TWN Info Service on Climate Change (May10/01)
4 May 2010
Third World Network

US calls for reflection of Copenhagen Accord in new negotiating text
Published in SUNS #6917 dated 4 May 2010

Geneva, 3 May (Meena Raman) -- The United States, in a submission under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), called for the controversial Copenhagen Accord to be reflected in the new text being prepared to facilitate negotiations of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA).

The US was of the view that the AWG-LCA process under the Convention was not able to "crack through" certain "crunch issues" and that the Copenhagen Accord "was the locus of progress".

"In terms of substance, we consider that most issues were substantially advanced over the course of 2009. In some cases, the advancement took place largely through the LCA process. In the case of certain crunch issues, the LCA process was not able to crack through them, and the Copenhagen Accord was the locus of progress," said the submission.

The US said that "it is recognized that the COP did not formally adopt the Accord but rather took note of it; all the same, a large majority of Convention Parties have signed onto the Accord, making its substantive outcomes unarguably relevant to progress under the Convention," said the US submission.

(The US made a submission to the Chair of the AWG-LCA on 26 April 2010 following an invitation to Parties to provide additional views by that date. The Chair, Ms. Margaret Mukahanana Sangarwe of Zimbabwe, may draw upon the views of Parties in the preparation of her draft text for consideration by Parties at the next AWG-LCA session in June.)

The US submission "noted that certain mitigation issues do not appear in the Accord."

"For the United States, the absence of many of these elements was critical to making the Accord acceptable; however, we acknowledge that others may consider such issues simply to have been unaddressed by the Accord and still on the table. As such, while we do not support the inclusion of such issues in the Chair's text, we include text on these issues so as to preserve the US positions on them," said the submission.

Referring to the AWG-LCA text from Copenhagen, the US submission said that "it would generally not be constructive in terms of making progress to import the LCA mitigation provisions, which were a source of widespread disagreement and stalemate."

(The AWG-LCA text from Copenhagen as regards mitigation provides for the comparability of efforts between the Convention's Annex 1 Parties who are in the Kyoto Protocol and those developed country Parties who are not viz. the US, as reflected in the understanding reached in the 2007 Bali meeting of the Conference of Parties. The text also provided for the collective or aggregate reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of developed country Parties in the medium- and long-term. In contrast, the Copenhagen Accord does not make any provision for the need for aggregate or collective emission reduction targets for developed countries.)

(In Copenhagen, the US was opposed to the establishing of aggregate or collective emission reduction targets for developed countries which is what the Kyoto Protocol seeks to do and preferred an approach where emissions reductions are determined by each country in a "bottom-up" manner and implemented domestically. The Copenhagen Accord reflects the US approach in relation to the mitigation actions of developed countries.)

The US submission noted that "mitigation has been an area of substantial stalemate in the LCA process. There have been serious differences of view regarding fundamental points, e. g., the interpretation of existing commitments under the Convention, the application of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, the meaning of the Bali Action Plan etc."

In the US view, "navigating this issue successfully will require the kind of nuanced, practical, and balanced approaches and formulations that appear in the Copenhagen Accord. Parties with very different views must be able to walk away feeling that their interests have been protected, including that the environmental purpose of the Convention has been served".

"A feature of the Accord that the Chair's text should draw on is the treatment of mitigation contributions, under which both Annex I and non-Annex I Parties communicate their mitigation contributions for international listing and stand behind them in terms of implementation," it said.

"While we do not necessarily advocate that the Chair import the precise mitigation and transparency language of the Accord verbatim, significant areas of agreement, as reflected in the Accord, clearly should be mirrored in the Chair's text."

The US cited only two areas "where the LCA mitigation text would usefully be utilized", viz. in relation to provisions on REDD-plus (relating to the forestry sector in developing countries) and in "various ideas for a registry where non-Annex I Parties could list mitigation actions in search of international support."

"Further, in the US view, the Chair's text should address the issue of the evolving status/contributions of countries. The Convention is not a static instrument. Rather, it is a framework that is built to evolve based on, inter alia, its ultimate objective (which cannot be achieved without ever-evolving contributions); the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (which inherently recognizes a spectrum or continuum of effort among all countries, not just between categories of countries); and the express invitation to non-Annex I Parties in Article 4.2(g) to take on Annex I duties. If the Convention stagnates, based on country circumstances from 1992, it will not remain an effective vehicle for addressing climate change."

The US provided language for the mitigation text, as it did "not support inclusion of the LCA text on mitigation, particularly in the form presented by the previous LCA Chair" (at the 2009 meeting of the Conference of Parties in Copenhagen - COP15).

The US text proposes that "all Parties to the Convention commit to prepare and submit low-emission strategies for long-term emission reductions as part of their national communications under Article 12 of the Convention," and to be reflected in an appendix.

