As FishOutOfWater noted in his breaking news diary Climate Deal Cut, Kyoto Extended, All Nations Have Same CO2 Limits, the UNFCCC Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action session COP17/MOP7 reached an agreement in penalty overtime play on Saturday against what seemed to be insurmountable odds just days earlier, flipping the table on the low expectations for the summit.
Although this marathon 36 hour negotiation session leaves much unfinished business and failed to produce any real concrete improvements in commitments to action, it did overcome some significant political obstacles that have, since COP15, side-tracked negotiations as a carnival freak show of political squabbling played out as ice caps melted.
Perhaps most importantly, China, India and the United States were persuaded to compromise and sign on to measures that effectively bring them and all nations into the regime and set the stage for accelerating negotiations on the substance of rules, regulations and commitments to meet the agreed goal to limit Atmospheric Global Warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels by 2050.
Although the agreement apparently pleases no one, it is a start and where we go from here depends on the pressure applied and it opens the doors to do so.
So what is the substance of the agreement? A brief outline after the fold.
At this point, only draft documents prepared by the chair are available and they are subject to verification and change so I warn readers what is linked and the comments that correspond should only be taken as preliminary and, obviously, subject to my interpretation. I welcome others to make their own assessments and post to this thread.
UNFCCC Document Links
The ABC's in short strokes
I have read the document twice as of this writing and due to the complexity and interlinkage will do so again several times, but some key conclusions are these:
What this agreement DOES NOT DO:
:: It does not advance actual commitments to reduce CO2 emissions
:: It does not establish uniform CO2 emissions limits as the above linked diary implies
:: It does not conclude finalization of the urgently needed Green Climate Fund which was scheduled to be concluded in the session (but presently roadblocked)
:: It does not end the Kyoto Protocol obligations
What this agreement DOES DO:
:: It affirms existing Kyoto Protocol classifications and obligations beyond 2012 up to 2020 unless a superseding agreement is concluded, which is the stated goal and intention
:: It affirms various existing goals, plans and obligations undertaken in preceding sessions, notably including those of COP15 Copenhagen, COP16 Cancun and interim sessions
:: It enshrines and clarifies the concept of verification and accountability modes initiated in COP16 with significant additional clauses that create obligations but also recognize national sovereignty, and specifies more details of the process
:: It enshrines the concept of universal obligation to the treaty as an instrument of law where all signatories bear obligations
:: It affirms the concept of differentiated responsibilities in two contexts; (a) as a continuation of Kyoto obligations and; (b) as a fundamental principle to guide future agreements
:: It affirms the urgency to act with more ambition based on scientific findings and scale mitigation and adaptation actions to the developing situation
:: It requires that currently classified non-Annex 1 Developing Nations report their status in 2014 and to initiate planning for mitigation measures within 6 months
:: It sets 2015 as a hard deadline to conclude a new agreement with accelerated commitments and urges members to conclude this as soon a possible (i.e., not delaying to 2015).
:: It enshrines the principle that global CO2 should peak no later than 2020, a very challenging goal given the slow progress so far
It also includes various other clauses too numerous to mention is a brief diary and which I personally need to digest. However, I would like to briefly comment on some significant points:
The Green Climate Fund impasse was not resolved. Currently the US is withholding it's vote insisting this be vested in the IMF (where it has dominant political clout) rather than as an independent fund, to quote Todd Stern:
“We want to see a green fund that is going to draw in a lot of capital from countries all over the world, including the United States,” he said at a briefing. “And although I love climate negotiators and spend much of my time with them, they are not necessarily the most qualified people to run a multibillion-dollar fund.”
Thanks, Todd, but meanwhile floods and droughts are ravaging the southern hemisphere while you defend the turf of an organization with track record of mismanagement. It's not clear to me how the UNFCCC plans to resolve this issues but Small Island Nations and Under-Developed Nations now suffering consequences are waiting for these funds so if anyone reading knows the plan please comment.
A significant political issue has been shared legal obligations. Indeed, two successive US Administrations used this as a justification not to sign on to Kyoto and it continues to be a political football in the US Congress, particularly with respect to China. In early negotiations China signaled it's willingness to sign-on provided a bridge to extend Kyoto from 2012 was agreed, and having accepted the agreement from the EU made good on that promise. India, the final G77 refusenik was also pursued and this should then close the issue and end questions about their intentions.
Kyoto was preserved in present form at least until 2020 but presumably superseded by a new agreement before or by 2015. This, I believe, was the deal clincher for China, India and several African countries that have urgent development goals requiring a grace period and having committed themselves to sustainable development, but realistically not capable to start reductions in the immediate short term. What they have traded for this is the obligation to make their sustainable development goals a matter of legal obligation. The EU, particularly Connie Hedegaard who organized the EU draft agreement and then doggedly pursued all parties to resolve the disputes and conclude an agreement deserves much credit. Likewise, the acceptance, finally, of this reality by the US is much welcome especially considering it comes at zero cost and obligation since the US is not a Kyoto signatory.
A last point I would like to address is that of differentiated obligations. Quite clearly the agreement intends that this be enshrined as a basic principle in the process or future agreements. I realize this is a complex principle not well understood by many people in developed nations that feel they are unfairly burdened with the responsibility of solving this problem. Explaining this could take volumes but in simple terms:
:: those in developed nations are primarily responsible for the existing carbon inventory and benefited economically from it
:: they also have greatly escaped obligations for the damage done since their reduction obligations are baselined from 1990, which voids a very significant portion of their inventory and indexes from a point when most of these countries were already past peak industrial emissions
:: much of the carbon intensive industry previously in these nations has migrated to developing countries where it continues to economically benefit the developed nations by producing products they consume and returning profits in the case they own the enterprises (often the case)
:: under Kyoto, Copenhagen and Cancun, the commitments made by non-Annex 1 nations actually exceed those by Annex 1 nations, and studies have concluded that based on accounting methods, many of the Annex 1 nation commitments require little or NO actual measures
:: by the objective measure of per capita emissions, virtually all developed nations have higher emissions and GDP
. . . . .
I hope this gives people a basic picture of the agreement and definitely welcome comments and debate.
Now, the ball is in OUR court. With these obstacles out of the way people now need to apply bottom-up pressure to governments to cast aside the politics and get on with the work of reducing emissions and mitigating the effects of Climate Change we can already see before our eyes.
Apply pressure constantly. It's the only thing that works.