MAC: Mines and Communities

Copenhagen Accord: A Bad Deal Waiting to Happen

Published by MAC on 2009-12-22
Source: CEC-Philippines, Kalikasan

Copenhagen Accord: A Bad Deal Waiting to Happen

Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines, Inc. (CEC), Kalikasan-PNE Statement

20 December 2009

Copenhagen - The climate negotiation in the Fifteenth Conference of Parties (COP 15) in Copenhagen has come to a sour end. The world's high expectation for a meaningful and binding agreement is doused with icy cold water by a non-binding deal dubbed as "Copenhagen Accord" - a deal primarily brokered by the most powerful and leading polluter country in the world -- the United States.

Having witnessed the drama and ‘actions' of the climate negotiation for 12 straight days in Copenhagen, one thing became evident: the climate negotiation in the Conference of Parties is not a negotiation among equals; it can never be an international negotiation for the common good, the welfare of the people of the world and the environment. It is a political arena where the superpowers impose their interest at the expense of majority.

No legally binding commitment to reduce emission

Instead of raising the legally binding commitment for emissions reduction under the Kyoto Protocol to levels advised by science and dictated by social equity, it proposes "individually or jointly quantified economy wide emissions targets for 2020" - a "business as usual" formula denying historical climate debts of developed countries as well as their primary responsibility to mitigate climate change.

The Copenhagen Accord acknowledges the need to limit global temperature rise to a minimum of two degrees Celsius. Yet, it has no specific target and legally-binding commitment from rich countries to reduce their emission by 2020 or earlier.

Also African countries see the 2 degrees limit of the accord as very dangerous explaining that the agreed limit spells death and devastation to many African nation and people. African nations call for 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.

Even European Union President and Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt warns that the deal was not sufficient to meet its own 2 degrees limit target. The European Commission President José Manuel Barroso lamented, "...the level of ambition is honestly not what we were hoping for. I will not hide my disappointment regarding the ambition in terms of the binding nature or non-binding nature of the future agreement."

The Sudanese representative Amb. Lumumba referred to the "Copenhagen Accord" as an instrument for murder since the 2 degree C limit stated there will already mean the extermination of most of Africa. He even likened it to the holocaust and demanded for the withdrawal of the document from the pages of UN history.

The main reason for the failure to have a legally-binding agreement for carbon emission reduction is the continued refusal of rich countries headed by the United States to cut their carbon emission according to what is globally necessary. In a fossil-based driven and profit oriented global production, the US and leading capitalist countries fear that cutting their carbon emission will devastate their economy thus losing their domination of world economy. More recent studies declare that an eighty percent global carbon reduction is needed from 1990 levels, by 2020, factoring in the latest unforeseen rise in global greenhouse gas emissions, to avert catastrophic effect of global warming.

United States and capitalist countries, climate saboteurs

The US has constantly opposed a meaningful climate agreement. It is the only industrialized country that has not not ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. In the COP 13 in 2007 in Bali, Indonesia, the US was the lone opposition for having a climate agreement to address global warming. When the US was exposed as the antagonist and was isolated, it was forced to back down to have the Bali Roadmap. The Bali Roadmap established the process to come up in COP 15 with a legally binding international climate that should have replaced the Kyoto Protocol.

But again, with its strong global political clout and by dangling billions of dollars, the US successfully prevented a worthwhile agreement in Copenhagen. The US accounts for almost 30% of historical global carbon emission. While it is now next to China in terms of volume of emissions, the US is still the leading polluter in the world by population. It is the number one producer and consumer of fossil fuels. President Barrack Obama said that the US can only commit to a 4% carbon emission reduction by 2020, the lowest among the rich capitalist countries.

The US is however not alone in railroading run-away emission targets. Its allies Japan, Australia and European Union have also pressed for individually set emission targets, with commitments falling around puny 5%, 8% and 20% carbon reduction by 2020, respectively.

Undemocratic process

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez criticized the process of passing the accord as undemocratic. The Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America (ALBA) composed of nine (9) Latin American countries criticized the Copenhagen Accord saying it did not undergo the normal negotiating procedure.

