Good COP, bad COP?
I have now arrived at the 15th UN Conference of the Parties (COP15) in
Copenhagen to present Zero Carbon Britain,to help illuminate the path
ahead. I spent 9 hours yesterday in a meeting of activists from across
the globe to explore what are we all doing here, and how we can best
have an effect?
The key task at hand must be to negotiate a global agreement that
prevents ‘serious runaway climate chaos’. To achieve this, the
overwhelming majority of science tells us we must keep the global
average temperature increase over pre-industrial levels to ‘below 2oC.
Again, the science is clear, to accomplished this we must:
• Return atmospheric concentrations to below 350 CO2e
• Peak global emissions within 2013-2017 period
• Reduce global emissions by 80% before 2050
These overall aims are straightforward enough; the key aspect on the
negotiations is going to be how do we share out the labour of
achieving them. To have any hope of acceptance by the majority world
nations, negotiators must find a path for achieving this in a way that
fully reflects the historic contribution of the long-industrialised
countries and the rights of majority world to sustainable development.
Twenty percent of the global population have created 75% of the
problem by burning fossil fuels over the past 150 years to construct
the basic human infrastructure such as schools, railways and hospitals
we in the developed west enjoy today. Having seen the benefits, the
majority world also now would like to claim their basic human rights
to the benefits of such infrastructure. So if we are to achieve the
required 80% reduction in global emissions before 2050:
• Industrialised countries must reduce 40% below 1990 by 2020
(including emissions from land use, forest & peat-land degradation)
• Emissions from deforestation and soil degradation must be reduced to
zero by 2020, (cost estimate: $35billion per year from developed
• Developing countries must be supported to cope with the effects of
climate change currently in the system (cost estimate £100
billion/year) and to limit growth in industrial emissions (cost
estimate £95 billion/year)
So to achieve success in the overall goal, ‘new money’ is going to
have to change hands for climate reparations, and the mechanisms for
managing and accounting for that money are going to have to be
exceedingly clear, and transparent. As the public and political
pressure to ‘achieve a result’ is going to be really high over the
coming 10 days, it is not only vitally important that negotiations
stick to the demands defined by the science, but also that they ensure
that double counting is avoided at all times. This will mean that the
mechanisms established to oversee both the carbon and fiscal
• It is not possible to count the carbon emissions in offsets twice
(i.e. by the ‘donor’ and by the ‘recipient’ countries).
• It is not possible not count ‘offset monies’ as the new monies for
the climate reparations.
• Existing overseas developments budgets are not confused with the new
monies allocated for climate reparations.
So all eyes are now on those gathering in Copenhagen to see what will
happen. Clearly the pressures for an agreement run high, and countries
have been laying out their offerings and jostling for position. The EU
has been likened to an aging ‘climate wrestler’, doped up with
offsets, a record of bribing referees and backed by 27 different
trainers and coaches who don’t always see eye to eye. As the long
reigning champion, the EU keen to see the end of the match whilst
still in the lead. Meanwhile some new heavyweights have been
approaching the ring, including Brazil, China, India, South Africa and
the USA, who is fighting with one hand tied behind his back by the
‘ghost of Kyoto’ (where the US initially supported a protocol, then
found there was not the political will back home to ratify it).
Despite much talk form all sides on agreeing with the need to be
‘compliant with a 2 degree pathway’, so far, those in the ring have
been gearing up for 20% and perhaps even 30% reductions by 2020, on a
strictly ‘I will if you will’ basis, but no one is yet talking of the
40% which is actually required to do the job. So if no one is yet
offering what is actually needed, politically the options are
‘greenwash’ verses ‘delay’. Clearly green wash will not be acceptable,
so delay looks a hot favourite. But delay itself is not an outcome,
but the prelude to some future outcome; stalemate, collapse, greenwash
or even success. So far, the front-runner to get our leaders off the
hook looks a bit like buying a big shiny new 4×4 on credit: we get
agreement to make the 1st big down payment immediately, plus the
promise to reach some future consensus on a legally binding and
on-going payment commitment.
So will COP 15 it be a good COP or and bad COP? Clearly it is going to
be a fine line balancing the short-term political survival of global
leaders with the long-term literal survival of many species and
communities around the globe. The things to keep your eyes on are
closing the loopholes, and locking in the longer-term commitments.
I must now go and find the parcels of leaflets, and reports we have
had posted to Copenhagen and set up the stall in the negotiating hall.
I will keep you posted as events unfold….
Paul Allen, 7am Monday 7th December 2009.