"Politically Binding" Climate Agreement...?

Fredag, 6. November 2009     0 kommentti(a)
Anna Korppoo
forskare - forskningsprogrammet EU:s östra grannskap och Ryssland

The Barcelona Climate Talks followed this year’s business-as-usual pattern of ‘concluding not to conclude’, as China put it in the AWG-KP closing plenary. Only little progress was achieved during this week’s negotiations, and all the key issues, including targets of industrialised countries, commitments to finance developing countries’ actions, as well as the future climate regime’s legal form, remain open questions. Given that only 30 days remain until the December Conference of Parties, it seems clear that the long-awaited Copenhagen meeting cannot result in a legally binding global climate regime.

Even the EU stated in its AWG-KP closing plenary meeting in Barcelona that coming up with a legally binding instrument in Copenhagen will be difficult. Lars Lokke Rasmussen, the Prime Minister of Denmark, the host country, already used rhetoric referring to a ‘politically binding’ agreement emerging in Copenhagen. This obviously further downgrades expectations regarding the outcome of this momentous climate conference. This malaise is spreading not only among climate negotiators, but also seems to affect policy-makers: even Prime Minister Putin referred to ‘a politically binding document’ earlier this week after talking to the Danes.

The sudden popularity of the concept could partly be attributed by its vagueness. It sounds good with the word ‘binding’, and almost any outcome from Copenhagen, such as a political declaration (yes, just like the one we had in Bali two years ago), could be viewed as such. But in practice the world would only see yet another promise by high-level policy-makers.

Settling for a ‘politically binding’ agreement, which presumably will consist of streamlined draft negotiation texts and a declaration that the negotiation process will go on, is a recognition that Copenhagen came too soon. However, it could be argued that such a high-level negotiation session involving heads of state is also needed in order to solve some of the issues causing delay, such as the level of commitment by developing country parties and also developed country parties’ commitment to finance these actions. And of course the US is still not ready for full-speed negotiations as its climate bill remains to be adopted.

But given the stalled negotiations throughout the year, this high-level dialogue should have taken place much earlier.


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