Finally an Accord!

Kartikeya V Sarabhai, Director, CEE

It was always an exercise of walking on thin ice. The world was not divided into the developed and developing nations, but there were many sub groups who did not see things from the same perspective. As the Conference went through its two weeks of deliberations one saw the G 77 plus China, the group representing the developing nations, go from one voice to breaking into many. The AOSIS, the Association of Small Island States was one of the first to put forth a separate
proposition. To them it was a matter of survival. They felt even the 2º C target was too high and that we needed to work towards a 1.5º C target. The African nations held several consultations separately. Adaptation, and finance for that was crucial from their point of view. But a strong group that emerged at Copenhagen was what was called BASIC – Brazil, South Africa, India and China; the so called emerging economies, the larger and stronger of the developing countries. In the final analysis it was this group that finally Obama decided to convince. BASIC, The USA and the EU came up with the draft that will finally become the Copenhagen Accord. As President Obama said as he left for the US, “A more binding agreement was not achievable at this Conference”. And he is perhaps right. This is as far as
Copenhagen could have gone. A signed and binding treaty that would follow the Kyoto Protocol was perhaps more than what we could expect at this stage. According to Jairam Ramesh, Minister
for State for Environment, India the accord that BASIC agreed upon was “good for the entire developing world”.

At Copenhagen, waste pickers spoke about the need to promote recycling instead of burning wastes. Source for picture:Source:

But many were deeply disappointed with what has happened. The AOSIS countries, the African States and the less developed nations feel that the process has been hijacked by the powerful,
even from their own G 77 plus China group. While the accord has tried to address the concerns of all the G 77 group it has clearly not been able to reach any legally binding targets or commitments. The accord mentions that the long term goal is to limit the increase in global average temperatures to 1.5º C which was a key demand of AOSIS. It also talks of “supporting the implementation of adaptation actions aimed at reducing vulnerability and building resilience in developing countries,
especially in those that are particularly vulnerable, especially least developed countries, small island developing States and further taking into account the need of countries in Africa affected by drought, desertification and floods”. One of the concerns of the G 77 was the mechanism through which funds would be arranged.

Many multi-lateral funds like the World Bank do not have the type of democratic structure that the UN has. In the accord an in-between solution has been found in the form of creating a new multilateral funding for adaptation “with a governance structure providing for equal representation of developed and developing countries”. The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities with respective capabilities” that India and other developing countries have insisted on has been
incorporated in the first para of the accord. The mention of the Kyoto Protocol being the continuing legal instrument in the post 2012 scenario, another important demand of the G 77 is also in
place. In fact Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it clear that no new legal treaty could be negotiated since we already have the Kyoto Protocol. But all this was still a big disappointment for
the smaller countries of the G 77. As Sudan’s Ambassador who is the spokesperson for the G 77 said that his first reaction to the accord was that this was “ the worst development in the fight
against climate change”.

To some extent the strong negative comments that were the immediate reaction are from the process rather than the outcome itself. At the end the negotiating methodology that involved all
countries was given up and a deal made between the powerful which included the BASIC countries. But in fairness to India and the other members of BASIC they did not abandon the concerns of the larger group they represented and in fact have helped the Copenhagen process from leading to a collapse. A foundation has been now laid for reducing emissions by 50% by 2050 in comparison to 1990 levels and in the case of the developed countries reducing their emissions by at least 80% . While this is not legally binding yet the accord sets a goal of converting all
this into a legally binding agreement by the end of 2010 and an overall review of the Accord and its implementation by 2016.

On funding too initial commitments have been made committing additional resources of 30 billion dollars for the period 2010 – 2012 and a commitment to “ developed countries supporting a goal of mobilizing jointly 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of the developing countries”. While many developing countries wanted these funds to come from public funds meaning Government resources of the developed countries, the Accord talks of a wide variety of sources “public and private, bilateral and multilateral including alternative sources of finance”. Jairam Ramesh feels that it is unrealistic to expect all this money coming from public sources alone and it is more important for us and other developing countries to now show our commitment and use these resources well for climate change, mitigation and adaptation. The COP 15 at Copenhagen did not achieve what many had hoped for but what it did do was to take a major step in the world working together to solve what perhaps is the biggest problem facing the world today.

This article first appeared in DNA, Ahmedabad edition on 19th December 2009

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