Looking beyond Copenhagen

The Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD) looks with some trepidation towards the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 16)/Sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP6), to be held in Mexico at the end of this year. The failure of the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference has left the international negotiating process in disarray.

In FIELD’s view negotiators need to look forward now, rather than dwell on why things went wrong in Copenhagen. What role the Copenhagen Accord, a political agreement reached outside the UNFCCC process, will play is an open question. While the Accord may come to have positive consequences, for example through its funding pledges, it may also have negative consequences: for example, the linking of adaptation and the impacts of response measures (the latter is an issue of particular concern to oil producing countries) is likely to slow negotiations on adaptation, which is an increasingly urgent issue.

The focus should be on the continuing negotiations under the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). Many issues remain to be resolved, a key question being if developed countries will show leadership by taking on strong emissions reduction commitments, rather than focusing on China, India and other countries with rapidly growing emissions. Developed countries have a historical responsibility and the UNFCCC is clear that they should take the lead in combating climate change.

At the time of writing it is not clear how many preparatory negotiating sessions will take place before COP 16 and CMP6 meet from 29 November – 10 December in Mexico. In any case, time is short for finding agreement on complicated issues such as: nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) for developing countries; measuring, reporting and verification (MRV); financing; technology transfer; and emissions reduction targets for developed countries, including questions such as to what extent developed countries will be able to rely on land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) and potentially REDD-plus to reach their targets.

In addition, there is a need to overcome the failure at Copenhagen and the divisive effects of the Copenhagen Accord, which some countries objected to and many other countries are suspicious of. It is not clear if and how elements of the Copenhagen Accord could be brought into the UNFCCC framework.

Some have pointed to decision making by consensus as the biggest block to progress in the international climate change negotiations and other UN negotiations. It is far from ideal, but the lack of trust evident at Copenhagen is likely to be the biggest challenge facing negotiators over the coming months.

About FIELD’s work

FIELD’s work includes advocacy, advice and capacity building, and research, with climate change as a major focus area. FIELD will continue to provide assistance to developing countries, in particular vulnerable ones, and to indigenous peoples and civil society organisations and other groups involved in the international climate change negotiations.

At Copenhagen and during the preparatory negotiations in 2009, FIELD was engaged in a wide range of activities. For example, FIELD and its partners in the European Capacity Building Initiative (www.eurocapacity.org) organised a preparatory workshop for negotiators from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) prior to the Copenhagen conference. FIELD assisted the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) with adaptation issues, a very high priority for small islands. FIELD also provided briefing papers and advice about ‘REDD-plus’ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and related activities) to negotiators from developing countries (this project was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation).

Joy Hyvarinen
Director, FIELD.

This article will also be published in ELFline, the newsletter of the Environmental Law Foundation, in April 2010.