COP 15 and the Copenhagen Accord were widely criticized and a successor Protocol by 2010 is unlikely. Regardless of what happens at Cancun, climate change will be addressed in one form or another.

            Prior to Copenhagen, the Bali Action Plan proposed several objectives; only “limiting global temperature increase to 1.5-2° Celsius” appeared in the Accord. However, its “50% reduction by 2050” and “target date for peaking global emissions” goals influenced negotiations. The failure of the UNFCCC’s dual negotiating tracks (AWG-KP and AWG-LCA) made an agreement at Copenhagen unlikely.

            At COP 15, negotiations remained stymied until 30 countries drafted the Copenhagen Accord at the 11th hour and the US and BASIC countries negotiated its final version. The UN “took note” of the Accord; in other words, nations can formally recognize it before deciding which provisions to accept. The objections of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Cuba, Tuvalu, and Sudan prevented the Accord’s adaptation.


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            Generally, the Accord lacks functional details and does not address issues such as CDM and JI reform or noncompliance penalties.

            The Accord’s goal is to limit a global temperature increase to 2° Celsius. However, several organizations estimate current commitments will result in a 3-5° increase. Participants total 126 countries; Annex I signatories submitted 2020 targets, while developing signatories submitted Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs). How to determine and account for potential developing country targets remains undecided. Assuming such targets occurred, who would obtain what proportion of credits from CDM or Green Climate Fund (GCF) funded projected and why? How would such funding interact with domestic mitigation measures? Would these targets be adjusted for differences between estimated and actual economic growth and/or emissions reduction capabilities?

            Developed countries will follow existing guidelines for measuring, reporting, and verification (MRV). Developing countries’ “reporting” remains controversial. Domestically supported NAMAs will have biennial “national communications;” internationally supported NAMAs will be subject to international MRV.

            Funding is primarily provided by the GCF. A $30 billion quick fund until 2012 and a goal of raising $100 billion annually by 2020 for developing countries were established. Accounting, coordination, and private sector investment are looming funding issues.

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            The Accord notes the importance of establishing a REDD-plus mechanism and funding. Issues include defining deforestation and degradation, MRV, the relationship of REDD-plus with NAMAs, benefit distribution, land rights, forest governance, and capacity building. How much funding will come from NGOs and industry? Should REDD-plus be part of a cap and trade mechanism? Criteria (emissions, deforestation rates, or forest area cover) are needed.


            Most developed countries stated their Accord pledges depend upon a Protocol inclusive of the US and developing countries, and link funding to developing country targets and MRV. Many prefer legal symmetry (targets for all) and allowing for greater future efforts from developing countries, as a net emissions reduction would otherwise be unlikely. The US and the EU consider the Accord a major focus of negotiations.

            As for BASIC countries, India and China emphasize emissions intensity reductions, allowing for economic and potentially emissions growth. Brazil submitted NAMAs; only South Africa submitted a target. BASIC countries prefer UNFCCC negotiations to the Accord. Reasons include economic growth and pressure to accept greater future reductions if targets were accepted now. However, they have declared support for a global, legally binding agreement by 2011.

            130 develop
ing countries, including BASIC, island, African, and Least Developed Countries, form the Group of 77, or G77.
Most dislike a successor Protocol which would limit emissions and potentially, economic growth. Many view funding as the responsibility of developed nations and/or climate reparations. Some view the Accord’s financial commitments as only a beginning; previous G77 demands have ranged from $200 to $500 billion annually. Poor and vulnerable countries view adaptation as a major issue, and advocate a 1.5° Celsius limit and US and BASIC country targets.


            UNFCCC negotiations are intensifying before COP 16. Meetings of major international organizations (MEF, G20, ICAO, BASIC countries) will also shape negotiations.

            UNFCCC rules require all 192 member nations to agree to any treaty; reforming these rules also requires unanimous assent and is unlikely. Therefore, integrating the Accord and UNFCCC negotiating tracks is crucial. Article 7.2(c) of the UNFCCC allows it to facilitate measures to address climate change. Accordingly, the GCF Advisory Group was formed, but until the Accord is adopted and the GCF made an operational COP mechanism, GCF funds would need to be administrated outside of the UNFCCC. Yvo de Boer’s resignation has created additional uncertainty for negotiations.

            An agreement is unlikely without domestic US legislation. While the House passed legislation last summer, the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman Senate bill is unlikely to pass before COP 16 due to the weak economy, Wall Street scandals, Republican and industry opposition, upcoming midterm elections, Graham’s withdrawal, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


            The Accord itself may be an alternative to an UNFCCC Protocol. Alternatively, the G20 or MEF may broker an agreement, though smaller developing countries should be included to increase the legitimacy of such discussions. The G20 and MEF may also coordinate with UNFCCC negotiations or build from them if an UNFCCC agreement is not reached.

            National and regional actions may include energy efficiency measures, funding for green technology, or regulation. Another option is setting a carbon tariff equal to the cost of domestic carbon permits, though this would create disputes with carbon-intensive importers and damage import-reliant and export-oriented sectors. Carbon markets face initial learning curve inefficiencies. Regional markets may have limited interactions, and only a global market could effectively incorporate international aviation and marine emissions. The EU ETS and RGGI carbon markets will continue; Tokyo, South Korea, New Zealand, and Canada plan on implementing their own. However, WCI implementation is faltering, while Australia has shelved its plans until 2013.

            Such efforts will lack the coordination and possibly the effectiveness of a Protocol. Nevertheless, they are currently the only viable alternatives and must be enough to address climate change.


David Siao is a recent graduate of the Monterey Institute of International Policies with a MA in International Environmental Policy. His interests include renewable energy, energy policy & infrastructure, and the Asia region. He can be contacted at