24 December 2009

Action Stations!

By: Kaavya Nag

Two years of promises and hope ended in major disappointment as we watched world leaders – the biggest muscle-flexers at that – pushing for a greenwash, poorly drafted Copenhagen Accord, to which not a single country could be held accountable for its actions.

The world was expecting something not unlike what we see in the movies as a Copenhagen Outcome - a happy end to a bad patch in history – a kalyug of sorts. But let’s face it: what we have is the Copenhagen Accord – a document that makes no promises on emission reduction targets in the mid or long term (the one thing the planet badly needed).

Nevertheless, that is what we have. It might not be as good as “what could have been”, or “what could have emerged out of the Long-term Cooperative Action process” of the UN Climate Convention. But it is admittedly better than a failure of talks. And yes, it is better than having a deal in which the (now) second largest emitter of greenhouse gases refuses to accept its fair share of responsibility for the sake of protecting its sovereignty or for reasons best known to it.

For now, the existence of the Accord means we have work to do. It is time to invest in re-pushing for all countries to convert a modified Copenhagen Accord into a legally binding and fair outcome by Mexico City 2010. It is time to push all major economies to pledge ambitious targets into Annex I and II of the Copenhagen Accord by 31st January 2010.
Instead of ourselves beginning a blame-game analyses and explaining to the world what we think went wrong, it is time to ‘adjust maadi’ and move on from here. Let us push for ambition from now on, rather than wishing for what could have been.

Why would we be so willing to settle for such a bad deal so easily? Simply because we would be naïve to think that the Copenhagen Accord will be retracted. And to think that us fighting over points of order and history, and what should have come out, will help combat global climate change.

We need the forward-look and proactive civil society engagement on this, and as soon as possible. 

22 December 2009

Making a big deal out of a bad deal

By: Kaavya Nag

Nations of the world had a small window of opportunity to zero-in on a deal that would begin taking serious steps towards preventing dangerous climate change. Admittedly, the decisions would not have been easy to take, nor to follow through. But certainly, taking those hard decisions would have been the right thing to do.

Never before has there been such large-scale political willingness to act on climate change. And thanks to the Danish Presidency, never before had 112 heads of state come to a climate conference to lock-in some serious ambition. But that opportunity was lost because leaders managed to cook the climate soup and evaporate all ambition.

If only you peruse the Copenhagen Accord, you will see the glaring absence of two things crucial to a strong deal – numbers and strong legal terms.

Copenhagen Accord: What it says and [doesn't say]
Deep cuts in global emissions to limit temperature rise to 2°C [Targets for emission cuts, mid-term and long-term global goals]
Peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible [Peaking year (even if only an ideal number)]
Enhanced action on adaptation (focus on small island states, Africa & least developed countries) [Mechanisms for action on adaptation]
Industrialised countries to implement (individually or jointly) economy-wide emission targets for 2020 [Details on who does how much, proportion of offsets, level of compulsion (legal or not) for targets and finances]
Developing countries - implement mitigation actions – communicated through National Communications every two years [For major economies no required deviation from BAU, details on national MRV procedures]
Scaled-up, new and additional financing and improved access to finance. Focus on mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, capacity building and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). 30 billion USD fast-start financing for 2010-12, and 100 billion USD per year by 2020, particularly through a Green Climate Fund through a variety of sources.
Assess implementation of this Accord by 2015 [Proportion from public financing, who gives how much, how to convert pledges into action, mode of disbursing finance]

Leaders will defend the Accord saying it was the one saving grace of Copenhagen. It was the reason the talks did not collapse. The UN will try too. They are undoubtedly in serious denial. And if they think they will achieve much in Mexico City in 2010, they are sadly mistaken. That is, unless they give their negotiators some strong mandates for the planet and not their individual countries.

Yes, the Copenhagen Accord is a start. And yes, it can become something solid – once numbers and strong legal language come in, and once it becomes legally binding. But that is possible if and only if environmental integrity is preserved even in its most starved form. The Copenhagen Accord was simply not enough. It pales in comparison to what the science requires (it can in fact, almost assure us of a 3 degree Celsius world). It does not even ensure low-lying island states of their survival beyond 2050 or thereabouts, and at its core, it is by no means ethically sound - it cares two paisa for the planet.

The blame-game has begun, and while that is not a fruitful exercise, I am most tempted to ask all leaders who drafted that agreement – what were you thinking? 

07 December 2009

Here comes Hopen-Copenhagen!

By: Kaavya Nag

The Fifteenth Conference of Parties is here – COP15 – in Copenhagen. The outcome itself is to be a political statement – way below initial expectations. But it can still be fair, ambitious, equitable and all of the other things it once promised. While we await the start of the opening ceremony, at which the Danish Prime Minsiter Lars Lokke Rasmussen is due to speak, one cannot but help reflect on the week gone by and the rapid pace of developments back home in India.
Jairam Ramesh visited Beijing at the express request of China, to meet with other developing country giants and sign on to a counter proposal for a draft political statement, now called the BASIC draft. Soon after, he spoke in the Lok Sabha and later in the Rajya Sabha, announcing that India too would take on voluntary, unilateral and non-legally binding emission cuts. The proposal is to reduce India’s carbon intensity by 20 to 25 percent by 2020, and includes mandatory fuel efficiency standards and building codes to help make that reduction. Considering India’s historic position and unwillingness to put forward any targets or numbers, this is a watershed development of sorts. And the timing could not have been better. India was, by the time of the BASIC meeting (other than South Africa), the only key player in the negotiations to have refrained from putting forth any ‘intent of action’ statements on the table.
Jairam Ramesh’s proposal in the Lok Sabha, last Thursday, was not met with a walkout, but with concerted discussion about climate change and what it means for India. While many members of Parliament asked for India to clarify what its stand would be at Copenhagen, and were clear on developed countries acting first and fastest, the discussion indicated that climate change was on the minds of many MPs, and that many were ready for change. The Minister’s good fortune did not however, carry through to the Rajya Sabha, where opposition party members led by Arun Jaitley did stage a walkout, termed the current proposal as an ‘abandoning’ India’s historical position, and accused the government of unilaterally changing India’s position. While Jairam Ramesh and India have made it repeatedly clear that they will at no cost take on legally binding emission cuts, and there is ‘no dilution in our stand’, the BJP called the unilateral emission cut a ‘bad strategy’.
Some delegates of the Indian negotiating team also showed dissent at this announcement, and have not arrived in Copenhagen as yet. They include Ambassador Dasgupta and ex-environment secretary Prodipto Ghosh. Ambassador Dasgupta said he delayed his departure in order to seek clarifications from the minister on the implications of this cut in carbon intensity. While he claimed he had no issue with the cuts in emission intensity itself, his main concern was that this was a unilateral action that demanded no reciprocity.
While that may be a point to note, the very act of developing country giants China, India, Brazil and South Africa putting forth voluntary cuts predicates reciprocity of action from developed countries even on fundamental ethical levels. And we would be wrong in saying India has as yet played all her cards. This is the first hand – and a good one to start with at that!