Hengwei LIU

The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP-15) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place at Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, commenced on December 7th, 2009, and adjourned some two weeks later on December 18th. Its original purpose has been to reach a new international agreement on climate change to come into force when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period comes to an end in 2012.

After two tumultuous weeks of sessions involving 193 countries, leaders from the United States, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa came to an agreement named ‘Copenhagen Accord’. While the accord is reached, many vital details remain to be defined in the following year. The ‘deal’ is far from perfect–and a long way from what had hoped for–but it is a start. ‘For the first time, all major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to combat climate change,’ said President Obama, after a raucous all-day session of emergency negotiations in Copenhagen. ‘This is a consensus that will serve as the foundation for global action against climate change for years to come.’  Credit should be partly given to the Danish government and its leadership and the UNFCCC Secretariat, who have worked tirelessly for a long time to prepare for the negotiations at COP-15 in Copenhagen.

Here I do not want to comment much about the ‘deal’ or give more praise to the organizers. Now I want to turn to the other aspect–the shocking logistical failure in Copenhagen–the organizers denied access to thousands of the registered COP-15 participants!

The Article 7, paragraph 6, of the UNFCCC duly provides for the admission of NGOs to sessions of the Convention bodies as observers: The United Nations, its specialized agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as any State member thereof or observers thereto not Party to the Convention, may be represented at sessions of the Conference of the Parties as observers. Any body or agency, whether national or international, governmental or non-governmental, which is qualified in matters covered by the Convention, and which has informed the secretariat of its wish to be represented at a session of the Conference of the Parties as an observer, may be so admitted unless at least one third of the Parties present object. The admission and participation of observers shall be subject to the rules of procedure adopted by the Conference of the Parties.

Knowing the Bella Center could accommodate at most 15,000 persons at any one time, the organizers approved about 43,000 observers from official, accredited organizations around the world. The result is that thousands of participants – including not only NGO representatives, but also government negotiators – stood in line outside of the Bella Center in the bitter cold waiting about 2 hours in the first week and 10 hours in the second week to get inside to receive their credentials.  Thousands of others never got inside, despite having waited up to 8 hours, standing in the cold. Moreover, many side events will be holding in Bella Center have to be cancelled.

Same chaos also occurred at the Central Station of Copenhagen at the evening of Dec 17, many trains delayed, and no one knew when the trains will come and which track will be used. In this station, I cannot find any volunteer of COP-15.

There has never been such a chaos in the UNFCCC conference history. No doubt, both the UNFCCC Secretariat and the host, Danish government must share the responsibility for the logical failure.


A Chinese perspective

December 11, 2009

China’s stance on climate negotiation at Copenhagen

-Hengwei Liu

China¹s stance going into Copenhagen had two main components:

1.    Adhere to the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, and Bali Roadmap. The UNFCCC and

its Kyoto Protocol provides the basic framework and legal basis for climate negotiation. The Bali Roadmap affirms the mandate to enhance the implementation of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, which is, on the one track, to secure the full, effective and sustained implementation of the UNFCCC by making corresponding arrangements in terms of mitigation, adaption, technology transfer and financial support and, on the other track, to determine further quantified emission reduction targets for developed countries for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. This is China¹s basic position and bottom line on the negotiation.

2.    Uphold ŒCommon but Differentiated Responsibilities¹. Developed

countries shall take responsibility for their historical cumulative emissions and current high per capita emissions, and the developed countries should take the lead in cutting gas emissions and honor their commitments to support developing countries with funds and technology transfers. Developing countries will, in pursuing economic development and poverty eradication, take proactive measures to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

In all, the key to a successful Copenhagen Conference lies in the firm commitment to the Convention, its Kyoto Protocol, the Bali Roadmap, and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Focal Questions at Copenhagen–A Chinese Perspective

1.    Twin-track or single-track: developing countries have firmly stated

their intention to twin-track–UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol‹negotiations.

However, some developed countries advocate to combine the two-track into one track, completely abandoning the ‘Kyoto Protocol.’ Developing countries are concerned that if the ‘Kyoto Protocol’ is canceled, ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ will not have any substance.

2.    Developed countries¹ reduction target: under the UNFCCC and its Kyoto

Protocol, developed countries are supposed to take the lead in notable emissions reductions. In terms of mitigation, developed countries as a whole shall, as their mid-term targets, reduce their GHG emissions by at least 40% below their 1990 level by 2020. And, the quantified emission reduction targets and corresponding policies, measures and actions undertaken by developed countries shall be Measurable, Reportable and Verifiable (MRV). So far, developed countries¹ commitment is far from the 40% reduction target:

the United States proposes 17% cut in emissions form 2005 to 2020, which is about 4% emissions cut below 1990 levels; EU targets 20% reduction by 2020; and Japan pledges to cut 25% emission by 2020 with a precondition of ambitious targets being set by other major emitters.

3.    Developing countries¹ responsibility: Under the UNFCCC, Kyoto

Protocol, and Bali Roadmap, developing countries do not have to accept binding commitments to reduce emissions, verified by MRV regimes. However, some developed countries have proposed to make binding commitments, including MRV, applicable to developing countries.

4.    Financial support and technology transfer: Under the UNFCCC and its

Kyoto Protocol, the developed countries should provide financing, technology transfer and capacity building support to enable developing countries to take nationally appropriate mitigation and adaptation actions. But so far, the developed countries have not made a substantial commitment and neither has there been practical action on this issue.