They lamented that the media was first to be informed of a "meaningful agreement" in Copenhagen, through US President Obama who held a press conference on the eve of the last day of the conference. He surprised everyone when he announced that the US and BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) have already reached a consensus and that 25 other heads of states already concurred on a draft Copenhagen agreement. The draft deal was however being developed by a small group of 26 countries, dubbed as "Friends of the Chair." At 3:00am Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen, the Chairman of the COP15, hurriedly convened the COP/CMP to present it and adjourned the meeting almost disregarding the protests of the ALBA countries.

Tuvalu, Costa Rica, Venezuela, El Salvador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Egypt, and Sudan are strongly opposed to the deal.

Divide and Rule by Dangling the 'bacon'

For years since Copenhagen, the G77 group has been solidly pushing for a legally binding agreement and a significant carbon reduction commitment from rich industrialized countries. Yet cracks were coming out as COP15 drew near and climate funds were being dangled by developed countries. A quick turnaround came when US Secretary Hillary Clinton announced a few days before the final day of the conference that the US will help shore up $100 billion annually to developing countries by 2020.

Reports later came from different head of states of developing countries that they have received calls from the leaders of G8 members before the conference assuring them of financial assistance if there will be a deal in Copenhagen. The White House said President Obama last December 15 talked on the phone with Prime Ministers Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to support a climate deal in Copenhagen.

The Philippines has also received such "midnight calls," from US Secy. of State Clinton, when she visited the Philippines in November and announced that the US government does not expect a binding deal in Copenhagen. Two days before her arrival to the Philippines, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has taken the cue and issued a statement that the country "need not insist on deep and early cuts in carbon emission." President Arroyo later kicked out what it seemed were mavericks and progressive individuals in the Philippine delegation, notably Ms. Bernarditas Muller who has been the Chairperson of the G77 + China in the climate negotiation.

Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Philippines are the first among developing countries which signed the Copenhagen Accord. In the deal the US and capitalist countries committed to create a climate fund to "aid" developing countries worth US$30 billion over three years and to work towards a US$100 billion a year by 2020. The fund will come both from public and private institutions.

More Market -based climate solutions

In the Copenhagen Accord another market based-mechanism was included and approved. This is the REDD Plus or reducing emissions from forest degradation and deforestation in developing countries. The idea behind REDD Plus is to award governments, companies or forest owners for keeping their forests intact. The financial rewards will come from carbon credits or financial payment by carbon emitters.

Critics of this market-based solution to climate change fear that the pretext of forest protection will make way for greater access of private corporations to public domain. Seemingly good sounding concepts as "sustainable forest management," "forest conservation" and reforestation have historically been used to cause large scale evictions and loss of rights for indigenous peoples and local communities; subsidies to commercial logging operations in old-growth forests, indigenous peoples' territory or in villagers' community forests; and conversion of land (including forests) to industrial tree plantations, with serious implications for biodiversity, forests and local communities.

The importance of REDD Plus was highlighted several times in the deal. Under point # 7 of Copenhagen Accord, it is stipulated that one of the primary mitigation initiatives that the rich countries would finance are mechanism that will establish REDD Plus in developing countries. Again carbon trading, the business of selling and buying carbon emission credits, and finance will be the primary sources of funding of REDD Plus.

Bad Deal

The Copenhagen Accord is a testimony to the bigotry and inhumanity of the world capitalist system, the governments of the developed countries and their puppet governments in the South.

First and foremost Copenhagen has failed to define a legally binding commitment to reduce global carbon emissions that the world's climate change vulnerable peoples have demanded. Second, it was done undemocratically, in the tradition of the colonial and imperialist powers' "divide and rule tactics," at the expense of the welfare and interest of the majority of the world's peoples. Third, it carries new market based climate solutions that see the climate crisis as an opportunity to earn more profit for rich countries and their private corporations.

Copenhagen Accord will follow the same fate of the Kyoto Protocol. It dreams to curb carbon emission and address global warming but in reality, it will lead to runaway global emissions that doom the world to more environmental destruction and people sufferings.

Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines, Inc. (CEC)
No.26 Matulungin St., Bgy. Central Quezon City, Philippines 1100
TelefaxNo. +632-9209099,+632-9248756

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