Our guest blogger is Andrew Light,a Senior Fellow at American Progress specializing in climate, energy,and science policy. He will be leading the CAP delegation inCopenhagen this week. The photo is of Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanesechair of the G77 (by Adam Welz).
TheGuardian reported yesterday that the UN climate meeting currentlyunderway in Copenhagen (the 15th meeting of the Conference of theParties or COP 15) had disintegrated into disarray when secret draft languagefor an interim climate agreement from the host Danish delegation hadbeen uncovered by the Group of 77 – the coalition of well over ahundred developing countries which negotiate as a group at the UNclimate meetings. A secret group of nations had supposedly put thedocument together without any consultation.
The so-called Danish text, a secret draft agreement worked on by agroup of individuals known as “the circle of commitment” – butunderstood to include the UK, US and Denmark – has only been shown to ahandful of countries since it was finalized this week.
The British daily goes on to breathlessly claim that ithad not only received the document but had been privy to a“confidential analysis” of it by developing countries and that itturned the Kyoto Protocol on its head. They go on to list a dizzyingarray of dramatic and unjust reductions in emissions required by theDanish text without any actual support from the document itself. Theywere joined in their condemnation by an array of people like Friends ofthe Earth U.S. President Erich Pica who condemned the U.S. in similarterms: “The Obama administration’s role in what appears to be a secret plot to strong-arm through an agreement forcing poor countries to bear much of the cost of reducing emissions is despicable.”
In response the G77, plus representatives from China, walked out of a press conference led by the Sudanese chair of the G77, Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping,claiming that the Danish text had come from nowhere and reiteratingtheir claim that they would not accept any binding commitments toreductions in carbon pollution.
What do we make of this implosion in the meeting so quickly?
Any veteran of the UN climate meetings will recognize the G77+Chinareaction to “the” Danish draft today – as the Danes reiterated, there is no single definitive draftand nothing has been finalized – as more of the same drama that haspervaded these meetings for the last 14 years. A not terribly creativemind could script these events before they happen. Two things jump outfrom yesterday’s episode that are typical: first, the shock expressedby Di-Aping at the very idea that the Danes were drafting anything, andsecond, the insistence that developing countries, writ large, willnever, ever agree to any mandatory emissions reductions.
The first part of the drama has become par for the course forDi-Aping who, since becoming the chief negotiator to the G77 lastAugust has worked tirelessly to make sure there is absolutely noprogress in the UN negotiations. But ask yourself, how could Di-Aping(or Pica, for that matter) be surprised that the Danes are working ontext for an interim political agreementfor this meeting when it’s been reported in every major media outlet inthe world since the APEC conference in Singapore last month that theywere doing so? Recall that there the President of Mexico and the PrimeMinister of Australia hastily organized a meeting to present the ideaof focusing Copenhagen on an interim “political agreement”as a first step to finalizing a fully legal and ratifiable agreementover the course of 2010 in advance of COP 16 in Mexico City, if notearlier at an interim meeting. Both President Obama and President Huendorsed this two step strategy later that week at their presidentialsummit in Beijing, and Obama’s commitment that whatever was decided inCopenhagen should take immediate operational effectwas again reported around the world. The Danes have been discussingdraft text with everyone since they got the green light on this plan.
So how could Di-Aping possibly be surprised that the Danes wereactually doing what they promised to do in front of the leader of thelargest developed and developing countries in the world? The expressedshock here is incredulous.
There is a precedent, however, to Tuesday’s announcement. Di-Apingclosed the Bangkok round of UN climate negotiations two months ago witha bold condemnationof the US for having hidden from developing countries a super-secretsecond treaty designed to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in2012. Of course, what he was talking about was the treaty language thathad been under discussion for six months in the “LCA track” of the UNclimate framework (the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term CooperativeAction) which was authorized at the Bali meeting in 2007. The “secret”treaty was the discussion draft in the LCA track,publicly available to anyone with a working internet connection, andconsisting primarily of contributions by Australia, Costa Rica, andNorway. D-Aping’s condemnation was pure spin, worthy of D.C.’s bestspinmeisters.
The second part of the drama — the claim that developing countrieswill never agree to anything ever — is also a mainstay. No one agreesto anything in these meetings until the very bitter end. Theconventional wisdom is that it’s the only way any party can actuallyget what they want.
Consider the run up to this meeting: Both China and India had majorpresidential-level summits with the United States in Beijing and D.C.last month. Both agreed to major bilateral agreements aimed squarely atfulfilling one of the core mandates of the Bali Action Plan — namely,assistance from a developed country with clean energy technology inexchange for eventual cuts in emissions. Both agreed to the ground workfor creating the capacity for eventually being able to measure, report,and verify their emissions reductions (MRV) — assistance from the USfor a carbon inventory in China and for improving the environmental ministry in India.
But these countries also met prior to Copenhagen, along with theleaders from Brazil and South Africa, to reiterate their position thatthey would never agree to any emissions cuts.Why? To reset the negotiating clock to zero lest developed countriestake it for granted that they could get even an interim agreement outof this meeting without some hard negotiations.
I’d love to see COP 15 go forward without any more needlessposturing by any of the parties like we saw yesterday, but I’m notholding my breath. I applaud the Danes for what they are trying to doto pull some significant advances out of this meeting and would hopethat the rest of the parties give them a chance to actually deliver ontheir promise.