Objectives of the group in terms of debate and product

  • Analyze the arguments in the Copenhagen Accord that threaten the continuity of the Kyoto Protocol and the mandatory commitments of GHG emissions reduction agreed by the developed countries.
  • Elaborate a proposal of the necessary commitments to be adopted and fulfilled by the developed countries in the Kyoto Protocol Framework, in order to establish balance in the climate system of the planet.

Main issues to be discussed by the group

  • Which are the main contradictory elements between the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhaguen Accord regarding the GHG reduction commitments?
  • Why is it necessary to maintain the Kyoto Protocol in the ongoing circumstances?
  • Which should be the GHG emissions reduction goals in developed countries for the next period in the Kyoto Protocol?

Climate Change in the International Context

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in New York on may 9, 1992 and entered into force on March 21, 1994 with its main goal expressed in its second article: “”…achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system…”.

The governments, conscious that their commitments will not be sufficient to address climate change problems, subscribed on December 17th, 1997 in Kyoto, Japan the Kyoto protocol during the third session of the Conference (COP3) which entered into force in February, 2005. (http://unfccc.int).

According to article 3.1 of the Kyoto Protocol , “The Parties included in Annex I shall, individually or jointly, ensure that their aggregate anthropogenic carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of the greenhouse gases listed in Annex A do not exceed their assigned amounts, calculated pursuant to their quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments inscribed in Annex B and in accordance with the provisions of this Article, with a view to reducing their overall emissions of such gases by at least 5 per cent below 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008 to 2012”.

According to Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol, the limits or gas reduction actions include 6 green house effect gases originated by human activity: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (NO2), as well as three fluorinated industrial gases: hidrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC) y sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).

In order to guarantee the lack of legal gaps between the first and the second period of GHG reduction commitments of Annex I countries, and according to article 3.9 of the Kyoto Protocol that reads: “Commitments for subsequent periods for Parties included in Annex I shall be established in amendments to Annex B to this Protocol, which shall be adopted in accordance with the provisions of Article 21, paragraph 7. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall initiate the consideration of such commitments at least seven years before the end of the first commitment period referred to in paragraph 1 above” ,  the Special Working Group on New Commitments of the parties with arrangements to the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), was formed in December, 2005 in the Montreal Conference (COP11) through Decision 1/CMP1, establishing that its work should  finish in 2009, in the fifteenth Conference of the Parties.

Since the expected outcome was not achieved in the AWG-KP during the fifteenth session of the UNFCCC (COP15),   the Conference of the Parties UNFCCC has determined to continue its work through the document of the UNFCCC, draft decision -/CMP.5 “Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol”.

The Kyoto Protocol is the international legally binding instrument that establishes the quantified objectives every Party of Annex I has to reduce their GHG emissions. There is a global objective that all the Parties of Annex I must fulfill together in a determined commitment period of time and an individual objective for every country. These objectives must be fulfilled in specific periods of time and there are international measures in case the obligations are not accomplished in schedule. The Kyoto Protocol has certain disadvantages, however it is very dangerous to lose the only international treaty that demands specific quantities of GHG emissions reduction by Annex I Parties and that has a binding schedule mainly because there are no better alternatives and the perspectives of achieving such thing seems more and more vague. (Why do we need to sabe the Kyoto Protocol? By Lim Li Lin, Third World Network, http://www.twnside.org.sg).

Copenhaguen Accord

On December 19th, 2009, the 15th session of the UNFCCC (COP15) adopted a decision that “takes note of the Copehaguen Accord of December 18 2009”. This means that, in accordance with the United Nations practices, the Conference of the Parties does not approve or disapproves the Copenhaguen Accord, so it is not an official result of the COP15, but it is an external document that is simply noted by the COP15. In this last session, and as a result of the intense debate produced when this Accord was presented, the delegations expressed that there were violations to the legal process of the Convention according to its regulations. (Draft analysis text on the Copenhaguen Accord by the Third World Network on the Copenhaguen Accord and; at http://www.unfccc.int/webcast/documentation/_and_videos).

The Copenhaguen Accord settles the ground to weaken the Kyoto Protocol as a multilateral treaty and as a legal document to make developed countries accomplish their binding commitments on emissions reduction. Annex I countries, according to article 3.1 of the Kyoto Protocol, have an agreement to accomplish together an objective on emissions reduction. Annex I countries, according to article 3.1 of the Kyoto Protocol, have an agreement to reach a common global objective in emissions reduction through their emissions allowances, reaching an aggregated amount, generating a compliance system within a legally binding system. The Accord kills this methodology substituting it by a mechanism that does not establishes any kind of bind and measurable commitment since it leaves countries free in terms of emissions reduction objectives.

The adverse consequences of this new system leads to the freedom of being able to present national emissions reductions objectives which are not subject to consultation of the Parties of the Convention. This situation prompts low levels of ambition in mitigation causing the lack of a binding aggregate number to be reached. (South Centre Informal Note 52, 18 January 2010).

