Another take on Copenhagen

On the Copenhagen Discord

Posted by: “TotoPurz” rebohan@yahoo.com   rebohan

Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:53 am (PST)

Notes from Bernarditas Muller, a Coordinator of G77+China in the Climate Negotiations

The conspiracy

began in Bali, where, after a two-year long-term dialogue for cooperative action which was agreed not to result in negotiations, the Bali Action Plan was hatched by a selected group of countries. The only new thing in climate negotiations under the Bali Action Plan was the provision on « nationally-appropri ate mitigation actions » for developing countries, subsequently to be known as NAMAs. The rest simply watered down commitments of developed countries under the Convention. Drama marked the last day of the Bali session, when the lines were drawn. The final plenary meeting clarified the developing countries’ understanding of NAMAs, and the United States was shamed into joining the consensus.

The waiting game

was played over two years, when endless debates were held clarifying positions, wrestling with procedures that could prejudge the outcome, even trying to understand what this outcome would be, finally giving birth to a « negotiating text ». But contrary to normal growth, the text first grew and then was pared down to a « manageable » size. In Barcelona, in November, the text appeared to take shape. This spurred developed countries to intensify their efforts, began even before Bali, to influence and pressure developing countries which in turn began to show increasing signs of cohesiveness.

In the meanwhile,

everybody waited to see which way the US would go. The whole process was put on slow motion until the new US administration took over early in 2009, and then hope was revived that the US would now engage in the process. They did, but only to make more interventions in the negotiations, dampening hopes for a US target of emissions reductions, promising recycled financing, most of it to be spent domestically, and above all, warning that everything depended on US congressional approval. This ensured that nothing would happen until mid- to late 2010.

The developed countries were busy

spending time and money to divide and influence developing countries. Bribing where they can, promising the same recycled financing and maybe more to come if countries are amenable, bullying where they cannot bribe. They financed workshops in selected vulnerable countries, deploying climate envoys, in particular one on Climate Security for Vulnerable Countries, who in so many words, told « intransigent » negotiators that they are putting up a group of vulnerable countries in order to pressure the major developing countries into taking on emissions reductions commitments.

Small « circles of commitment » were formed: the G8 summits came out with double declarations that contained conflicting declarations from the developed countries and a group of « major developing economies »; G20 documents were denounced by G20 members themselves; and meetings with selected developing countries, including bilateral ones, were intensively pursued.

Their efforts partly paid off, as a couple of these « vulnerable » countries stoutly defended the Copenhagen Accord which came out of the woodwork in Copenhagen. One even claimed to represent the African Group, whereas it was clear that the African Group, led by another African country, was among the most cohesive within the group of 132 developing countries called the Group of 77.

Not all were fooled, however, and Tuvalu, a strong defender among truly vulnerable small island developing countries, likened the Accord’s US$30 billion financing provisions to the biblical « 30 pieces of silver ».

What really occurred in Copenhagen

was the culmination of all the frustrations of many developing countries in the total lack of transparency and inclusiveness in the process.

Rumours of a Danish text were circulating weeks before Copenhagen. When confronted with these rumours, the Danish presidency firmly denied the existence of a text. The secretariat also affirmed before a G77 pre-sessional meeting that only one Danish Chairman would be elected. Two days before the final plenary, a second Danish president was named. At the same time, it was announced that Danes would come up with not one, but two texts.

Before that, new procedures were introduced that delayed negotiations for at least two days. The G77 was blamed for these delays, as developed countries stalled at closed negotiating rooms, continually bracketing texts, coming out with new proposals, clarifying former ones, drawing out developing countries anxious to come to textual agreements, restating positions, biding for time until the Danes get the high-level officials into a climate « green room » of exclusive negotiations.

And to the world press, the message continued to be that « the G77 is blocking negotiations. » At the same time, the message was reinforced that separate bilateral deals were being signed elsewhere.

At the last minute, after a parody of the Danish presidency of putting up the negotiating groups once again at the insistence of the G77, three main issues were taken out of the negotiators’ hands, the same three issues which resurfaced later in the Copenhagen Accord reflecting developed countries’ positions. These issues were the long-term global goal », the controversial market mechanisms and trade discussions, and most of all, financing.

We were to have reconvened again to continue negotiations, but we never did.

What took place behind closed doors

was the backroom wheeling and dealing. I took part in the first meetings, where the big G77 countries were trying to revise the text presented by the Chairman. Small gains were made, but largely the revisions suggested by developing countries were ignored.

The Accord mainly reflects developed countries’ positions on most issues. In particular, financing is to continue to be channelled through the failed delivery systems of the past, through « international institutions », « public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance,” without acknowledging the legal obligations to provide financial resources under the governance of Parties.

The final plenary

broke out in confusion when the Danish Prime Minister, now Chairman, marched in after making the delegations wait for nearly five hours without any explanation, took the microphone to announce that a deal was done, called the Copenhagen Accord, as secretariat personnel frantically distributed the text, and instructed the rest of the meeting to break out in « regional groups » and to take one hour to decide on their future.

He then closed the session precipitately without following normal procedures of soliciting views of Parties and proceeded to march out again when pandemonium broke out as Parties demanded to be heard. The only way to be given the floor was to ask for points of order, which were not heeded until nameplates were banged on the table. During the interventions, the Chairman looked on, glaring at the proceedings, turning now and then to consult the secretariat. No courtesy or proper attention was accorded to the speakers which included ministers and ambassadors heading delegations.

The claim that only three or four countries spoke against the Accord and the procedures followed is false, as proven by subsequent interventions, punctuated by applause, from other developing countries or their supporters. Developed countries and their followers also applauded their own spokesmen and followers.

Interventions of developed countries focused on a threat that the paragraphs concerning financing would not be “made operational” unless countries signed up to the Accord.

Sad to say, pledges of financing have a way of evaporating over time, and financing done through existing institutions are unpredictable, difficult to access, conditional, and selective. Any governance system set up outside of the Convention itself is just another layer of bureaucracy, and equal representation of developed and developing countries outside of the UN system is unbalanced.

What happens now ?

The Parties decided to continue with the ongoing process of negotiations, while taking note of the Accord which, on many of its provisions, undermines the developing countries’ positions in these negotiations. Parties took note of the Accord which would be open to participation by Parties, if they wish to avail of the promised financing, the terms of which are still to be determined by continued negotiations.

What mainly happened is the complete breakdown of trust among Parties. To build it up again, under the shadow of an Accord that would be pursued at all costs, is immensely challenging.

There are not only the legal obligations, but the moral and ethical considerations for developed countries to assume responsibilities to developing countries which did little to contribute to the problem of climate change, and which suffer most from its adverse effects. Economic interests should not prevail over the lives and survival of the poorest and most vulnerable populations.

The holidays might provide time for reflection, and the firm resolve of the New Year in all these should be to work together to address climate change and its adverse effects, for the present and future generations, and the good of humankind.

Bernarditas C. Muller
Geneva, 7 January 2010

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