Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 00:00

Managing International Negotiations

Introduction

The Cancun Conference has to address the key unsolved issues:

How to deal with the twofold asymmetry of mitigation obligations in the framework of the Kyoto Protocol: the legal obligations for industrialized countries with the EU in the forefront and with the US as the most-prominent drop out vs the voluntary contributions of developing countries.

What kind of mitigation commitments can EU and US expect from emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and G20 countries in general, and are these countries ready to accept comparable commitments on measurement, reporting and verification (MRV).

How can developing countries be brought into an overall agreement by financial, technological and technical assistance.

These are not insurmountable obstacles for further progress in Cancun.

The global negotiations have already come a long way. They are well achored by the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

This Convention is a remarkable document of insight into and recognition of the global Climate as a “Common Pool Resource” of mankind. It will continue to define the architecture of the international climate change negotiations for the years to come.

 

State of play before Cancun

 

 

A.Areas of evolving consensus:

(1) long term shared vision of CO2 reduction, keeping the rise of the global temperature in check.

(2) common but differentiated responsibilities, e.g. enhanced responsibilities for industrialised countries.

(3) technology and finacial transfers, including capacity building for developing countries.

(4) relevance of science based negotiations, supported by  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 1988) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and technological Advice (Art.9 UNFCCC).

(5)importance of rising public awareness by the work of NGOs and Civil Society at large.

 

B.Areas of deep rooted discord

(1) legal, political or voluntary commitments for mitigation measures.

(2) internationally supervised review and compliance mechanisms, based on agreed measurement, reporting and verification procedures(MRV)or selfassessments.

 

A. Areas of evolving consensus

 

(1) Shared long term vision

There is an  evolving consensus of scientists about the tolerable maximum of the overall temperature rise in the 21st century, recognised on the highest political level:

G8 Summit April 2009 in L’Aquila, Italy : recognising the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature ought not to exceed 2°C and reiterating the willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050.

COP 15 Copenhagen December 2009: recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2° Celsius

These visions raise a sense of urgency and serve as guideposts for action, but they are by no means a substitute for concrete operational goals and real action.

What really counts are concrete mid term targets, accompanied by regular checkpoints, starting in 2015 to evaluate – in the light of the available science – whether the efforts are sufficient or not (“bottom up approach”).

Whatever the global reductions will be, they will always be the aggregate result of the national efforts of countries. ( As a reminder: The UN Convention reaffirms the principle of Sovereignty of States in international cooperation to address Climate change).

In conclusion:
While not rejecting the visionary goals for general orientation, they cannot serve as the starting point for allocating national quotas derived from these global goals. Such a global top down approach is neither practical nor politically feasable.

(2) Common but differentiated responsibilities

This principle in favor of developing countries is well established in global treaties (see for example the Law of GATT/WTO) but it remains an area of dispute between developed and developing countries, specifically vis a vis the leading emerging economies like China, India, Brazil.

(3) Technology and financial transfers

 

The need for technological, technical and financial assistance for developing countries enjoys general recognition. It will be an important element for reaching an overall package deal in Cancun.

 

(4) Science based negotiations

The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice in Art. 9 of the UNFCCC and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 1988) provide an important scientific underpinning of the negotiations. Considering the complexity of the issues, these are major pillars in the architecture of the negotiations, making objective reasoning possible.

The two bodies deserve credit for the evolving global understanding that climate change in the 20./21st century is to a large extent manmade. Even the Bush Administration accepted this in its final phase; the Democrats, President Obama, former Vice-President Al Gore and others, have a clear notion of the science related to climate change.

Somewhat worrying are movements like the Tea Party in the US. According to the New York Times (20. Oct. 2010) skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party movement. One member is quoted: “It (global warming) is a flat-out lie, I read my Bible. God made this earth for us to utilize.” Another quote: ”They are trying to use global warming against the people. It takes away our liberty.”(“ The American way of life” ).

Such attitudes are not intentionally meant to be injurious for future generations but they will have the effect. Unreasoned fatalism is not the way to go.”To prevent catastrophes caused by human negligence, we need critical scrutiny, not just goodwill towards others.”(Amartya Sen).

The Nov. mid-term election in the USA don’t bode well. According to the New York Times (17. Oct. 2010), all but one Republican candidates for Senate don’t accept the scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for global

warming. The cap and trade energy bill, which was shelfed in the last Congress is probaly dead for some time. It remains to be seen what consequences the Nov. 2 Congressional elections will have for the negotiating position of the US Government in Cancun.

