Copenhagen analysis: Reaction of G77 to (outdated) Danish draft agreement is typical overblown COP drama

Our guest blogger is Andrew Light, a Senior Fellow at American Progress specializing in climate, energy, and science policy.  He will be leading the CAP delegation in Copenhagen this week.  The photo is of Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chair of the G77 (by Adam Welz).

Lumumba Di-ApingThe Guardian reported yesterday that the UN climate meeting currently underway in Copenhagen (the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties or COP 15) had disintegrated into disarray when secret draft language for an interim climate agreement from the host Danish delegation had been uncovered by the Group of 77 – the coalition of well over a hundred developing countries which negotiate as a group at the UN climate meetings. A secret group of nations had supposedly put the document together without any consultation.

The so-called Danish text, a secret draft agreement worked on by a group of individuals known as “the circle of commitment” – but understood to include the UK, US and Denmark – has only been shown to a handful of countries since it was finalized this week.

The British daily goes on to breathlessly claim that it had not only received the document but had been privy to a “confidential analysis” of it by developing countries and that it turned the Kyoto Protocol on its head. They go on to list a dizzying array of dramatic and unjust reductions in emissions required by the Danish text without any actual support from the document itself. They were joined in their condemnation by an array of people like Friends of the Earth U.S. President Erich Pica who condemned the U.S. in similar terms: “The Obama administration’s role in what appears to be a secret plot to strong-arm through an agreement forcing poor countries to bear much of the cost of reducing emissions is despicable.”

In response the G77, plus representatives from China, walked out of a press conference led by the Sudanese chair of the G77, Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, claiming that the Danish text had come from nowhere and reiterating their claim that they would not accept any binding commitments to reductions in carbon pollution.

What do we make of this implosion in the meeting so quickly?

Any veteran of the UN climate meetings will recognize the G77+China reaction to “the” Danish draft today – as the Danes reiterated, there is no single definitive draft and nothing has been finalized – as more of the same drama that has pervaded these meetings for the last 14 years. A not terribly creative mind could script these events before they happen. Two things jump out from yesterday’s episode that are typical: first, the shock expressed by Di-Aping at the very idea that the Danes were drafting anything, and second, the insistence that developing countries, writ large, will never, ever agree to any mandatory emissions reductions.

The first part of the drama has become par for the course for Di-Aping who, since becoming the chief negotiator to the G77 last August has worked tirelessly to make sure there is absolutely no progress in the UN negotiations. But ask yourself, how could Di-Aping (or Pica, for that matter) be surprised that the Danes are working on text for an interim political agreement for this meeting when it’s been reported in every major media outlet in the world since the APEC conference in Singapore last month that they were doing so? Recall that there the President of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Australia hastily organized a meeting to present the idea of focusing Copenhagen on an interim “political agreement” as a first step to finalizing a fully legal and ratifiable agreement over the course of 2010 in advance of COP 16 in Mexico City, if not earlier at an interim meeting. Both President Obama and President Hu endorsed this two step strategy later that week at their presidential summit in Beijing, and Obama’s commitment that whatever was decided in Copenhagen should take immediate operational effect was again reported around the world. The Danes have been discussing draft text with everyone since they got the green light on this plan.

So how could Di-Aping possibly be surprised that the Danes were actually doing what they promised to do in front of the leader of the largest developed and developing countries in the world? The expressed shock here is incredulous.

There is a precedent, however, to Tuesday’s announcement. Di-Aping closed the Bangkok round of UN climate negotiations two months ago with a bold condemnation of the US for having hidden from developing countries a super-secret second treaty designed to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. Of course, what he was talking about was the treaty language that had been under discussion for six months in the “LCA track” of the UN climate framework (the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action) which was authorized at the Bali meeting in 2007. The “secret” treaty was the discussion draft in the LCA track, publicly available to anyone with a working internet connection, and consisting primarily of contributions by Australia, Costa Rica, and Norway. D-Aping’s condemnation was pure spin, worthy of D.C.’s best spinmeisters.

The second part of the drama “” the claim that developing countries will never agree to anything ever “” is also a mainstay. No one agrees to anything in these meetings until the very bitter end. The conventional wisdom is that it’s the only way any party can actually get what they want.

Consider the run up to this meeting: Both China and India had major presidential-level summits with the United States in Beijing and D.C. last month. Both agreed to major bilateral agreements aimed squarely at fulfilling one of the core mandates of the Bali Action Plan “” namely, assistance from a developed country with clean energy technology in exchange for eventual cuts in emissions. Both agreed to the ground work for creating the capacity for eventually being able to measure, report, and verify their emissions reductions (MRV) “” assistance from the US for a carbon inventory in China and for improving the environmental ministry in India.

But these countries also met prior to Copenhagen, along with the leaders from Brazil and South Africa, to reiterate their position that they would never agree to any emissions cuts. Why? To reset the negotiating clock to zero lest developed countries take it for granted that they could get even an interim agreement out of this meeting without some hard negotiations.

