TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Feb10/18)
25 February 2010
Third World Network

Clash over UNFCCC text vs Accord as basis for future talks
Published in SUNS #6871 dated 25 February 2010

Geneva, 24 Feb (Meena Raman) -- A major clash is emerging whether the global climate talks this year should be based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) texts arising from two years of multilateral work, or the Copenhagen Accord, which was not adopted but only "taken note of" at Copenhagen.

Following the chaotic conclusion of the climate talks in Copenhagen last December, the issue of what text would be the basis of future negotiations is likely to be the first and most controversial issue to be debated when talks resume at the UNFCCC in April.

Most developing countries that have written to the UNFCCC have said that they want the negotiations to resume on the basis of the reports of the Chairs of the two working groups on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) and the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP).

However, the United States, in a 19 February letter, said that it prefers the Copenhagen Accord to be the basis of future negotiations. It also seemed to reject the texts of the AWG-LCA, which it claimed, was not agreed to as the basis for negotiations. Japan has also said that future progress in the negotiations should be on the Accord.

The developing countries that have said that they want the UNFCCC working group reports and texts to be the basis for negotiations include China, India and Brazil, while Saudi Arabia said that the Copenhagen Accord is not a UNFCCC document and cannot be a basis. Kuwait and Nauru have explicitly disassociated themselves from the Accord.

The strong US position was made via a letter dated 19 February to the UNFCCC Secretariat on the organization of work under the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA).

The US submission noted that the texts of the AWG-LCA "have been vehicles for facilitating consensus on key issues, but their contents do not reflect specific agreements or understandings in the negotiating process.

"Significantly, it was not agreed that the LCA texts would be the basis of any future negotiation. As such, we are of the view that Parties will need to consider which texts are still relevant in the first session of the LCA in light of circumstances in Copenhagen."

The US submission preferred the Copenhagen Accord, as it said that the Accord "achieves a number of landmark outcomes that substantially advance the implementation of the Convention and provide a basis for an agreed outcome in Mexico" (at the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties which will take place in November this year).

(The US letter seems to be turning what actually happened on its head. The Copenhagen Accord was not adopted by the Conference of Parties at Copenhagen, which only "took note" of it. In contrast, the COP adopted a decision that requested the AWG-LCA "to continue its work drawing on the report of the AWG-LCA presented to the COP as well as work undertaken by the COP on the basis of that report.")

Referring to the LCA texts, the US submission further states that "in some cases, such as the text on REDD-plus (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries), the LCA facilitator's texts reflect an emerging consensus among a diverse group of Parties. Other texts have not benefited from discussion and do not reflect emerging consensus. In still other cases, such as those relating to mitigation and shared vision, the outcomes in Copenhagen overlap substantially with outcomes in the Copenhagen Accord, and the US is of the view that it will be difficult to find consensus around alternative proposals that depart from the Accord understandings."

Several developing countries have sent letters to the COP President or made submissions to the UNFCCC Secretariat indicating that the Copenhagen Accord is not the basis for the negotiations and that the LCA texts form the legitimate basis for negotiations. Some developing countries have also suggested that elements of the Accord could serve as inputs into the LCA texts, while others have rejected the Accord as having any status in the negotiations.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, in letters dated 29 January 2010 to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen (copies of which were also submitted to the Secretariat), 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".

Premier Wen also stressed that the Copenhagen Accord "has kept alive the dual-track negotiation processes 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".

China, in its submission on the organization of work, said that "the Chair's text together with all texts and submissions from Parties remain on the table as the only legitimate basis for further negotiations under the AWG-LCA. The political agreement in the Copenhagen Accord may be considered and where appropriate, be translated into texts that can be incorporated in the negotiating text of the AWG-LCA."

Saudi Arabia, in its submission to the Secretariat, said that since the Copenhagen Accord was not formally adopted, it was of the view that the Accord had no legal status within the UNFCCC and thus cannot be used as the basis or reference for further negotiations.

The Republic of Nauru and Kuwait have informed the Secretariat that they do not wish to associate with the Copenhagen Accord.

Nauru has also submitted its analysis of the Accord which criticized both the process and contents. Among other aspects, Nauru said that the Accord "adopts a process of allowing country pledges to determine global aggregate emission reductions, rather than defining global aggregate emission reductions based on what is necessary to achieve the objective of the Accord. The pledges for emission reductions announced by developed countries would not limit global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Brazil, in its submission, said that the two working groups (LCA and KP) "represent the legitimate fora to advance negotiations, based on the reports of the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA."

India, in its submission, said that "the Chair's text together with all texts and submissions from Parties remain on the table as the basis for further negotiations under the AWG-LCA. The political understanding among the participants as reflected in the Copenhagen Accord should facilitate the two-track process of negotiations."

Singapore, in its submission, was however of the view that the Copenhagen Accord contained many important elements which could serve as inputs to the negotiations and encouraged the Chair of the AWG-LCA to draft a Chair's text for the negotiations.

Belize was also of the view that the working groups may consider various elements of the Accord to facilitate work.

Japan, in its submission, said that further progress in the negotiations should be on the Accord. It said that it was appropriate to discuss in both the working groups of the LCA and KP "the elements of the Accord in a coherent, consistent and balanced manner, not picking up some points separately, since the Accord as a whole is a package."

The EU, in its submission, said that "some progress was accomplished in 2008 and 2009 but the EU regrets that notwithstanding the many sessions, progress was limited on some of the key political issues. A number of texts, elaborated and discussed in Copenhagen in the context of the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP, reflect the current status of work. The Copenhagen Accord provides important additional input and guidance needed for the further elaboration and finalisation of these texts."

The opinions presented by the countries above were in most cases in response to a request to them to submit views on how the future work should proceed at the UNFCCC.

On 2 February, the Chair of the AWG-LCA, Ms. Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe of Zimbabwe, had asked Parties to submit their views on how best to advance the work of the AWG-LCA in 2010 and the submissions could include views, ideas and proposals on the organization of the work in 2010, including on how to ensure that the negotiating process remains transparent, inclusive and efficient in delivering substantive outcomes; initiatives the Chair could take to facilitate progress; and other aspects relevant to the work of the AWG-LCA in 2010.

These submissions were supposed to be made by 16 February.

On the organization of work, the US, in its submission, advocates bilateral and regional consultations rather than a multilateral process. The US said that "a key lesson of 2009 is that significant negotiating time is less important in reaching agreement than providing adequate time for countries to consult with each other bilaterally and regionally."

It also called for "serious consideration [to] be given to a longer High Level Segment than we have had to date at COP-16, so that ministers can fully engage on what will no doubt be a complex agenda in Mexico." +