December 16, 2009
TO: Alliance Members
FROM: Kevin FayDave Stirpe Alex Perry
SUBJECT: Copenhagen Outlook
With a steady increase in the number of world leaders who have confirmed their attendance at COP 15 in Copenhagen this week and with the shift in President Obama’s attendance from Wednesday December 9 to Friday December 18, the prospects that some kind of “operational political agreement” (the Administration’s label for what kind of agreement they are looking to conclude during the COP) will emerge from the negotiations are steadily increasing.
The major issues remain:
--the extent of developed country commitments
--the inclusion of specific developing country commitments
--the development of financial mechanisms to provide capacity building, mitigation and aptation funding for developing countries
--the identification of a long-term objective
--the completion of a regime for realistic compliance requirements for monitoring, reporting and verification that applies to all parties
As we reported previously, although meaningful progress was made over the last few months on many of the second tier issues relating to market operations, offsets, and technology transfer, it remains very unclear whether the process in Copenhagen can come to ground in order to effectively address the five points above. With an overlay of chaotic conditions within the Bella Center (the COP headquarters), the freakish sideshow taking place outside with the types of protests and interest groups that have become the status quo for any significant international leaders meeting, the fact that the significant majority of NGO and IGO participants will be excluded from the meeting center for the last two days of high level meetings, topped off with thousands of media representatives hanging on every word and the arrival of at least 120 heads of state, the pressure on the lead negotiators and national participants is enormous.
The character of a new climate agreement seems to be moving away from the model established by the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto represented a single “centralized” model containing common but differentiated targets shared by all developed country parties in the short to medium term, relying on a common currency of allowances and certified emission reductions. What is expected to emerge from Copenhagen is starting to look like it will revolve around an agreement of a long-term objective and a system of pledge and review combined with hopefully meaningful and uniform compliance requirements in terms of monitoring, reporting and verification for developed and developing countries.
The long-term objective proposals include an agreement to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 or a 50% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Developing nations such as China, India, Brazil, and South Africa continue to oppose a long-term objective of a 50% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a group of developing countries is also trying to push for a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The path to reach this long-term objective would first be achieved by national commitments of the major emitters, including all developed countries and the major developing country economies. These pledges, set by the parties themselves rather than the central treaty, would be supported by a system of review to ensure countries are complying with their own pledges; otherwise known as monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV).
From the market mechanism standpoint, the analogy has been suggested that the system is moving away from a common currency (the Kyoto Protocol AAU/CER structure) towards a system that will have these national commitments with some type of exchange rate. It remains to be seen how this approach might impact the functioning of the global carbon market(s).
The view has been that the political agreement would include appendices of these national commitments as part of the agreement. This compendium would be reinforced by a reasonable regime of MRV. During President Obama’s recent trip to Beijing, the US and China concluded an assistance package that will include US help to the Chinese in measuring and reporting their emissions. One potential sticking point, however, is that the US is not willing to create differentiated responsibilities in MRV, but China and other developing countries have steadfastly opposed such compliance requirements for themselves. The US government says it will refuse to submit itself to more stringent reporting and verification protocols than any other party.
Over the course of the discussions here in Copenhagen so far, the developing countries have continued to balk at the notion of actually attaching their commitments to the political agreement. The US says it needs more than just warm expressions of interest from developing countries, and while much progress had been made with major announcements from countries such as China, India, and Brazil, it has now taken on a slightly different dynamic in the context of the overall negotiations.
It appears that there may be some agreement on financing. The US announced it is willing to put up its share of a $10 billion fund for developing country adaptation and capacity building. This signal was reinforced by Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) introduction of the International Climate Change Investment Act of 2009, which will form part of the Senate’s climate package and contains a framework for the federal government to assess and distribute climate financing. Kerry has said that he would like $3 billion included in next year’s appropriations for developing nations to fight climate change. Furthermore, the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act would offer something in the region of $1.4 billion (in 2012) and $2.6 billion (in 2019). Other developed nations have also contributed to the thinking that some kind of financing deal is possible; a joint British and French proposal to provide $22 billion in financing over the next three years from the developed world was endorsed by the Commonwealth Heads of State, which includes a large number of the same developing nations that have been pushing for hard commitments from the developed world on finance.
Currently, according to our discussions with leaders of the US delegation, the financing amounts are not settled but negotiations appear to revolve around commitments beyond the three year plan being discussed. The negotiators need to balance that against domestic concerns that too large a commitment over too long a time frame creates an additional political cost burden for passage of the final climate legislation in the U.S.
The Kyoto Protocol is unlikely to be formally set aside at Copenhagen, developing nations are unwilling to abandon the only legally binding climate treaty without the conclusion of a second. In fact, the African nations halted all discussions on the substantive issues to protest the lack of any progress on new Kyoto Protocol commitments. There has been a uniform view among developed countries that a single regime needs to emerge from these talks. The US view seems to be that this is likely to be a two- or three-step process to get there.
As has been typical for some time in these international climate negotiations, far too much work on a wide range of second tier issues also remains. It is expected that the political agreement will include appendices on technology, adaptation and reduction of deforestation (REDD). But even the completion of these texts was uncertain and potentially being kicked upstairs for the Ministers to decide.
The Ministerial level meeting will have only so much capacity to deal with these issues while attempting to sort out the top five we have listed above. Much will be folded in to work anticipated to be done in the coming year to turn the political agreement into a legally binding agreement.
There is also a controversial proposal to assess fees on aviation and maritime bunker fuels as a means of providing additional financing for developing country adaptation. The US has typically opposed any proposal that would seem to appear to create a global taxing authority. But the Danish Chair of the COP, Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard, has reportedly been lobbying heavily in favor because of the lack of other options for sources of funding.
It is hoped that the Copenhagen “operational political agreement” can be translated into a legally-binding one by mid- to late-2010, perhaps concluding at the next conference of parties in Mexico City, currently scheduled for November 8-19, 2010. Regardless of how the 2010 calendar evolves, COP 15’s overall contribution to the conclusion of such a deal will certainly be important, even if the original intentions of the Bali Agreement in 2007 have not become the reality that was envisioned at the time.
We will continue to report on meeting progress and results as they develop.
Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy
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