Climate Change

Four texts

Proposals for the overall architecture of a Copenhagen agreement will be discussed in plenary on Saturday

Published: Monday 07 December 2009

As the sun sets on Friday in Copenhagen, it seems that there are no less than four proposals for structuring a possible agreement that could be signed here.

Recall that the Bali Action Plan set out the essential ingredients of a Copenhagen deal, but it didn't specify what the legal architecture should be. This may seem to be an arcane question, but it actually has significant implications.

The reason is that a new protocol will be needed to commit the US to targets, and to prescribe actions for developing countries... which leaves open the question: what happens to countries that already have commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (i.e. all industrialised countries except for the US)? Do they join the new protocol, or continue to be bound by a second-phase of Kyoto?

Most industrialised countries would prefer to let the Kyoto Protocol die, and thus, take on post-2012 commitments in a new protocol. This way, principles in Kyoto that emphasise historical responsibility could be erased. As you'll gather by reading many of the previous posts, developing countries have been fighting hard to prevent this from happening.

1. The Danish draft
The Danish draft, leaked on Tuesday, appears to have been prepared behind closed doors by developed countries. It not only envisioned a single new protocol to replace Kyoto, but was also weak on targets: there were no proposed numbers for emissions cuts in 2020. Moreover, it opened the door to changing the base year for cuts from 1990 to 2005.

You can find a full analysis of the Danish draft here.

2. The AWG-KP and AWG-LCA drafts
Whereas the Danish draft was prepared informally, negotiators have also been working in formal sessions to develop an overall architecture for a possible Copenhagen agreement. These talks have been proceeding in two tracks, one under the Kyoto Protocol ("AWG-KP") and one under the Framework Convention on Climate Change ("AWG-LCA").

Draft text was made public this morning, and its most notable feature is that almost all the contentious issues remain in brackets, which means that they have yet to be decided. The AWG drafts do envision a continued Kyoto Protocol as well as a new agreement. However, the target for 2020 remains bracketed, as do notional targets for 2050.

3. The AOSIS draft
This morning, the Alliance of Small Island States released its own, informally negotiated proposal for an overall architecture. It too envisions a continued Kyoto Protocol as well as a new agreement, named the Copenhagen Protocol.

Notably, the AOSIS draft calls for temperature increases to be limited to 1.5 C, for global emissions to peak in 2015, and for global emissions to be cut by 85 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. It also gives a very significant emphasis to adaptation needs - much more so than other proposals currently circulating - and asks that financing be handled under the UN.

4. The BASIC+Africa draft
India, Brazil, South Africa and China had earlier developed an informally negotiated proposal (the BASIC draft) for an overall architecture, which was quietly circulated to some parties and observers.

Today, India's environment Minister Jairam Ramesh announced that a new version of the BASIC draft, would be combined with an African proposal, and released tomorrow, Saturday.

What do all these different drafts mean?
These four drafts are all essentially competing proposals, each vying for the chance to become the final Copenhagen agreement... sort of. In reality, it's hard to tell which elements of the proposals are serious, and which are rhetorical flourishes, intended to influence negotiations a certain way.

We also don't know how the proposals will eventually be combined into a single agreement within a week. Will one be taken as the template? Or will negotiators and Ministers try to draft a new proposal, incorporating elements from all four?

For now, it's expected that the two public texts - the AOSIS draft and the AWG-KP/AWG-LCA pairing - will be presented Saturday in resumed plenary sessions, which the Chair has referred to as a mid-term "stock taking" of the negotiations.

It's also possible that a BASIC+Africa draft will be made public in time for consideration. And, there are rumours that a new Danish draft could also be tabled.

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