The Chairman of the MIO-ECSDE, Prof. Michael Scoullos, attended the COP 15 in Copenhagen as a member of the European Union (EU) delegation, representing the European Parliament on the Management Board and Executive Bureau of the European Environment Agency (EEA), which has its headquarters in Copenhagen. Back –to-back with the COP15 meeting, a special session for the Members of Parliament of all parties was organized at the EEA premises to discuss the issues of the Conference. In addition, another session was organized focusing on the impact of climate change on the oceans and the importance of re-evaluating the GNP to counter the ‘next day’.

Ms Vanya Walker-Leigh, Senior Advisor of the Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development (MIO-ECSDE), was also present in COP 15. Their joint critical review of the of the meeting is presented herewith:

In Copenhagen, the international community was represented by (diplomats from 194 countries and heads of state or government of 129) countries from around the world, with the aim to co-decide the types of actions that must be taken in order to stem climate change, while taking up adaptation measures to address as mush as possible the already emerging adverse effects of climate change. The formal mandate was to implement the Bali Road Map adopted by the 13th COP 2007 which decided that COP 15 in Copenhagen should a) agree on emission reductions under a Second Commitment of the Kyoto Protocol and b) implement the Bali Action Plan, ie to adopt measures under an ‘agreed outcome’, on mitigation for those countries not bound to commit under the Kyoto Protocol, adaptation, finance, technology as well an overarching shared vision.

In Rio de Janeiro (1992), in addition to Agenda 21, the text of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted and entered into force in 1994. At the First Conference of Parties of the UNFCC in Berlin 1995, it was decided to work towards a Protocol on reduction greenhouse gas emissions. The Protocol was adopted at COP 3 in Kyoto in 1997, and finally entered into force in 2005. 37 Developed countries (Annex I) committed to achieving an overall reduction of CO2 emissions of an aggregate of 5.2% below 1990 levels during the First Commitment Period 2008-2012. The United States, which had signed the Protocol, withdrew in 2001 and has never ratified.

The EU has been, and continues to be, a pioneer in climate change measures, and within the Kyoto framework and as its offer for the Second Commitment Period starting in 2013 it declared that it will unilaterally cut emissions by 20% by the year 2020, irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations within the UNFCCC, but would raise this to 30% if a comprehensive and binding legal agreement emerged under which all major emitting countries, developed and developing, would take action. However, this agreement was not reached in Copenhagen.

In Copenhagen, there were basically two parallel processes, the Kyoto process focusing on a possible Second Commitment period and other aspects of the Protocol requiring revision, and the ‘LCA process’, (Ad Hoc Working Group on Co-operative Action under the Convention, set up under the Bali Action Plan and focusing on its five pillars).

Everybody’s expectation was a ‘binding’ agreement with specific targets to reduce emissions of green house gases and financial commitments to help developing countries and enable them to implement adaptation measures.

Well before Copenhagen expectations for a legally binding outcome had been downplayed with a ‘politically binding outcome’ to be followed within 2010 by the elaboration of a legally binding treaty. Finally, no agreement emerged either from the Kyoto Process or the LCA track.

A draft agreement worked out by President Obama and leaders from China, Brazil, India and South Africa was subsequently discussed privately by a group of heads of state and government, and presented on a take it or leave it basis, giving delegations only one hour to consider it, under the name of the “Copenhagen Accord”.

Due to the opposition of several developing countries, the Accord could not be turned into a decision of the Conference of Parties, which instead ‘took note’ of it.

The Accord called for nations to register offers of emission reductions by 31 January, and stated that on condition that a comprehensive agreement finally emerged, donor nations would work to mobilise an annual $100billion by 2020 to meet the needs of developing countries. There was also agreement that donors should mobilise $30billion ‘fast start’ financing for 2010-2012 to focus mainly on the most vulnerable countries, assisting them to prepare adaptation and mitigation measures.

Nations were invited to ‘associate’ to the far just over 100 have done so, but neither China nor India in submitting their proposals for reducing the rate of growth of their emissions, did not do so within the context of such an association. There are broad divisions about what role the Accord should have in future negotiations: the US wants it to become the basis for an agreement in Mexico, but this approach is strongly opposed by developing nations. The EU sees it as an ‘input’ to ongoing negotiations under the two tracks.

The main achievement of the COP 15 is that it extended the mandate (which expired 15 December) of the two working groups – the Kyoto and the LCA.

A timetable for meetings was agreed in COP 15 providing for a single session in June, subject to review. An additional session. According to several declarations, from the EU, the outgoing UNFCCC Executive Secretary and a number of other states, a legally binding outcome to Mexico is seen as unlikely, with hopes pinned on COP 17 in South Africa at the end of 2011.

In the meeting in Mexico, one of the issues to be negotiated is whether to allow monitoring of commitments. China in particular has difficulties in agreeing because it does not want to allow inspectors of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. China’s agreement to the limited language relating to monitoring of commitments, met Obama’s concerns to present something to Congress. He made clear that he could not make any firm offer on behalf of the US, since legislation still had to emerge. The Waxman Markey bill passed by the US House of Representatives calls for a 17.5% cut below 2005 levels, but the Senate may take a different view. Both texts would then have to be ‘reconciled’.

The modesty of the probable final US position is seen as a key obstacle to other developed nations improving their offers (well below the 25-40% cut by 2020 below 1990 levels, advocated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report 2007).

The general frustration in Copenhagen was due to the fact that a more courageous decision was expected. However, the original expectations were perhaps too far-fetched given the extensive divergences within the two negotiating tracks which remained at the end of the final pre-Copenhagen negotiations in Barcelona in November.High expectations were partly fostered by the EU and NGOs in their effort to set a high goal. Another factor was the highly criticised Danish presidency.

One positive aspect that emerged from the statements of the participants was that they now seem to be at a relatively similar ‘wavelength’, which was not the case up till now. The NGOs’ expectation is that after the general outcry from the wider public, more pressure has been put on countries to proceed with the ratification of legally binding measures at the meeting in Mexico. There are clear indications for a more positive agreement in Mexico, ie progress on main issues which could clear the way to a legally binding outcome in South Africa..

The mistakes made by Denmark and the EU at the Copenhagen meeting on a purely diplomatic level have been analyzed. It is worth mentioning that overall 45000 people registered and were given credentials for the Conference, many of them NGOs. However, a grave mistake was made since the Bella Centre conference venue could not contain more than 15000, due to fire and safety regulations. The arrival of 129 heads of State with large delegations led to thousands of NGO representatives being excluded from the premises for the last three days. The UN and the Danish government had foreseen the participation of a considerably lower number of people, and the result was the creation of misrule, frustrating conditions and discontent, with a negative effect on the whole process.

Also, another important factor was that despite the large number of NGOs accredited only about 500 NGO representatives were permitted to participate in the last few days of the Conference, a fact that didn’t help to exert effective pressure on leaders, as was the case in the Bali meeting. Such factors play an important role in determining the appropriate momentum and should be carefully considered in the planning process for the meetings to come.