In our letter published in the FT yesterday (Tuesday 2 February; see post below) we asked in passing whether the Accord was the start of a new wave of climate talks or a ripple of leaders’ expediancy .
Since Sunday’s deadline, most media reports have leaned towards the former, taking the timely submissions from 56 countries as a signal that most of the big guns and some of the smaller ones support the Accord. However, a closer inspection of the important submissions – in particular those from the BASIC countries – bring to mind the famous words of Mark Twain but in reverse, hence the title of this post above.
The submissions of China and India to the UNFCCC are almost identical, neither mention the Accord, both stress the entirely voluntary nature and not legally-binding in character and both cite the UNFCCC’s Article 4.7 relating to the provision of finance and technology by developed countries. Brazil and South Africa do mention the Accord, but refer to it as a means to ‘facilitate the conclusion’ of the negotiations that were left unfinished in Denmark.
It is hard to see the Accord having a life beyond its now fulfilled role as a trigger for the confirmation of pledges made prior to or during Copenhagen. It is equally hard to see the negotiations attracting the same level of interest in 2010 as was the case prior to Copenhagen and impossible to envisage any legally-binding framework emerging.
So if reports of the Accord’s importance are exaggerated and the UN negotiations in stasis, where should the climate debate go?
One response to “Reports of the Accord’s Importance Exaggerated”
I think it is useful to have a ‘schedule’ (such as the chapeau of the accord) in which as many emitters list their targets and commitments. It is also useful to have conditional targets (along with conditions) placed into this schedule. If countries are able to commit to both conditional and unconditional targets, then we have a framework that could lead to countries choosing their targets cooperatively.
Unfortunately the way that these things are done in the accord is far too vague to work. It is hard to say what the accord’s targets imply in terms of actual emissions, because issues such as LULUCF accounting, international trading, carryover of Kyoto AAUs, and definitions of ‘business as usual’ are completely unspecified. Furthermore, the conditions that countries have specified for their conditional targets are completely vague, and it is impossible to be able to tell with much certainty from the accord schedule whether any of these conditions have been met.