Joe Jordan

the geek of hearts

Recapping the first week of COP15

I have just finished a “catch-up” session with the European Youth Forum, and we have a very good recap of the current status of the negotiations from Florent Baarsch.

First, some jargon definitions. Nations are split at the moment (officially) into annexe I and non-annexe I; the annexe contains developed nations with the highest emissions, and the principal of the devision is that developed nations (who are responsible for existing CO2 in the atmosphere) are obliged to cut their emissions by more, to allow developing nations to emit more while developing their economies over the years to 2050. There is a proposal to add a new annexe II category for emerging nations (like China, India, and Brazil) to get them to peak a bit earlier than if they were just non-annexe I (if that makes sense…)

There are many threads of negotiations going on, all working on their own version of an agreement, and managed by their own committee. These include the KP, a furthering of the Kyoto Protocol; the LCA, long-term cooperation agreement; and the now infamous Danish Text; which has a counter-proposal from developing nations.

The KP is currently quite wishy-washy, and talks about binding targets without any without putting any numbers to them at the moment. However, it does at least set out a set of timetables, like the EU having to do something undefined (like cut emissions by 5% compared to 1990 levels) by 2020, the US by 2030, and the emerging economies by 2050, with peak emissions way before those dates.

The LCA is less ambitious, and has no measurable outcomes before 2050, and the Danish Text is in tatters (owing to it’s leaked draft’s disregard for the annexe I principal), although not quite buried yet.

A minor digression…

The 30% number being bandied about by Brown in the newspapers is very misleading. That is basically just a restating of the Kyoto Protocol with a 10 year extension on the deadline. Here is a graph demonstrating what I mean:

graph of typical Annexe 1 emissions since 1990

As you can see, 30% still leaves us with a huge number of tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere compared to how implementing Kyoto in the first place would have left us (tonnes of CO2 emitted is proportional to the area under the curve). As such, simply heading to the Kyoto limit now is not enough, and we need to go below in order to be in a sensible position; 40% is a good start, which is what Brown claims to be lobbying the EU over – let’s hope it’s not another broken Labour promise.

Practical or Likely Outcomes?

So, after this discussion, what did Florent think might be likely possible outcomes of the Summit? He emphasised that it is far to early to say what will happen, as a deal is only likely in the last 24 hours, after the Heads of State have arrived. However, he did have a couple of observations:

The Danish Text could make another appearance. Politically, it is something that the Annexe I lot are willing to sign up to, and given that it is their leaders’ Green credentials on the line it seems like a likely last-minute sticking plaster.

A KP extension might be good, but it needs to contain proper (i.e. heavy financial) sanctions if we don’t want another repeat performance. This is something that Annexe I will be dead against, unfortunately.

An LCA based agreement would be good at getting all the developing and emerging nations on board, but would need some shorter term targets set in parallel to deliver the sort of result we need to keep the Global Average Temperature Increate (GATI) below 2 degrees C.

Luckily, we will be getting boosts from Head of State embarrassment-factor, the Obama effect (I’m quite excited about that one), and pressure from the Global Media and Civil Society. Unfortunately, we only get one shot at this with all that attention, so if someone fudges the numbers to make the Leaders look good even though we don’t have anything in place we are pretty screwed; Mexico in winter 2010 won’t have the same momentum; to this end, we applaud Germany’s idea of a summer “COP-15.5”, where we can ratify the outcomes on Copenhagen into Legally Binding Measures.

More tomorrow, come back then!

originally appeared here