I’d love to see COP 15 go forward without any more needless posturing by any of the parties like we saw yesterday, but I’m not holding my breath. I applaud the Danes for what they are trying to do to pull some significant advances out of this meeting and would hope that the rest of the parties give them a chance to actually deliver on their promise.

11 Responses to Copenhagen analysis: Reaction of G77 to (outdated) Danish draft agreement is typical overblown COP drama

  1. Adam Welz says:

    Andrew wrote “Two things jump out from yesterday’s episode that are typical: first, the shock expressed by Di-Aping at the very idea that the Danes were drafting anything, and second, the insistence that developing countries, writ large, will never, ever agree to any mandatory emissions reductions.”

    Di-Aping said no such things in the meeting that I live-tweeted and that you linked to above.

    His disappointment was not at the fact that something was being drafted by the Danes, it was at the content of the leaked draft.

    Also, he did not say that developing countries would never, ever agree to emissions reductions — only that they should be allowed fair ‘atmospheric space’ to develop their economies and that rich countries not be allowed to colonise the atmosphere by being allowed to emit at higher per-capita rates than poor countries — which is what the leaked draft would allow.

    I saw no evidence in Di-Aping’s statements yesterday to support your theses, Andrew.

    Adam Welz

  2. Tom Fiddaman says:

    Also, the analysis that identifies persistent inequity reported in the Guardian is based on a delusional population forecast. With reasonable numbers, the agreement is actually fairly equitable – within 25% of equal per cap emissions (an outcome that’s much better than the inequity in 2050 in BAU scenarios).

  3. Mike#22 says:

    The G77, or “Group of 77”, has some interesting members–

    Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar, Indonesia, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Nigeria, Ecuador, Angola, Gabon–

    in common with OPEC.

    Just saying.

  4. Friends of the Earth’s hysterical reaction is typical of the extreme, non-constructive approach they have been taking to global warming. With friends like this, the earth doesn’t need enemies.

  5. Andrew, I’m just wondering why you gloss over that the leaked draft mentions a figure of aid to developing nations of a measly $10 billion to cut CO2 emissions. That’s, what, 1/1000th of what the US government paid out to financial institutions in response to the financial crisis? The climate crisis is a lot more dire than Wall Street’s.

    Frankly, all this shows is that neither side (the 3 or the 77) is serious; neither side gets that the whole world needs to do the maximum possible to avert catastrophic climate change. That means, according to Joachim Schnellnhuber’s WGBU report to Angela Merkel in November 100% cuts by US by 2020, by the EU by 2030, by China and India by 2035, and by the developing countries by 2050.

    The science is mandating those cuts. So Obama’s paltry 4% cuts from 1990 levels or the EU’s 30% cuts and all the other waffling and backtracking are just leading us down the garden path to climate disaster.

  6. Chris Winter says:

    Adam Welz wrote: “Also, he did not say that developing countries would never, ever agree to emissions reductions — only that they should be allowed fair ‘atmospheric space’ to develop their economies and that rich countries not be allowed to colonise the atmosphere by being allowed to emit at higher per-capita rates than poor countries — which is what the leaked draft would allow.”

    A rich nation can emit more CO2 per capita than a poor nation and still be reducing its GHG emissions. Demanding that their per-capita emissions be equal is a guarantee of no progress.

  7. Patrickg says:

    Hear hear, comment #5. The suggestion that the action of developed countries is apolitical and not equally negotiation gambit is risible.

    Good faith is a two-way street, and the G77 are just as entitled to argue vociferously for their claims as we are (though, yes, they are definitely not pure as the driven snow).

    I notice you elide the substantive criticisms they made in favour of examining how and when they made it. But if the proposed model _is_ fundamentally iniquitous, they have every right to protest.

  8. Andrew Light says:

    To Francesca Rheannon and Patrickg: The Danish document that was being commented on is an interim agreement and so the money mentioned here is not intended to be final. As President Obama stipulated in his endorsement of this idea in Beijing last month this agreement is intended to take immediate operational effect but only for at most a year while the final, fully ratifiable treaty is settled. So, the $10 billion dollar figure you’re referring to is only for immediate quick start funding and not the final number on the table for financing. This amount for quick start funding has been endorsed by many if not most developed countries.

    To Adam Welz: I have asked that the reference to your live-tweet for this post be removed. It was not in the original version of this post which I submitted to The Wonk Room. My claim that the first reaction by Di-Aping (shock that this document was being drawn up) was based on other media reports and descriptions of the reaction by Di-Aping
    in other forums throughout the day (not the closed door meeting
    referenced in your post). Comments from members of the Chinese and Indian delegations was used as the source for the second reaction (developing countries will never accept any emissions reductions) and not from any recorded comments by Di-Aping. I should say that this claim was also one of the four pillars of the so called “BASIC” agreement in Beijing last weekend from Brazil, South Africa, India and China.

