TWN Info Service on Climate Change (May10/02)
Leaked Danish post-mortem
Geneva, 4 May (Meena Raman) -- The Danish media have last week made public a confidential memorandum from the Danish Prime Minister's office dated 6 January 2010 entitled "COP15: analysis, perspective and strategy", which provided the Danish perspective on the Copenhagen Conference and the events leading up to the production of the controversial Copenhagen Accord.
The Accord was not adopted by the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) but was only taken note of, as it was criticised by several countries as stemming from a non-transparent and undemocratic process, involving only 26 countries in a secret meeting.
News of the memorandum was published in a Danish newspaper, Politiken, on 28 April and details of the memorandum were leaked to the media on 29 April. An English translation of the leaked memorandum was made available to the Third World Network.
A key point in the leaked memorandum was that in order to get a new legally binding climate agreement in Copenhagen, it was for the United States, "an absolute prerequisite for entering into an international agreement that China participated on similar terms, which specifically was expressed as a requirement for symmetry in the degree of obligation - though obviously not in what China actually undertakes."
The memorandum revealed
The memorandum also claimed that there was a "rift" within the United Nations, between the Secretary-General and his people (which went along with the Danish approach of a single global agreement) and the UNFCCC secretariat, which was more sympathetic to a "Kyoto Protocol universe" in which developing countries do not take specific commitments.
It also revealed that
Europe had tried to form an alliance with some developing countries
but this was overtaken by the
A senior developing-country diplomat with many years of experience in the UNFCCC negotiations and who read the memorandum said privately that the memorandum reveals the arrogance of the Danish as organisers of the Copenhagen Conference, who are impervious to their own failings and duplicity. (See more details of the diplomat's comment at the end of the article.)
The memorandum stated that it was clear even before the Copenhagen conference that there were "lines of fracture" between the developing countries who wanted the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol where developed countries take on concrete commitments and developing countries contribute on a voluntary basis, and a "global political agreement" in which "a new global framework" which included commitments for developing countries would be established in Copenhagen.
"Even before the conference it became clear that the lines of fracture between the Kyoto Global Outlook', where only the industrialized countries take on concrete commitments and BASIC contribute on a voluntary basis, and "a global political agreement-world outlook" in which there would be established a new global framework in Copenhagen which included commitments also for developing economies, went across not only the groups of countries, but also institutionally within individual countries and organizations. The industrialized countries, which despite differences in ambition and emphases basically shared the perception that a new global agreement must rest on sets of obligations that also would include the developing economies," said the memorandum.
(The BASIC countries
In early 2009, "it became clear that there was no basis to aim at concluding a new legally binding climate agreement," said the memorandum.
"Although the new US administration had declared its intention to sit at the forefront of negotiations on global climate, it was after the financial crisis also clear that the new US climate legislation had little chance to be finally adopted before COP15, and that such legislation under no circumstances would open the possibility of (the) US taking up a legal regime that was built around (the) Kyoto Protocol."
"It was thus clear that there could be reached one - or more - legally binding agreement (s) covering the world's largest emitters, and that the two-degree target, therefore, could only be maintained if the strategy began to be directed towards a global agreement," said the memo.
According to the memorandum,
"the [Danish] Prime Minister launched the idea of one agreement
- two purposes' at the International Parliamentary Conference at
"In the months
leading up to COP15, all the major players thus signalled that they
could support a global agreement based on the fundamental principles
that the [Danish] Prime Minister presented on 24th October. Building
support for a political agreement with immediate operational effect
was further consolidated when representatives from 20 countries at the
sherpa meeting in
"The danger signals applied basically to the Kyoto Protocol's future, acting as a proxy for the more fundamental questions about the extent to which the major developing economies' contribution to reducing emissions should be seen as an international obligation. It has with increasing strength been the view of the US and gradually also that of Japan and Europe that China in particular and other BASIC countries had to provide a degree of commitment at national (mitigation) efforts in return for obligations from the developed countries on extensive absolute reductions in both the short and longer term," added the memorandum.
Reflecting on the BASIC countries, the memorandum states that "in each of these countries you can foreshadow the contours of - at least - two schools': One that sticks hard to the industrialized countries' historical responsibility and believes any genuine commitment for developing economies constitute an effective limitation of their future growth opportunities, and thus the beginnings of a freeze of the existing global inequality. And another that sees a political climate agreement with balanced obligations as the beginning of a codification of a new economic world order within which the major developing economies take their rightful places' as a sort of collective superpower with China in front, even if it involves a degree of commitment. Both schools accept the need for extensive national efforts and enhanced international cooperation to tackle global warming. The difference lies in whether the international cooperation should include commitments for major developing economies."
The memorandum also alluded to differences of views between the UN Secretary-General who "backed" the Danish position and the UNFCCC Secretariat over the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
"It was a major
complicating factor in the final stages of preparation process that
conflicting signals emanated from the key players and also that (the)
UN as an organization obviously was torn between the Secretary General
and his people, who actively backed up behind the Danish debate line,
and the UNFCCC Secretariat that probably accepted the idea of a political
agreement', but explicitly saw it as a part of the Kyoto universe' within
which developing countries do not undertake specific commitments. This
rift opened a dangerous flank for
According to the memorandum,
throughout the entire
"What was not clear was whether an agreement could be made at all (regarding) the level of ambition and of the commitments of developing economies, including the issue of transparency.
