Posted by: Hendra Siry | 31 January, 2010

Developing countries call for Working Groups to resume climate talks

Geneva, 28 Jan (Meena Raman) — Several developing countries are calling for climate negotiations to quickly resume under the two Working Groups established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, following the Copenhagen climate talks. They also stressed the centrality of the UNFCCC as the legitimate forum for the climate negotiations.

These calls are being made as the issue of what will be the basis of the climate negotiations this year is emerging, viz. if it is the Copenhagen Accord (which was not adopted by the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Copenhagen) or the outcome documents produced from the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) as well as the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP).

The outcome documents from both these Working Groups were adopted by the Copenhagen Conference as the basis for negotiations when these groups resume this year.

It appears that confusion has been generated by the Danish Prime Minister, who hosted the UNFCCC’s 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP15), and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, through their letter of 30 December 2009 to several countries asking them to “publicly associate with the Accord” and to garner support for it, when the COP only “took note of” the Accord and not adopt it.

Several developing country diplomats spoke at a multi-stakeholder discussion convened by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS), Realising Rights (an NGO headed by former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson) and the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation held in the United Nations in New York on Monday, 25 January, on the theme “COP15 and Climate Justice – Collapse, Greenwash or New Impetus for the Future”. The speakers included representatives from Sudan, Bolivia and India.

Their main message was that the climate negotiations must resume in the two negotiating tracks of the AWG-LCA as well as the AWG-KP, in the run-up to the COP16 meeting in Mexico later this year. This message has also been echoed by Ministers of Environment of the BASIC group of countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) who met in New Delhi on 24 January.

Ambassador Lumumba Stanislaus Diaping of Sudan, who led the G77 and China in the Copenhagen Climate Conference, said that the COP15 President, who is the Danish Prime Minister, must convene the meeting of the Bureau of the COP, so that meetings of the two working groups can be organised as soon as possible. He said that this was also the call of the BASIC countries following their meeting in New Delhi, referring to a joint ministerial statement issued at that meeting.

The BASIC group Ministers underscored the centrality of the UNFCCC process and the decision of the Parties to carry forward the negotiations on the two tracks of the AWG-LCA and the AWG-KP. The Ministers reiterated that all negotiations must be conducted in an inclusive and transparent manner and called upon the COP President (Denmark) to convene meetings of the two negotiating groups in March 2010 and to ensure that the AWGs meet at least five times before the Mexico Conference.

They emphasised that funding, logistics and other procedural issues should not be allowed to become a constraint in the convening of these meetings which are essential to make progress towards an agreed outcome at COP16.

While expressing support for the Copenhagen Accord, the BASIC group Ministers said that the Accord is in the nature of a political agreement, representing a high level of political understanding among the participants on some of the contentious issues of the climate change negotiations. They had expressed hope that this would facilitate the two-track process of negotiations under the Bali Roadmap.

According to an IPS news report of the joint press conference by the BASIC Ministers after their seven-hour meeting, India’s environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is reported to have said that while Ministers supported the Copenhagen Accord, all of them were unanimously of the view that the value of the Accord lies not as a stand-alone document but as an input into the two-track negotiation process under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol.

Minister Ramesh is further reported to have explained that the Accord was not a legal document but rather an “understanding” reached at Copenhagen to facilitate the two-track negotiating process in the Working Groups, which was the only legitimate process.

The Copenhagen Accord is a three-page non-legally binding document that was negotiated in what several developing countries saw as an un-transparent and non-inclusive process, involving only a selected 26 countries. It was not adopted by the COP in Copenhagen, but was only “taken note” of by the Parties.

The Third World Network, which also spoke at the NGO meeting at the UN on Monday, said that the most glaring omission of the Accord was its failure to provide for the aggregate emission cuts needed by developed countries in the mid-term or any reference to the comparability of efforts among them (i. e., the US as a non-Party to the Kyoto Protocol is supposed to take mitigation actions comparable to the Protocol Parties).

There was also no mechanism for review of the adequacy of the pledges or a compliance mechanism, consistent with that of the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, all developed countries have to do is just pledge the emissions cuts they will individually or jointly undertake with no requirement for the establishment of an aggregate figure which is consistent with the science and which is therefore contrary to the Kyoto Protocol.

