Copenhagen Accord: US, China submissions and more

  • 30/01/2010

Copenhagen Accord: country submissions

By now, Australia, US, China and EU have all sent their letters to UNFCCC secretariat regarding their ‘willingness to support’ the Copenhagen Accord or not. It is interestingly to break down the communication and to read between the lines.

US (letter dated January 28, 2010: Todd Stern to Yvo de Boer)

1. It painstakingly avoids any reference to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In fact, Stern strenuously stresses (forgive the strained writing), “The United States is committed to working with our partners around the world to make the Accord operational and to continue the effort to build a strong, effective, science-based, global regime to combat the profound threat of climate change.” In other words, the current regime, based on the principles enunciated by UNFCCC is clearly not even on the table, as far as his country is concerned.

2. Stern also puts forward his view why the Copenhagen Accord works so well for the future. “Its critical provisions include undertakings to reduce emissions by all major economies, whether developed or developing; measures to ensure transparency in the implementation of those undertakings; and financing and technology support, targeted especially to the poorest and most vulnerable developing nation.” Please do read our analysis of why this US-view is so disastrous for climate mitigation. This means that for the US, the deal has no variation between industrialized and developing: all cut emissions, all take measures to ensure transparency and the technology and financing is for ‘vulnerable’ countries. This is why I argue that the Copenhagen Accord dismantles the framework built on historical and current emissions. It is the end of equity and burden sharing.

3. Most importantly, the US puts forward its already weak and meaningless emission targets for 2020. We all know that a 17 per cent reduction over 2005 levels, is equal to as little as 3-4 per cent over 1990 levels, compared to what it needs to do: 40 per cent below 1990 levels. But the real nail in the coffin of US commitment to emission reduction is that it says that it will reduce “in the range of 17 per cent” below 2005 levels. In other words, it could be much below that as well. Ridiculous.

4. Of course it says that it will do confirm this number only once its energy and climate legislation is passed. So, the world has to dismantle its entire existing framework of climate agreements, to replace it with a meaningless, ineffective deal to bring the world’s oldest and most renegade polluter to the table. And even then it could just walk out. No deal.

China (letter dated January 28, 2010: SU Wei to Yvo de Boer)

Opposite to the US, which avoids reference to the UN convention on climate change, China strenuously avoids any reference to the Copenhagen Accord. Its letter makes it clear that the county is simply communicating, “information on China’s autonomous domestic mitigation actions for information to the UNFCCC Parties”.

2. In fact, China makes it clear that its actions are in conformity with the UN Framework Convention. “Please note that the above-mentioned autonomous domestic mitigation actions are voluntary in nature and will be implemented in accordance with the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC, in particular Article 4, paragraph 7. This Communication is made in accordance with the provisions of Articles 12, paragraph 1(b), Article 12, paragraph 4 and Article 10, paragraph 2(a).”

3. In terms of mitigation, again unlike the US, which fudges on even its weak target, China reiterates its commitment to cut carbon intensity and also puts forward a target to increase non-fossil fuel energy and forest stocks. “China will endeavor to lower its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45% by 2020 compared to the 2005 level, increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15% by 2020 and increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 from the 2005 levels.”

But its words are clear: no endorsement, support or signature on the Copenhagen Accord.


I have not read the letter of the government to the UNFCCC, but have seen reports of what Australian press has reported of it. The government has reiterated its ridiculous target of cutting 5 per cent over 2000 levels by 2020 (which means it actually can increase over 1990 levels). But its Minister has reportedly has also stated that her country would be ‘willing to do more” if India and China take on verification in emission reduction. Therefore, the tenuous agreement (if any) arrived in Copenhagen that the emission reductions of industrialized (Annex 1) are commitments and that the rest of the advanced countries will take actions to reduce voluntarily, is already coming apart. In any case, the target set by Australia is so weak that it will certainly take the world much beyond the 2°C temperature cap set under the Accord. But then, as I say, this is a polluter’s accord. It only legitimizes the right to pollute of the big and powerful. Australia has just proved my point.

EU (letter dated January 27, 2010: Spain to Yvo de Boer)

This communication is predictable and follows the EU line till date:

1. The EU will cut 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and it could cut 30 per cent below 1990 levels, provided “other developed countries commit to comparable emission reductions and other developing countries contribute adequately accordingly to their responsibility and capabilities.”

2. It reiterates the contentious carbon-pathway: “developed countries as a group should reduce their GHG emissions below 1990 levels through domestic and complementary international efforts by 25 to 40 per cent by 2020 and by 80 to 95 per cent by 2050 while developing countries as a group should achieve a substantial deviation below the currently predicted emissions growth rate, in the order of 15-30 per cent by 2020.” This pathway allocates the carbon space in manner that allows the first occupier (industrialized countries) to appropriate the bulk and leave behind little for the rest).

3. It also says that it is committed to negotiate a legally binding agreement starting January 1, 2013, but interestingly within the UN Framework. It is not clear if this refers to the framework convention or the UN.

Will keep you posted on more as it happens.


Related Content