Moving along the ‘twin track’

Moving along the ‘twin track’

A document prepared by the chairman of the Long Term Cooperative Action (LCA) group on 11 December reinforces the view that Copenhagen is likely to move along the ‘twin track’ route, with an extension to the commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol being supplemented by a separate agreement that the US would sign.
 
The draft calls on developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25-45% from 1990 levels by 2020.
 
The document does not specify the target for limiting temperature rise, amid disputes between various blocs. Throughout the week the African nations, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and others have been insisting on a target of keeping global temperature rises to within 1.5 degrees. They have strenuously and passionately argued that to accept the target of 2 degrees adopted by the G8 and major developing economies in July would be a ‘suicide pact’ as a global rise of 2 degrees would equate to a rise of 3.5 degrees in mean temperatures for Africa.   For the moment, the draft document gives both figures as alternatives.
 
‘Legally binding’?
 
The text leaves open some of the most difficult points of the negotiations so far, including the legal form of any new agreement.   Briefing the media on 10 November Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, argued that the Kyoto Protocol must survive as it includes the only available compliance and enforcement mechanisms. He pointed out that it took eight years for Kyoto to be ratified, with the US never signing up to it. Consequently, an entirely new agreement would not meet the need for urgent and concerted action.
 
The draft also leaves open the scale of financing to assist developing countries with the costs of mitigation and adaptation.
 
Although full of square brackets and alternative provisions the LCA draft provides a strong indication of the distinction between an agreement that is ‘legally binding’ and one that is ‘politically binding’. The distinction is best illustrated by the draft Article 11, which reads:
 
Developed country Parties shall undertake, individually or jointly, legally binding nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions [including][expressed as] quantified economy-wide emission reduction objectives with a view to reducing the collective greenhouse gas emissions of developed country Parties by at least [25 -40] [in the order of 30][40][45] per cent from 1990 levels by 2020.
 
Also providing for the establishment of appropriate institutions, it is, perhaps, an ‘agreement to agree’.
 
Offsets to be subsidiary
 
The draft includes some very short provisions pointing towards very large issues. The draft Article 16 seeks to limit the ability of developed economies to meet targets by way of offsets, rather than ‘real’ reductions in emissions. It reads:
 
Developed country Parties shall achieve their quantified economy-wide emission reduction objectives [primarily] through domestic efforts
 
Over the next few days the fate of the word [primarily] will provide a strong indication of how negotiations are progressing, and whether Copenhagen will continue along the ‘twin track’ route.

Download the Chair’s Proposed Draft Text on the Outcome of the Work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention.