TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Feb10/15)
17 February 2010
Third World Network

Chinese PM reaffirms primacy of UN for climate negotiations
Published in SUNS #6865 dated 17 February 2010

Beijing, 16 Feb (Chee Yoke Ling) -- Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has reaffirmed his country's stand that international climate change negotiations should take place under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol.

In separate but similar letters dated 29 January 2010 that were sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Wen said that, "It is neither viable nor acceptable to start a new negotiation process outside the framework of the Convention and the Protocol".

Copies of the letters had also been sent to Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Secretariat, on 1 February.

In the two-and-a-half-paged letters, Wen said that the two working groups under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol "are the legal bodies for such negotiations", and the draft texts proposed by the Chairs of those working groups in the December climate conference in Copenhagen are "the legitimate basis".

[Although public attention has been centred on the controversial Copenhagen Accord, a document that was only "taken note of" by the UNFCCC Parties, the most important documents that were adopted by consensus are the reports of the Chairs of the two working groups referred to by Wen, that include issues that had been agreed to and issues that need further negotiations.]

Wen said that "despite twists and turns, the Copenhagen Conference has produced positive outcomes, which are attributed to the concerted efforts of all parties". His letter then refers to these outcomes: the Copenhagen Accord and the continuation of negotiations in accordance with the Bali Road Map.

[The two main components of the Bali Road Map that emerged from the UN climate conference in 2007 are the Bali Action Plan adopted by UNFCCC Parties that established the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC, and the work of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol that had begun its negotiations a few years earlier.]

Wen said that China "supports" the Copenhagen Accord "which is a testament to the political will of all parties to actively counter climate change" and which "reaffirms the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities'".

He stressed that the Accord "has kept alive the dual-track negotiation processs established by the Bali Roadmap", and "confirmed the draft texts proposed by the Chairs of the two Ad hoc Working Groups ... as the basis for future negotiations".

"The decision of the Copenhagen Conference that the two AWGs [Ad-hoc Working Groups] shall continue to work for the conclusion of the negotiations in accordance with the mandate of the Bali Roadmap has established the principles and goals for the next phase of the negotiations," he said.

Wen added that the draft texts of the Chairs of the two AWGs "which have met the requirements of the Bali Roadmap, reflected the progress made in the negotiations and highlighted the issues to be resolved through further negotiations among the parties, will serve as an important legal basis for implementing the Bali Roadmap and strengthening the enforcement of the Convention and Protocol".

Wen's letters provide information on China's views regarding the outcomes of the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC at the Copenhagen Conference last December and the way forward to the next meeting in Mexico to be held from 29 November to 10 December 2010.

There has been widespread confusion and intense speculation over the Copenhagen Accord, a three-page document that was only "taken note of" when it failed to be adopted by consensus at the COP-15.

Many developing countries are concerned that some major developed countries will use the Accord to marginalise the UN treaties (even replace the Kyoto Protocol) and begin a new negotiation process that negates the fundamental principles of equity and environmental integrity. Sources say that diplomatic efforts continue to get as many countries as possible to formally "associate" with the Accord.

Wen's letter of 29 January to Ban followed an earlier exchange of views over the telephone with Ban on the issue of climate change and the outcome of the Copenhagen Conference. This letter and the similar one to Rasmussen are understood to be a response to a joint letter sent by Rasmussen and Ban on 30 December 2009 to heads of state and government, including Wen, to "publicly associate themselves with the Accord".

[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".

[At the same time, Rasmussen and Ban sent a separate joint letter also dated 30 December to heads of state and government of about 26 countries involved in a meeting convened by Rasmussen in Copenhagen to discuss a document that then became the Copenhagen Accord, to "publicly associate themselves with the Accord". The joint letter reiterated the deadline of 31 January 2010 contained in the Accord for UNFCCC 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.]

China has now sent three separate formal letters.

The first is a letter to UNFCCC Executive Secretary De Boer dated 28 January from Su Wei, China's chief negotiator and Director-General of the Department of Climate Change, National Development and Reform Commission of China.