January 31st was the due date for the countries that signed up the Copenhagen Accord for presenting their objectives on emissions reduction. The evaluation prepared by Climate Action Tracker, says that the sum of commitments represents a global temperature increase of 3 degrees Celsius which is not sufficient to fulfill the basic objective established in the Accord. The objectives presented so far vary between 11% to 19% of reduction over 1990 going even against the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that establishes it is necessary at least a 40 % reduction to keep the 2 degrees Celsius.  (climateactiontracker@ecofys.comclimateactiontracker@ecofys.com and Copenhaguen Accord, FCCC/CP/2009/L.7,18/12/2009).

The scientific report entitled Target atmospheric CO2: where should humanity aim?, establishes that the quantity of carbon dioxide has already reached a level of 385 ppm and increases at a rate of 2 ppm per year. The constantly supported objective of keeping global warming under 2 degrees Celsius goes against the salvation of the planet. These conclusions are based on paleoclimatic data that shows how the earth reacted to past concentrations of GHGs, and on observations that show how the world is responding nowadays to the accumulation of GHGs. (http://arxiv.org/abs/0804.1126 y http://arxiv.org/abs/0804.1135).

The commitments presented on January 31st, evidence that the Accord is not an efficient mechanism to impulse GHG emissions reductions further to the ones the countries committed to before the creation of this instrument. What´s more, when these reductions involve flexible mechanisms and compensatory mechanisms, the real reductions might be even less than the ones reported which does not represent pure domestic actions.       

The coincidence between the base year 1990 and the radical reductions produced in Central and Eastern Europe due to the Soviet Union collapse, which gives a margin of advantage in terms of commitments since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, is something to be observed in the European proposal. (El tercer grado, information document, Greenpeace International, February 1st, 2001; and www.climateactiontracker.org.)

The different proposals

The level of ambition in the Copenhaguen Accord, evidences minimum variation to the level proposed in December in Copenhaguen. Among developed countries, Russia increased its level of ambition, Canada reduced its level of ambition, and for the first time Kazakhstan purposed an objective of reduction. (Ambition of only two developed countries sufficiently stringent for 2°C,climateactiontracker@ecofys.com; y http://unfccc.int.)

The Alliance of the Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Least Developed Countries (LDC´s) included in their political sanctions the need to adopt a much more demanding objective than the ones being discussed, since an objective of 2 degrees Celsius does not represent for them a safe level for the Small Islands States. In fact, for most of these countries, such thing would be like signing up to a long term death penalty. (Official position sent by the AOSIS group to the UNFCCC, http://unfccc.int/documentation).

Bolivia, jointly with a block of countries, has established that the amendment to the Kyoto Protocol must be preceded by at least 49% of GHG domestic emissions reduction, and must be over the year 1990 as base year. Regarding the second commitment period, it is established that it should be taken from 2013 until 2017. This proposal takes into account the contribution to the causes and consequences of climate change including criteria such as the historical responsibility, the atmospheric space developing countries need for their development, the damage to Mother Earth, and the elimination of certain benefits due to the lack of enough atmospheric space for social and economical development and to eradicate poverty in order to live in harmony with Mother Earth.

The General Assembly of the United Nations has a broad experience evaluating the objectives and performance of the multilateral commitments, at local and international levels identifying what was and was not accomplished in order to establish corrective measures. These evaluations can promote the necessary global support to reach the ultimate goals. (UN Documents, compilation of a Body of Global Agreements, World Commission on Environment)

For further References

(1)  Convención marco de Naciones unidas sobre Cambio Climático de 1992.

(2)  Protocolo de Kyoto de 1997.

(3)  Acuerdo Copenhague, FCCC/CP/2009/L.7,18/12/2009).

(4)  Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?, James Hansen, Makiko Sato, PushkerKharecha, David Beerling, Robert Berner, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Mark Pagani, Maureen Raymo, Dana L. Royer, James C. Zachos, de 2008.

(5)  Informe de la Comisión mundial sobre Medio Ambiente, Publicado por el Departamento de Información Pública de las Naciones Unidas, DPI/1868/SD — Febrero 1997.

(6)  Evaluación preliminar de las promesas hechas por el Anexo 1 de las Partes y acciones voluntarias y de los objetivos de la política anunciada por un número de no-Anexo 1 de las Partes. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/unfccc-secretariat-pledges-ass.

(7)  Comments on the Copenhagen Accord:Summary, South Centre Informal Note 52, 18 January 2010.

(8)  Borrador de Análisis de la Red del Tercer Mundo sobre el Acuerdo de Copenhague, Enero 2010.

(9)  Briefing Paper: Copenhagen Climate Deal – how to close the gap? http://www.climateactiontracker.org/briefing_paper.pdf.

(10)             NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Global Climate Change, NASA’s Eyes on the Earth