THE POST-COPENHAGEN ROAD
A fair, ambitious and binding deal is needed more urgently than ever. Climate science is more compelling by the day. Impacts are coming harder and faster. Disastrous flooding in Pakistan, heat waves and forest fires in Russia and hottest recorded temperatures around the globe, amongst other devastating climate-related events, all point to the need for urgent action. Levels of warming once thought to be safe, may well not be, 1.5˚C is the new 2˚C.
Copenhagen was a watershed moment for public interest and support for climate action – and people have not lost interest. More people in more countries than ever have put their governments on notice that they expect a fair,
ambitious and binding global deal to be agreed urgently. Trust-building is essential after the disappointment of Copenhagen. Developed country leadership must be at the core of trust building efforts. Countries must show
their commitment to the UNFCCC process by driving it forward with political will and flexible positions, rather than endless rounds of repetitive negotiations. Many countries are troublingly pessimistic for Cancun, and are working to lower expectations. While others, including countries most vulnerable to climate change, maintain high expectations.
Challenges ahead of Cancun
There are many challenges to getting a full fair, ambitious and binding deal at Cancun, including:
- Lack of a shared vision for the ultimate objective of the agreement, and the equitable allocation of the remaining carbon budget and emissions reduction/limitation commitments;
- Sharp divisions on the legal form of an eventual outcome;
- Failure of the US Senate to pass comprehensive legislation this year; and
- Current economic difficulties facing many countries, which make it difficult to mobilize the substantial commitments to long-term climate finance needed as part of any ambitious agreement.
Positive moves afoot
However, more and more countries, both developing and developed, are stepping up their efforts to pursue low-carbon development and adaptation, despite the absence of an international agreement. This can be seen in a variety of ways:
- Investments in renewable energies have continued their exponential growth, increasing to 19% of global energy consumed;
- Progressive countries are working to move the negotiations forward;
- There is a growing perception that low-carbon and climate-resilient development is the only option to sustainably ensure the right to development and progress in poverty reduction.
So, what does a pathway forward look like?
Firstly we must learn the lessons of Copenhagen. The “nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed” dynamic from Copenhagen could mean that nothing would be agreed in Cancun. An agreement in Cancun should instead be a balanced and significant step toward reaching a full fair, ambitious & binding deal at COP 17 in South Africa. This will require parties to work together in good faith to create sufficient gains at Cancun, and a clear roadmap to South Africa. This paper outlines how that could be achieved.
The EU seems to be resorting to silence worryingly often, ECO wonders if this is a new negotiations tactic.
ECO first noticed this practice on Tuesday, when the EU failed to offer support to the G77+China group’s call for observers to be allowed in the spin-off groups.
Later in the week, the EU again fell silent over the Umbrella Group’s proposal to remove loss and damage as a standalone article in the agreement, which would leave already vulnerable countries even more vulnerable.
In Latin, there’s a saying: “Qui tacet consentit.” And for those not fluent, that’s: “silence gives consent“. But it’s not too late to find your voice, EU! Clearly state your support for loss and damage and engage with Option 1. And say loudly and clearly, for all to hear, that observers should be allowed into the negotiations.
And remember, when you vocally stand up for what’s right, ECO won’t be silent in our praise.
September saw a relatively positive environment on loss and damage. It left ECO optimistic coming into this session that Parties would continue to work together constructively. Alas, this meeting has seen Parties move further apart with two diametrically opposite options, in the one text. Is this an all or nothing approach?
Option 1 offers comprehensive assurance to vulnerable countries that the world is taking this pressing issue seriously. Option 2, which deletes reference to L&D, is an absolutely unacceptable option to enter Paris with—and places the whole agreement at jeopardy. Parties should work today to remove option 2 and ensure the L&D is properly and adequately reflected in the agreement, so that it doesn’t damage the approach to Paris.
ECO hears rumours that Parties have discussed the possibility of having a Technical Examination Process (TEP) on adaptation, and we’d be delighted if this was true. After all, there are more gaps in these negotiations than even ECO can keep track of, from gigatonnes to dollars. Adaptation appears to be one of the victims of process, and seemingly never has its time to shine. Finance for adaptation remains grossly insufficient, and more action is needed to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities and ecosystems.
An adaptation TEP might just be the match made in heaven to ensure that there is both a technical conversation with concrete recommendations and political commitment, which would in turn increase adaptation actions. It’s high time to kickstart action on the ground.
However, while Workstream 2 can be a great vehicle to get adaptation off the ground, it needs to be done in earnest. An adaptation TEP has a lot to offer to vulnerable people by engaging experts and catalysing action. But it must not become a topic that slows down the good pace of WS2 that has been evident this past week. Nor can it become a delaying tactic for the remaining thorny bits, including the many pivotal mitigation elements.
Even with the prospect of happy union between TEP and adaptation on the table, these precious elements should not fall by the wayside. Parties need to stay engaged with the issues at hand: accelerating the implementation of mitigation in the pre-2020 period, appointing high-level champions, and ensuring the necessary support is provided. Only after we’ve locked down these essential elements of WS2 should we export other possibilities.