"It may still be assumed that all four BASIC countries wanted an agreement, and that they agreed on the ambition level of 2 degrees (on limiting the temperature to 2 degrees Celsius). It must also be assumed that the lowest common denominator between them promised that this objective could not be translated into concrete targets and its implicit division of the future carbon budget. It was not a priori obvious how far the BASIC countries would move towards concrete formulations," said the memorandum.
According to the memorandum,
"it became clear that especially the BASIC countries were extremely
aware of the danger that a de facto alliance would be created between
the developed countries and the most vulnerable developing countries
with starting point in the high European and Japanese ambitions, and
"That built a
pressure in particular on
"Such a build-up
is even less acceptable for
"The first warning about how hard this line would be came with the leakage of the Danish negotiating text on the second day," said the memorandum. (The Danish negotiating text was leaked to the Guardian newspaper which published it in detail. At that time, according to the Danish media, Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen denied that the document was a draft text for a final document).
"The harm of the leakage was not the text itself, which was already known to all major players, but the accompanying spin, which produced the text as reflecting a deliberate attempt by the COP Presidency to load the responsibility for future climate responses on the developing countries.
"Thus also the myth of an impending coup' was launched and the tone was struck that continued throughout the conference until the last day, which effectively halted the Presidency's ability to produce an ambitious politically balanced text which (if any) could gather wide support among the players who wanted a broad agreement - and thus could expose those who did not," said the memorandum.
According to the memorandum,
when US President Barrack Obama arrived on 18 December (the last day
of the conference), he was briefed that an agreement could hardly be
The Danish Presidency decided "to continue negotiations in the narrow group, even though it compromised the conduct of the summit itself," said the memorandum.
Obama, it was imperative to bring an agreement back home that committed
This was needed to
keep "the hope of a
"For Europeans, this made it a bitterer pill to swallow when Obama was selling this as a great victory to the press, even before the final text negotiations were completed. In this very tense political atmosphere after the arrival of Heads of State and government leaders, all the underlying political conflicts and tensions were activated, while China and other BASIC countries on the one side worked to get Copenhagen Accord though in a pared down form that was compatible with their pre-established red lines, and on the other side, turned sharply to avoid an alliance to materialize at the last minute between the vulnerable developing countries and the ambitious developed countries," said the memorandum.
In describing the G77 in the negotiations, the memorandum said that "one should not underestimate the BASIC countries' difficulties in controlling the global UN instrument through the G77, which is hardly to be seen as a finely tuned organ that plays by the organist's score, but rather as a percussion lesson in a music school where the music teacher tries to set and keep pace, but where many [individuals] strike large and small beats, that only in the whole (and even then not always) follow a certain rhythm."
"While the political
interest concentrated on negotiations on the Copenhagen Accord, the
continuing negotiations in the two official negotiating tracks got stuck,
so they officially ended with two brief procedural decisions which continue
the mandate for negotiations under the Convention and
Referring to the Copenhagen Accord, the memorandum said that "the outcome of political negotiations was, as is well known, an agreement, which as a result of the negotiation process and uncontrollable obstructive forces despite active and/or passive support from most countries, could not be formally adopted after the political leaders had left the city."
The memorandum said
"For the US, it
is a modest price - if not a direct benefit - that the 2 degree target
is not translated into concrete reduction figures and that a potentially
fierce debate about burden-sharing has been postponed until probably
after the adoption of legislation in the spring. All in all a good result
which greatly increases the chance that the
According to the memorandum,
"the BASIC countries are to some extent victims of their own strategy,
which sought to make
"The Island States, the Africans and the least developed countries are generally satisfied with the agreement, not because it reflects the optimum for them, but because it contains large positive potentials, both financially and in terms of reductions," it added further.
"These countries are for the same reason, positive towards the Danish Presidency, but politically cautious because none of them can afford a conflict with any of the BASIC countries. They will therefore seek to promote the Copenhagen Accord as much as possible without getting on a collision course with BASIC countries. They have sympathy for the Danish efforts, not least what concerns obligations for developing countries, but they lack political strength to openly support them," said the memorandum.
"There is little doubt that the stated support for Denmark from both Japan and Australia also is linked to the fact that the two countries were themselves happy that it was Denmark and not any of them who had to go to battle to break with the Kyoto thinking'," it added.
In defining the Danish
strategy for 2010, the memorandum states that "
The memorandum has drawn sharp reactions from some developing-country diplomats involved in the climate negotiations. A senior diplomat who was involved in the Copenhagen Conference and in the two-year process leading up to it said privately: "I see that the arrogance of the Danes remains intact. They seem impervious to their own failings, duplicity, attempts to cause divisions among UNFCCC members, and their unbelievable incompetence in handling the whole process in general."
"It also is dismal that, no matter how many grains of what may be perceived as accurate interpretation of intent are contained in the document, nowhere is there a trace of concern for climate change, for equity, or for humanity."
"There is just contempt for poor countries, which can be bought or manipulated as puppets. Is there some kind of self-analysis here? None, and the reference to the need for transparency is dismissed as some odd concept. I find the whole thing thoroughly disgusting," said the senior diplomat. +