sign on to the Accord.

As can be expected, many developing countries are exercising caution and scrutinising the contents and implications of the Accord that triggered heated responses and debate during the final hours of the Copenhagen COP meeting, and that did not get the consensus needed to adopt it as a COP decision (please see TWN Copenhagen News Updates No. 23 and 25 sent on this list on 23 December 2009.  See also the TWN  info Service on Climate Change posting of the article “The Real Tragedy of Copenhagen” by Martin Khor of South Centre dated 15 January 2010). Their primary concern is that there should be no weakening of the existing legal architecture for climate actions, comprising the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, and rooted in the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Among those that are reported to seek a deeper understanding of the Accord are Brazil, South Africa, India and China which were in the small group of 26 countries selectively invited by Rasmussen in the final hours of the Copenhagen conference in a desperate move to produce a political outcome.

Below is a news report by The Hindu of a meeting of the four large developing countries known as the BASIC countries, planned for 24 January in Delhi, India.


NEW DELHI, January 11, 2010

BASIC countries meet on January 24
Aarti Dhar

The group of four emerging economies – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – that played a major role in arriving at the Copenhagen Accord – will meet here on January 24 to discuss issues before endorsing the agreement on climate change arrived at in the Danish Capital last month.

The ministerial level meeting is likely to draft a collective response to a communication from the United Nations Secretary-General asking these countries to work quickly and diligently to get all other Parties of the conference to sign the Accord by January 31.

Things have picked up pace following a clarification from the U.N. office that the Accord was a political document and could not be considered a legally binding document though those who agree to it would be bound by the commitments they have announced nationally or at the just concluded climate change meet.

While Denmark apparently wanted all Parties to inform the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat of their willingness to associate with the Accord, there were some reservations from the Indian side as it was felt that the communication implied Copenhagen Accord was legally binding or that it was the basis of negotiating a new legally binding agreement which was contrary to what was agreed to between the U.S. and BASIC countries.

Seeks clarification

When contacted on whether the treaty was legally binding, Minister of State (Independent charge) for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, told The Hindu that India had sought some clarification which had come in writing saying that the Accord was merely a political document and not a legally binding document.

The Copenhagen Accord is being touted as an essential first step in a process leading to a robust international climate change treaty by the UNFCCC.

China and South Africa have already confirmed their participation for the January 24 meeting while Brazil has also assured of its presence. The meeting will also take stock of the Copenhagen Accord and devise a strategy for the Bonn Ministerial meeting in May.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Secretary-General was also considering setting up a panel to work on how the start-up financing would be organised so as to ensure the developed countries actually start putting up the $ 30 billion they have promised.