    I stand by my commentary on these reactions and continue to question Di-Aping’s credibility on these issues and maintain that his primary interest is in maintaining the original architecture of the Kyoto Protocol which would never expect reductions from developing countries, even among the major emitters. Any reader of my work on international climate policy knows that I have called only for mandatory reductions from the six major emitters in the developing world (as represented in the Major Economies Forum). This is not a political position but one consistent with the physics of the matter. Even if developed countries fulfill their commitment to reduce their emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 they cannot hope to hit the IPCC recommended goal of cutting emissions in half by 2050 if developing countries make some contribution to this target.

  9. The crux of the issue with the Danish text was the lack of transparency. The United Nations is and should continue to be a country driven process where all decisions should be made in a transparent manner and with the full consent countries who are members in the agreement. The Danish Prime Minister ignored this foundational principle and created a secret text without informing all countries (or seeking their input).

    The argument has been made that the Danish role as COP President is to draft text, however, a text that seeks input only from a handful of countries and fails to include the perspectives of a large majority of the countries of the world is hardly an appropriate document to offer as a ‘compromise’ position. Transparency is important to avoid situations like these, where the balance is unfairly shifted away from a group of countries with very valid concerns and positions, based in fairness and equity.

    There were two general problems with the development of the draft text – both the process and the substance.

    The Process:

    The introduction of the Danish text was an affront to the kind of multilateralism that the UN purportedly champions. There is an ongoing negotiation underway at the UNFCCC to come a fair and balanced agreement on the key issues, which reflects the views and interests of all Parties, not a select few.

    Denmark has a long tradition of being fair and balanced in international affairs. In introducing the Copenhagen Accords, however, the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen betrayed this long-held and sacred tradition. The world put their faith in the Danish Prime Minister to act in good faith, which he failed to do.

    Instead of acting in a fair and balanced manner and using their leadership role as President of the Conference to come to an agreement through the established process, the Danes instead resorted to unjust back-room deal-making to accommodate the positions of the wealthy world, and namely the United States and Europe. It is clear that the Danish Prime Minister was acting in deference to the United States because the draft text mirrors in many ways the positions of the US and the EU and completely ignores the long-standing positions of the developing countries.

    This begins to get into the substantive issues with the text that were problematic, but merely the existence of a text outside the UNFCCC process was unacceptable.

    The Substance:

    The text unfairly and disproportionately allocates the Earth’s remaining atmospheric space to the rich, industrialized world who have polluted the most and who owe their prosperity to cheap dirty energy.

    This disproportionate allocation denies the developing world the atmospheric space needed to develop. The Shared Vision also shifts the burden of mitigating and adapting to climate change on to developing countries.

    These elements clearly represent the interests of the developed world and not developing countries.

    The Danish text proposes a mere $10 billion in short-term financing with no agreement or certainty on long-term financing. As the Chair of G77 and China said, “Keep your money – $10 billion won’t be enough to buy our coffins.”

    Even more offensively, the text proposes to base contributions to long-term finance on indicators of GDP, meaning that after being denied the space to develop, the developing world will be asked to foot the bill for solving a problem they did not create.

    The Danish text also attempts to merge the two negotiating tracks in an attempt to kill the Kyoto Protocol – the only legally binding instrument that we have to address climate change. The Danish text acts in complicity with those countries who are trying to obviate their legal obligation to implement the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

    However, again, it was the mere existence of a text, which is clearly contemptuous of multilateral cooperation, that led us to condemn the text, in support of the demands of developing countries.

    Elizabeth Bast
    Friends of the Earth U.S.

  10. Andrew Light says:

    Confirmation published in the Washington Post that Di-Aping’s shock at seeing the Danish document for the first time was genuine: Week two should see even more of this nonsense.

    To Elizabeth: I couldn’t disagree more. Writing the Danish document with a smaller group was exactly what we needed to happen. Di-Aping’s MO since August has been to make sure there was no progress in the negotiating forums like the AWG-LCA. Up until last Friday the text of it was a total mess. 200 pages of gibberish because no real progress was allowed to be made in order to make it harder that we’d ever see anything here in Copenhagen other than the Kyoto Protocol. The Danes have the privilege as chair of the meeting to cut through this in one of two ways: (1) do their own “manager’s amendment” on documents like the LCA draft without consultation (or limited consultation) or (2) provide an alternative on their own, circulate it to all parties after they have a draft and then revise as they see fit for eventual consideration on the floor. (2) has been done a number of times in other UN negotiating contexts and to my mind is less disruptive than (1) because it doesn’t break with the procedure of an on-going negotiation. Nothing in the Danish text, or texts, is contemptuous of multilateral cooperation because it has no authority until it is formally taken up in the negotiations. If the parties agree to it then, by definition, it will be a multilateral product produced out of a multilateral process. And, of course, if it is taken up this week then it can be amended from the floor.

  11. Andrew Light says:

    Sorry, that first paragraph should read: “Confirmation published in the Washington Post that Di-Aping’s shock at seeing the Danish document for the first time was NOT genuine: climate-change/ post-carbon/ 2009/ 12/ by_juliet_eilperin_earlier_this.html. Week two should see even more of this nonsense.”