New Analysis of COP15

An excellent new potential student reading on COP15 is Dan Bodaansky, The Copenhagen Conference: A Post-Mortem (2010).

Among the key points of the analysis:

  1. “The primary axis of the negotiations” was split between the European Union, which pushed for aggressive emission reduction targets, and the United States and “Umbrella Group” allies including Australia and Japan, who advocated unrestricted use of market-based mechanisms, e.g. the Clean Development Mechanism;
  2. The focal point of negotiations has now shifted to developed/developing countries, with continued resistance by developing countries to taking on mandatory emissions reduction commitments,  on the grounds of historical responsibility and capacity;
  3. The two-track structure of the negotiations (AWG-KP and AWG-LCA) reflects a clash of ideologies, with developed countries resisting assumption of a new round of emissions reduction commitments under Kyoto unless major developing countries also accept legal commitments, whereas developing countries are united in opposing a one-track approach under the AWG-LCA, emphasizing the need for progress to be made under the AWG-KP track also. This means that developing countries are also unwilling to give up this track now in favor of a new post-Kyoto instrument. However, their are also fissures within the developing country bloc, with some smaller nations, including small island States, supporting the developing of a more comprehensive agreement in parallel to the Kyoto negotiations;
  4. Another major fissure is how developed and developing countries view commitments of additional funding by developed countries to assist developing countries with mitigation and adaptation efforts, with the former viewing this as a quid quo pro for developing country mitigation commitments, whereas developing countries view financing as a form of payment of the “carbon debt” for historical emissions;
  5. More than 90 countries have tendered submissions to the UNFCCC Secretariat either pledging reductions in emissions and/or indicating their desire to be associated with the Copenhagen Accord, though notably, major developing country emitters, China, India, South Africa, and Brazil have not expressly associated themselves with the Accord;
  6. While it’s contemplated that the Parties will operationalize major provisions of the Accord through resolutions, including funding mechanisms and the new Technology Mechanism), given the failure to adopt the Copenhagen Accord as a resolution, it’s more likely that those who have associated themselves with the Accord will have to develop an independent agreement;
  7. While the AWG-LCA’s mandate was extended at Copenhagen, ensuring that its negotiations will proceed in parallel to AWG-KP in the lead-up to COP16 in Mexico City, India and Saudi Arabia scuppered the passage of a resolution that would have mandated that the outcome of the negotiations of the AWG’s should be legally binding, so we will head into Mexico City with a large cloud of uncertainty hanging over the negotiations;
  8. The Copenhagen Accord represents a major breakthrough, even if the associated pledges to reduce emissions are inadequate, because States agreed to list their commitments internationally and agreed to some measure of international monitoring. It also represents a breach of the “firewall” between developed and developing countries, with major developing countries for the first time agreeing to list their national commitments in an international instrument and subject their plans to international scrutiny;
  9. On the negative side of the equation, the ability of a small group of countries that previously played virtually no role in climate negotiations to scupper a deal demonstrates the “absurdity” of the consensus decision-making rule. It’s also difficult to see how mid-level negotiators are going to effectuate dramatic results in Mexico City given the failure of world leaders to make more substantive progress at Copenhagen.

Bodansky’s piece also provides a very good synopsis of the specific provisions of the Copenhagen Accord, as well as history of the negotiations leading up to Copenhagen. Thus, it would be a particularly good reading in an international or environmental law course with only one or a couple of days devoted to climate change issues.

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