The draft negotiating texts for the Copenhagen agreement are now out.  Just like in the US Congressional debate on climate legislation and other parliamentary debates around the world, you need to have a proposal on paper before you can make changes, find consensus, and get agreement that can be signed into law (ratified, etc.).  Sort of like the “mark-up” process that has just occurred in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

And that is basically the same process that has now emerged internationally.  The Chairs of the key negotiating groups under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have just released draft negotiating texts based upon the input from countries in their own submissions.  (There are two parallel and related efforts, so there are two texts that are worth reviewing: here and here).  These documents will be clarified, “marked-up”, and changed to get agreement over the next 6 months.   

The release of these texts begins the real negotiation towards Copenhagen.  The world is now rolling up its sleeves and getting to work on an agreement to solve global warming pollution.

While the US submissions was short on many details, the bill that just passed out of the House Energy and Commerce committee — the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) act — contains a number of “tools” to get a strong agreement (as I discussed here).  I won’t provide a lot of detail on those elements in this post, but I will note where the bill addresses the same issues as in the draft negotiating text.

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So let’s dig in and see what is being proposed and what it all means.  (Andy Revkin of the NY Times has an “annotated summary” on his Dot Earth website).

The text follows the five elements of the Bali Agreement, but I’ll group them into different “building blocks” as I often discuss them (with parts 1-2 in this post and other elements in subsequent posts as there is a lot to cover):

  1. Shared vision which provides the overarching long-term direction of the international community;
  2. Developed country emissions reduction;
  3. Developing country emissions reductions;
  4. Technology and finance assistance to support further emissions reductions in developing countries;
  5. Deforestation emissions reduction efforts; and
  6. Adaptation assistance.

Shared Vision.   A number of countries want to have an overarching direction for the agreement that provides more detail than in the existing Convention on Climate Change — a sort of yardstick to measure progress over the long-term.  While some of the proposals are more qualitative, many contain detailed quantitative objectives such as a:

  • specific atmospheric emissions stabilization level or temperature increase to stay below (e.g., less than 3.6 ºF increase);
  • global emissions reduction objectives (e.g., emissions peaking date or period; 50-85% below 1990 levels in 2050); and
  • targets for developed countries (e.g., 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020) and developing countries (e.g., a 15-30% cut below business as usual levels in 2020).

While this gets a lot of attention in the media and in the negotiations, the key is not what is in the overarching objective of the agreement but what are countries actually committing to do towards those aims.

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Developed Country Emissions Reductions.  The key structure that is proposed is for developed countries to undertake firm commitments to reduce their economy-wide emissions (called “quantified emissions reduction and limitation commitments”).  In essence this is the same as what is in the ACES bill — a firm absolute limit on US global warming pollution. 

Two of the proposals included open up the possibility to weaken this effort.  One (#61) could give the option for all developed countries to collectively undertake an emissions reduction target – which could be meaningless since it would take away the basic premise that individual countries have the authority to implement policies to reduce their own emissions (with the notable exceptions for groupings like the European Union that function as a block on non-global warming issues).  The other (#64) would potentially allow industrialized countries to not undertake quantified targets — allowing them to choose instead to undertake “policies and measures”.  This is serious step-back from the notion of undertaking economy-wide emissions caps and hopefully this proposal will end up in the garbage bin.

There is a discussion of which countries should be included in the “developed country” grouping and therefore have to undertake these absolute emissions reduction limits.  The proposed list includes:

  • all current Annex I countries, plus all Current EU member states, candidate countries, and potential candidate countries — so this would add Malta, the countries that were formerly a part of Yugoslavia, and Turkey;
  • all Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) members — so this would currently add Mexico and South Korea; and
  • countries that are not OECD members, but whose economic development stages are equivalent — this could add such countries as Qatar, Singapore, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Bahamas based upon the level of gross domestic product per capita.

Proposals included also discuss the length of the next compliance period for developed country targets — ranging from 2013-2017 through 2020 — and how countries will be held accountable for failure to meet their target — the so-called compliance system.


In subsequent posts I’ll discuss the developing country emissions reduction proposals, the incentive framework for encouraging greater developing country action, the frameworks for addressing deforestation, and the adaptation proposals.