Makereta Komai, PACNEWS, Climate Pasifika
Copenhagen, 19 December - United Nations climate chief is not ready to step down, despite the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change summit, which ended with no legally binding deal.
Instead, contrary to what most countries are claiming as a failure, Yves de Boer maintains the two week meeting created a ‘political engagement never seen in the history of the United Nations.
“If I felt responsible, I’d be long gone and if I’m not responsible for what happened, then I shouldn’t take the consequences. If I were to go, I would do it on high rather than on a low.
“But I don’t agree with the claims that this conference was a disaster. The fact world leaders from the European Union, Brazil, China, India, Japan, United States, Maldives, Lesotho and some of the vulnerable countries come together to have a collective consultation and captured their discussions in an agreement through their own handiwork, I think is politically significant, said de Boer.
He admitted however that the Copenhagen Accord is only a framework that can be turned into a legally binding agreement in the future.
“It’s an indication of a willingness to move forward, the ingredients of an architect of an agreement that can respond to the challenges of climate change.
“That means we have a lot of work to do on the road to Mexico.
Hiding his disappointment that COP15 was unable to achieve what it was tasked to do, de Boer said, Mexico should try and accomplish what Copenhagen couldn’t.
“COP16 should try and establish a legally binding treaty under the Convention that brings on board the United States, which captures action from the major developing economies, that sets 2020 targets and defines long term goal and vision that creates a strong financial architecture that mobilises resources for technology for capacity building and adaptation.
“Any agreement outcome must ensure the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, said de Boer.
An agreement dubbed the Copenhagen Accord drawn up by a limited group of countries on Friday night was formally accepted by the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15) during a closing session on Saturday morning.
“The conference of the parties takes note of the Copenhagen Accord,” says a final decision.
When questioned on the status of the Accord, in terms of the UNFCCC processes, de Boer said, ‘The Conference of the Parties has noted the Copenhagen Accord.
“In that decision there is recognition from COP that a deal is there. It does not matter where the deal lives, what matters are that a number of world leaders pulled the deal off when negotiators couldn’t.
“It’s now the responsibility of those leaders to take it forward and for us to find a home for the Copenhagen Accord in the UNFCCC process, said de Boer.
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon said, “We have sealed the deal.
“This accord cannot be everything that everyone hoped for, but it is an essential beginning,” he said.
The Copenhagen Accord recognises the scientific view that an increase in global temperature below 2 degrees is required to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
In order to achieve this goal, the Accord specifies that industrialised countries will commit to implement, individually or jointly, quantified economy-wide emissions targets from 2020, to be listed in the accord before 31 January 2010.
A number of developing countries, including major emerging economies, agreed to communicate their efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions every two years, also listing their voluntary pledges before the 31 January 2010.
Nationally appropriate mitigation actions seeking international support are to be recorded in a registry along with relevant technology, finance and capacity building support from industrialised nations.
“We must be honest about what we have got,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary
Yvo de Boer. “The world walks away from Copenhagen with a deal. But clearly ambitions to reduce emissions must be raised significantly if we are to hold the world to 2 degrees,” he added.
Because the pledges listed by developed and developing countries may, according to science, be found insufficient to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees or less, leaders called for a review of the accord, to be completed by 2015.
The review would include a consideration of the long-term goal to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.
“We now have a package to work with and begin immediate action,” said
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer. “However, we need to be clear that it is a letter of intent and is not precise about what needs to be done in legal terms. So the challenge is now to turn what we have agreed politically in Copenhagen into something real, measurable and verifiable,” he added.
The next annual UN Climate Change Conference will take place towards the end of 2010 in Mexico City, preceded by a major two week negotiating session in Bonn, Germany, scheduled 31 May to 11 June.
Will countries endorse the Copenhagen Accord?
The text of the Copenhagen deal is still strongly debated, and it remains to be seen how many countries endorsed negotiations on Saturday morning, 24 hours after the formal session came to an end.
Danish Prime Minister Lar Lokke Rasmussen was satisfied with the outcome document,
“We have achieved a result. Now nations will need to sign on, and if they do so, they will support what has been agreed (in the Copenhagen Accord). This will have effect immediately, said PM Rasmussen.
De Boer did not want to divulge the names of countries that have put their names to the Copenhagen Accord.
