TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Feb10/04)
3 February 2010
Third World Network

Copenhagen Accord has no legal standing in UNFCCC, says Secretariat
Published in SUNS #6855 dated 3 February 2010

Geneva, 2  February 2010 (Meena Raman) –  The Copenhagen Accord's provisions do not have any legal standing within the UNFCCC process even if some parties decide to associate with the Accord, according to the UNFCCC Secretariat chief.

This was stated in a clarification note by Mr. Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, that the Secretariat posted on its website

He was clarifying an earlier notice that he had posted on the website concerning the Copenhagen Accord, a document which was presented to but not endorsed or adopted by the Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC but only “taken note” of on 19 December.

Mr. Yvo de Boer issued a clarification on 25 January 2010 in relation to the “legal character” of the Copenhagen Accord, which had been mentioned in an earlier Secretariat notification.

The clarification refers to the notification of 18 January 2010 which communicated information to Parties regarding the Copenhagen Accord. The notification refers to the 15th Conference of the Parties adopting a decision that took note of the Copenhagen Accord of 18 December 2009.  It then invited those Parties that wished to be associated with the Copenhagen Accord to transmit this information to the secretariat by 31 January 2010.  

It further stated that “In the light of the legal character of the Accord, such an official communication may take the form of simple letter to the Executive Secretary from a relevant officer of the government or a note verbale indicating that your country wishes to associate itself with the Accord and that its name should be included in the chapeau of the Accord.”

It is understood that some developing countries raised questions or took issue with the reference by the Secretariat to the “legal character of the Accord” as it implied that the Accord had a legal character.  They had written to the Executive Secretary, with some indicating their objections and giving their views that the Accord had no legal character as it was only taken note of had not been adopted by the COP.

The Secretariat’s clarification note says that since the issuance of the notification, a number of Parties have raised questions regarding the use of the phrase “In light of the legal character of the Accord”.

The note went on to clarify that “the phrase 'in the light of the legal character of the Accord' should be read in its context. In using the phrase, the secretariat sought to convey two facts regarding the legal nature of the Accord. First, that 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.

“Secondly, that since the Accord is a political agreement, rather than a treaty instrument subject to signature, a simple letter or note verbale to the secretariat from an appropriate authority of Government is sufficient to communicate the intention of a Party to associate with the Accord. This is in view of the fact that after the Copenhagen Conference the secretariat received numerous enquiries from Parties seeking information on where they could physically sign the Accord in order to signify their association and support.”