As regards the Accord, Ambassador Lumumba said that proponents of the Accord should analyse what is not in the Accord, instead of pushing countries to associate with it. He took issue with the 2 degrees Celsius temperature limit mentioned in the Accord, as he said that this was not what the science says should be safe for a continent such as Africa.

Ambassador Pablo Solon of Bolivia also spoke at the Monday NGO event. He agreed with the Third World Network in its observations about the lack of aggregate emission cuts by developed countries and said that the Accord was thus a step backwards. In relation to the pledges by developed countries that is to be made by 31 January for those who associate with the Accord, he asked what Parties could do if developed countries make pledges which are of low ambition when what is required is much more. Solon emphasised that the Accord cannot be the basis for negotiations and this must be clearly understood.

Robert Orr, the Assistant Secretary-General for strategic planning and policy coordination in the UN, also addressed the NGO event. He said that the UNFCCC process must gain universal support as it is the only legitimate forum for the negotiations. He said that the Danish Presidency and the Mexican Presidency (Mexico will host COP16) have been communicating and would come up with a plan for the forthcoming meetings.

Martin Khor, the Executive Director of the South Centre, said at the same meeting that the way forward for the negotiations is to go back to the two tracks of the Working Groups. Countries that sign the Copenhagen Accord can bring their understanding into the negotiating tracks. A key issue to address must be the emission cuts by developed countries who are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol to commit to aggregate targets that are required and for comparable efforts by the United States as was the understanding of the COP13 meeting in Bali in December 2007. At the same time, developing countries can do more with finance and technology transfer.

The representative of Denmark to the United Nations said that he agreed with Khor, and that work must progress in the two Working Groups of the negotiations.

As has been reported by the SUNS previously (see SUNS #6843 dated 18 January 2010), a note verbale dated 30 December 2009 was sent by the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the UN to all missions of UNFCCC Parties in New York inviting them to inform the UNFCCC secretariat of their willingness to be associated with the Copenhagen Accord.

A separate joint letter was also sent on the same day by the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Heads of State and government of the 26 countries who were supposed to have been involved in drafting the Accord, asking them to “publicly associate themselves with the Accord”, and also encouraging Parties to garner support for the Accord through regional and negotiating groupings including through bilateral efforts. It also invited Parties to submit their emission reduction targets and actions for 2020 to the UNFCCC secretariat by 31 January 2010.

Several developing countries expressed deep concern that the UN Secretary-General was seen as promoting the Accord which was not adopted by the COP.

Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is reported to have sent a strongly-worded letter to the Danish Premier as well as the UN Secretary-General questioning the premise of their letter that the Accord would be “an essential first step in a process leading to a robust international climate treaty”. Reports suggest that Dr. Singh’s response was to reject this premise of the Rasmussen-Ban letter and to stress that this was not the understanding of the BASIC countries at Copenhagen.

Sources indicate that other developing countries have also written to the Danish Premier, the UN Secretary-General and the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC expressing their unhappiness over how the Accord is being promoted, even though it was not adopted by the COP.

According to several diplomats in New York, developed countries including the United States and other European countries have been “putting pressure” on developing countries to associate with the Accord.

One developing country diplomat in New York attended a meeting of countries with US Climate Envoy Todd Stern last week. On the issue of negotiations proceeding in the two Working Groups, Stern is reported to have said that the US is not saying that the Accord is the new basis for negotiations.

According to this source, Stern was of the view that while the formal negotiations go on in the two Working Groups, some time could be “won” by implementing the Accord and for that, 100 countries would be needed for it to take off. Otherwise, the Accord would only be a piece of paper, said Stern.

Some developing country diplomats are worried that the Accord would undermine the current climate regime which is the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, by laying the foundation for a new treaty that will alter the rights, balance of obligations and principles of the Convention and the Protocol.

Some developing country groupings are meeting to discuss the Copenhagen outcomes. These include the African Union and the Alliance of Small Island States. +

TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Jan10/05)
29 January 2010
Third World Networ

Published in SUNS #6852 dated 29 January 2010


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