“There is an opportunity now for countries to sign up to the agreement or indicate to the Secretariat their desire to join at a later date. They also have the liberty to put their targets or emissions goal on the table or to say what they willing to contribute financially They will also have to indicate if they want to be part of the technology mechanism.
“In a way, today’s outcome framework is a vehicle designed for countries to choose what they want to do, within the areas covered in the Accord.
De Boer said a vast majority of nations expressed their support at the conclusion of the negotiations early Saturday morning.
“I would expect many of them sign up. Some parties were a little nervous because it’s a frame work that talks about engagement that talks about measuring, reporting and verification.
Many Pacific countries have in principle agreed to take the Accord to their capitals for final endorsement.
As at the closure of COP15, there were mixed responses from Pacific countries.
“Some countries have agreed to adopt a wait and see situation but most will refer the Copenhagen Accord back to their capitals.
“This is not what we came here for. We have maintained our position, and that of other Alliance of Small Island States, all along the negotiation process, and if that is not reflected in the final outcome, then we will not accept the document, said Solomon Islands chief negotiator and Vice President of COP, Ambassador Colin Beck.
What was on the doorstop but didn’t happen
The major developing countries of China, India, Brazil, Japan and South Africa came to Copenhagen with their national action plans that would take emissions to about 28 percent below the business as usual path.
“That is significant because in the equation of rich countries doing -25-40 percent by 2020, there is the other range by developing countries deviating 15-30 percent from business as usual.
“From that commitment, it appears that developing countries are more on track to responding to the sciences than the industrialised world.
“But we did not capture those numbers in the agreement, said de Boer.
Similarly, with the short term financing mechanism, we received significant offers from developed countries.
“If we add it all up – we have received on our way to Copenhagen 23 billion in pledges towards short term financing but we did not succeed in capturing that short term finance in an agreement and a break down in who will contribute what.
“A great deal of energy was invested, a great deal was within our grasp but they were, in the final analysis, not captured in the final outcome document.
The UN climate talks in Copenhagen were inches away from total failure and ended with an outcome far too weak to tackle dangerous climate change, WWF said today.
“Copenhagen was at the brink of failure due to poor leadership combined with an unconvincing level of ambition”, said Kim Carstensen, Leader of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.
“Well meant but half-hearted pledges to protect our planet from dangerous climate change are simply not sufficient to address a crisis that calls for completely new ways of collaboration across rich and poor countries.”
Politicians around the world seem to be in agreement that we must stay below the 2 degree threshold of unacceptable risks of climate change – in theory. However, practically what leaders have put on the table adds up to 3 degrees celsius of warming or more, according to WWF estimates.
“Millions of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars and a wealth of lost opportunities lie in the difference between rhetoric and reality on climate change action.”
Attention will now shift to follow up negotiations which need to fill out many details in the often vague accord – and, on a more positive note, to a host of initiatives by countries, cities, companies and communities that are starting to build low carbon economies from the base up.
WWF analysed the conference outcome against a 10 element scorecard, finding that none of the objectives needed to fulfil the political aim of keeping average global warming below the widely agreed 2 degree celsius high risk level had been met, although some had been partly fulfilled.
The draft Copenhagen Accord is a long way from developing into a legally binding framework for decisive action on climate change.
“We needed a treaty now and at best, we will be working on one in half a year’s time,” said Carstensen.
“What we have after two years of negotiation is a half-baked text of unclear substance. With the possible exceptions of US legislation and the beginnings of financial flows, none of the political obstacles to effective climate action have been solved.”
The UN climate chief is banking on the political will shown in Copenhagen to push further discussions and implementation of the Accord.
“We have seen a huge political engagement at this session. We have seen leaders from large and small countries, north and south engaging with each other in a way that has never happened before. We have finally seen willing commitment to put money on the table. The challenge for the coming year is to capitalise on that and turn into something that is real, measurable and verifiable.
WWF said the the lack of clarity in Copenhagen is illustrated by a call for a global peak in emissions “as soon as possible”, in contrast to the 2007 call of the IPCC for emissions to peak in 2017.
Emissions reductions pledges remain far lower than what is required, with a leaked analysis by the UNFCCC secretariat showing a shortfall that would lead to 3 degrees C of warming even without considering extensive loopholes.
“We are disappointed but the story continues,” said Carstensen. “Civil society was excluded from these final negotiations to an extraordinary degree, and that was felt during the concluding days in Copenhagen.”
“We can assure the world, however, that WWF and other elements of civil society will continue engaging in every step of further negotiations.”