It said that China was communicating to the Secretariat "the information on China's autonomous domestic mitigation actions as announced, for information to the UNFCCC Parties, as follows: China will endeavour to lower its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45% by 2020 compared to the 2005 level, increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15% by 2020 and will increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 from the 2005 levels."

The communication was made under specific provisions of the UNFCCC and there was no reference to the Copenhagen Accord (see SUNS #6854 dated 2 February 2010).

The other two letters, from Wen to Ban and Rasmussen, provide China's position with respect to future negotiations that are to continue under the dual tracks of the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, and in that connection, its views on the Accord.

With respect to future negotiations, Wen, in both his letters, made three points.

First, he underscored the "political significance" of the "principled consensus embodied in the Copenhagen Accord" for the Bali Roadmap negotiations to produce outcomes. He pointed to three areas of consensus in the Accord: (1) long-term goals, transparency of the voluntary mitigation actions undertaken by developing countries, and financial and technological support that should be reflected in the draft negotiation texts of the AWGs; (2) developed countries should set out their specific emission reduction targets as early as possible and submit a detailed plan of contribution to the commitment of US$30 billion (for 2010-2012); and (3) the two AWGs should be scheduled to meet as soon as possible to speed up their negotiations on unsettled issues and make sure that the Mexico Conference will produce comprehensive, balanced and binding outcomes in line with the requirements of the Convention, the Protocol and the Bali Roadmap.

(While China has made statements on its "support" for the Accord, sources say that some developed countries are critical of China for not stating that it "associates" with the document, the term used in the letters from the Danish government and Ban.)

Secondly, Wen reiterated that "the Convention and the Protocol are the main channels for international negotiations on climate change". He said that "the two AWGs are the legal bodies for such negotiations", and the two Chairs' draft texts "which reflect the principles of openness, transparency and broad participation" are the "legitimate basis" for the negotiations.

On the consensus-based decision-making mechanism, Wen said that "it should be upheld, while appropriate ways may be explored to increase efficiency providing that openness, transparency and broad participation are ensured in the negotiation process".

In his letter to Rasmussen, Wen said, "I hope you, as the (President) of the Conference of Parties, will play a positive role in this regard". The premier said in his letter to Ban on the same point that "we support you in duly playing a positive role. And we also believe it is important to heed and respect the views of the Parties in this regard".

(After the Copenhagen Conference, several developed countries have criticized in press reports that the UN consensus-based decision-making method is not workable and some senior officials from those countries have publicly said that smaller groups are preferable for making decisions on climate change actions. Some analysts observe that these comments seem to refer to the Group of 20, or the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate that was convened by President Barrack Obama in March 2009 and that met a number of times in the run-up to Copenhagen.)

Thirdly, Wen said that "the goal of the Mexico Conference is to conclude the negotiations for the implementation of the Bali Roadmap". He elaborated that the Conference should: (1) set out clear emission reduction targets for developed countries in the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and targets comparable in nature, scale and compliance mechanism for developed countries that are non-parties to the Protocol; (2) make clear and specific arrangements for the provision of finance and technology by developed countries to developing countries; and (3) identify the mitigation actions by developing countries within the framework of sustainable development and on the basis of finance, technology and capacity-building support from developed countries.

Wen reiterated that "China will take active steps to meet the targets we have set out for our voluntary domestic actions", that were also described in the letters. He further said that information regarding those actions would be provided to the UNFCCC Secretariat for compilation into an "Information document". (This was done in a communication dated 28 January, in which the Accord was not mentioned.)

Wen concluded his letters by expressing hope that Ban and Rasmussen "will actively urge the developed countries to demonstrate the political will and earnestly meet their obligations under the Convention and the Protocol".

He also pledged China's willingness to "continue to play a positive and constructive role" and "work with the international community for the conclusion of the Bali Roadmap negotiations at the Mexico Conference". +

Link to Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's letters