It also proposes that Annex 1 Parties "implement the quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 they have chosen to list in Appendix 1, as submitted by such Parties to the secretariat in the indicated format by [date]" and for Parties not included in Annex I "to implement mitigation actions, including those they have chosen to list in Appendix II, as submitted by such Parties to the secretariat in the indicated format by [date]."

It further proposes that Parties who are least developed countries or small-island developing States "undertake actions voluntarily and on the basis of support."

Referring to the draft decisions contained in the report of the AWG-LCA produced in Copenhagen, the US said that the "LCA text is, of course, a relevant document."

It was however of the view that at COP15, Parties had decided to "draw on the LCA text, rather than to use it as the basis of negotiations. Accordingly, the LCA text does not have the status of either the negotiating text or the basis for future negotiations. This was a sensible result for several reasons, including, e. g., that the LCA text was not favourably received by many Parties, that it includes and omits views of Parties on a selective basis, and that it barely addresses MRV (measuring, reporting and verification of mitigation actions and support), a key element of the Bali Action Plan."

In the US view, "the Chair should import LCA text into her text on a provision-by-provision basis when it would facilitate progress in the negotiations. Where progress would be facilitated by reflecting aspects of the Copenhagen Accord, or other submissions, the Chair should import those provisions."

"In terms of legal form, the United States continues to support the goal of a legally binding outcome, provided that the legally binding elements of an otherwise acceptable text are legally binding with respect to all relevant Parties, not just Annex I or developed country Parties. We see no rationale for legal asymmetry, in the Convention or otherwise, noting that all Parties have existing legally binding obligations under the Convention."

In relation to the issue of what is to be measured, reported and verified, the US said that there are essentially four baskets of MRV, viz. "international MRV of Annex I mitigation; domestic MRV/international consultation and analysis of non-Annex I mitigation actions, whether supported or unsupported; international MRV of the financial/technological support of actions that are supported; and an additional layer of international MRV of those non-Annex I actions that are supported".

"Post-Bali, some Parties advocated a reading of Bali in which the supported by' clause in 1(b)(ii) would simultaneously have two different meanings: that the MRV clause applies only to mitigation actions that are supported, and that the MRV clause applies to the support itself. An examination of the provision reveals that the clause cannot, as a matter of drafting, mean both things. Consistent with the actual intent of the Bali negotiators, the Copenhagen Accord indicates that the MRV clause applies to all mitigation actions, whether supported or unsupported," said the US submission.

On the "shared vision" for long-term cooperative action, the US view is that "it is a widely shared view that the text should recognize the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius. To address the view of some Parties that a 2 degree (Celsius) goal is inadequate, the text could also provide that a review process should, among other things, consider strengthening this long-term goal in light of science."

"Other proposals regarding shared vision have been much more controversial and, in our view, are unlikely to achieve (or are incapable of achieving) agreement. The Copenhagen Accord is instructive in this regard, recalling that its shared vision provisions, beyond the 2 degree (Celsius) goal, are minimal. While some Parties may take the view that the other aspects of shared vision were simply not addressed, as far as the United States is concerned, the absence of such aspects was critical to the balanced nature, and thus acceptability of the Accord. We consider that it would not be productive to introduce a long series of proposals on shared vision in the Chair's text; should the Chair decide to do so, the United States reserves the right to continue opposing such provisions and/or introduce counter-proposals on each point," it said.

(The LCA text from Copenhagen, in addition to the temperature goal, also provides for agreement to be reached on what the collective global emission reductions should be by 2050, as well as what the developed countries as a group should reduce in their GHG emissions by 2040 or 2050 based on 1990 levels.)

On finance, it said that "the Chair's text should reflect important understandings reached in the Accord, e. g. the collective political commitment by developed countries to provide new and additional resources approaching $30 billion for the period 2010-2012; the collective political commitment by developed countries, importantly, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, to a goal of mobilizing jointly, from a wide variety of sources, $100 billion a year by 2020; agreement that a Copenhagen Green Climate Fund will be established as an operating entity of the Convention's financial mechanism."

"The Parties will need to discuss and decide upon many aspects of the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund (e. g., Board composition, modes of access, MDB involvement)," said the US submission further.

The US considered it desirable "for the text to invite the World Bank to serve as Trustee of the new Fund and, in this regard, to organize a process to take steps to establish the Fund."

On technology transfer, the US said that "innovation will not happen absent (from) the protection of intellectual property rights. The United States cannot support any text that would undermine or weaken protection or enforcement of intellectual property rights. Moreover, multiple fora with deep expertise are dedicated to this important issue. Consequently, we do not support addressing it here." +