About 4 hours ago, I thought the Copenhagen boat had sunk.
Bjorn Lomborg, the skeptical environmentalist, was
sitting beside me as I wolfed down a quiche and coffee. Bjorn looked smug as
the cat that ate the canary. Meanwhile, Lord Stern, the economist turned
climate crusader, looked like he might cry.
But the most recent leader’s draft, which has
some blanks to fill in, but I think will be adopted, is a watershed moment in
several crucial ways. Of course it does, in a few areas, employ the old
Canadian solution for solving tough intractable problems: procrastination. Too
bad the UN doesn’t have Royal Commissions.
The leaders of the world have just finished a meeting to
flesh out the latest draft.
And Obama is walking into the press breifing room where I am luckily already sitting.
See my analysis below, which will be updated as Obama speaks to us, which I think will be in a few moments.
Here are the big highlights:
- Accepts 2 degrees Celsius as a critical threshold.
- Cut global emissions by 50% by 2050 from 1990, “taking into
account right to equitable access to atmospheric space.” [this, on the
face of it, is a huge concession by the U.S.
to China, India and
other developing countries, as it says that we are have same per-capita
rights to greenhouse gas emissions. This works out ok, if the incoming
low-carbon economy brings emissions down dramatically all around. But God
help us if the convergence point is closer to current rich country levels
than poor country levels.
- Copenhagen Climate Fund: Quick-start $30 billion 2010-2012 for poor countries.
$100 billion/year to poor countries by 2020 subject to transparency of
- Enshrines principle (thank you Nick Stern) that "low emission development strategy is indispensable to sustainable development."
According to a U.S.
official, the U.S.
underestimated coming into Copenhagen
how much of a sticking point keeping the Kyoto Protocol would be. The Kyoto Protocol
divides rich and poor countries, with one set of obligations for rich countries
and essentially a soft to no set of obligations for poor countries. Coming into
Copenhagen, the U.S. wanted to get rid of this
segregation and have just one arrangement for all major countries. The poor
countries dug in and said that was a deal breaker. The poor countries seem to have won, which in
one way is bad from the atmosphere’s point of view in that 97 per cent of the
growth in greenhouse gases over the next two decades is expected to come from
developing countries, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). But it is
good for fairness, and there is enough tofu-meat in this accord to give
rocket-boost to the burgeoning trillion dollar green economy, which should end
up making many of the lower carbon technologies the cheapest option, eclipsing
many of the concerns of poor countries reluctant to trade off development for
the environment.And shattering the business as usual projections by the IEA.
The Copenhagen Declaration has been
upgraded in name to a Copenhagen Accord, which I understand is higher on the
pecking order of diplomatic outputs.
The Copenhagen Accord is set to include two
appendices listing the carbon reduction measures taken by rich and poor
countries. Rich countries (Annex 1 parties to the Convention), including the
U.S., which was not a Party to the Kyoto Protocol, will have to individually or
jointly make “economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 yielding aggregate
reductions of greenhouse gas emissions of X% in 2020 compared to 1990 and Y% in
2020 compared to 2005.” Delivery of reductions and financing will be measured,
reported and verified in accordance with internationally prescribed standard
that is robust and transparent. While
group targets have been announced in many communiqués, putting country specific
emissions commitments to paper is significant. This measure allows China to safe
face, and probably doesn’t make a big difference.
Poor countries (non-Annex 1 countries) will
implement mitigation actions listed in an appendix to limit emissions, and will
be subject to “domestic measurement, reporting, and verification, the result of
which will be reported through their national communications every two years.”
This, although it appears silly, is a key concession by the U.S. which had said all conference that it would
accept nothing less than internationally verified mitigation actions by major
emerging economies such as China.
The rich countries are also promising to
increase overseas development assistance by 100 per cent by 2020. Specifically,
rich countries commit to provide “quick-start financing” of new and additional
resources of $30 billion from 2010-2012 for balanced allocation between adaptation,
mitigation, including forestry. In the context of meaningful mitigation
mechanisms and transparency, developed countries support a goal of jointly
mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing
countries. This $30 billion is
unconditional and will include details provided in an appendix. The $100
billion, which will come from variety of sources isn’t as fleshed out, but
calls for governance mechanism with equal representation by developing and
The accord calls for this “Copenhagen
Climate Fund” to support mitigation including forestry, adaptation, capacity
building and technology development and transfer in developing countries.