(5) Importance of NGOs and Civil Society

 

There is probably no other area like climate change where Nongovernmental Organisations (NGOs) are urgently needed to support a democratic decision making process. By their engagement the normal citizen get a voice and get heard in transnational intergovernmental negotiations.

Whereas most people can vote and elect their representatives within their national borders, there is a democratic void in crossborder intergovernmental processes. Since lively democracy is primarily about public reasoning, the debates generated by NGOs can be seen as important contributions toward practicing the beginning of global democracy.

 

B. Areas of deep rooted discord

 

A closer look at the presumed relevance of legally binding mitigation commitments may help to put the disagreements into perspective.

Within the developed country group the most important industrial country, the USA, left the Kyoto Protocol (2001 decision by President Bush), specifically with reference to a lack of legal commitments of emerging economies like China, India, Brazil.

I wonder if it is really such a crucial question for future action whether commitments are legally binding in the formal sense, be it for developed or emerging countries alike. In my opinion the negotiations would be better served if the dispute about the formal legality of commitments would not be put on center stage.

If countries are serious in combatting climate change they should be able to set themselves ambitious mid term targets (2015, 2020) and commit to them nationally resp. EU wide, document these commitments in international for a and make them subject to internationally supervised scrutiny.

We know from many exaples that the formal legal character of international agreements is not a value in itself, considering that effective enforcement mechanisms are normally quite remote, unless one wants to argue for the use (abuse?) of WTO trade sanction or other kinds of sanctions.

What really counts are the real mitigation efforts, controlled by an internationally agreed regular review process based on effective measurement, reporting and verification procedures (MRV).

Recognizing the new Geopolitics: From G7 to G20

Since the 70ies of last century the then most important industialized countries functioned as a kind of global economic leadership group: 1975 G6 (USA, J, D, UK, F, It); 1976 G7 (+ Ca).; 1998 G8 (+ RUS); 2010 G20 (+China, India, Brazil, S.-Afrika, Indonesia, Australia, S.-Korea, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, EU).

In the 90ies of last century it became increasingly clear that the G7/8 did not represent the most important economies any more. Yet it took another two decades to enlarge this group into the G20.

The enlargement decision was taken at the G20 Leaders meeting in Pittsburgh in Sept. 2009:“…to reform the global architecture to meet the needs of the 21st century”.

The Pittsburgh G20 Statement addressed also the challenge of climate change: “We will spare no effort to reach agreement in Copenhagen through the UNFCCC negotiations.”

The first formal G20 Summit was held in June 2010 in Toronto.”…in its new capacity as the premier forum for international economic cooperation.” The G20 Declaration states: “…we are committed to engage in negotiations under the UNFCCC on the basis of objective provisions and principles including common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and aredetermined to ensure a successful outcome through an inclusive process at the Cancun Conferences.”

With more players at the head table, the dynamics of negotiations are changing. The former G7/8 countries have to accept a stronger voice of the emerging economies like China, India, Brazil, based on their respective geopolitical (e.g. economic, demographic, territorial, cultural) weight.

At the same time these emerging economies have to understand their enhanced responsibilities in the ongoing globalization process. This is especially evident in the context of global warming. China is besides the USA the greatest emitter of CO2, Brazil is home of the largest rainforest in the world and India is on its way to become the most populous country in the world, trying to catch up to the economy of China.

The G20 may signal the beginning of a new global architecture, manifesting the end of the bi-polar and the rise of a multipolar world, but the evolving new global order has still to stand the test to lead the world economy and to establish a global Climat Change regime.

Some remarks on the decision making process

The Copenhagen Accord would not have survived just by the goodwill of the Danish Chair. It required the full engagement of some of the big players like USA and the EU, but also emerging economies like China.

This tells a simple story: 
Even in a multipolar world –if we really already live in such a world –successful international negotiations still require enhanced engagement by countries who have the will to lead and can underpin their leadership by economic and political weight.

In this context it is worthwile to look at the overall constellation, which prevented the Copenhagen Accord from becoming a formal document for all Parties. Only six out of 192 countries spoke out against the Accord: Sudan, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Tuvalu, not a very impressive list of countries.

(For some this blocking minority raises the question whether the UN (with its principle of one country one vote) can be the only framework for climate change negotiations.)

In defence of the consensus principle there are at least two arguments: First it reflects the respect for the legal equality of each nation and its sovereignty. Second it is the precondition for having every country on board, when it comes to adhering and implementing a decision. This second aspect is important, because most international decisions cannot be enforced by sanctions or military force.

At the same time, the consensus principle can block or water down urgently needed common actions. It is therefore sometimes wise to allow individual or groups of countries to abstain or move faster ahead than the rest. (In the EU this is called “variable geometry”).

In the UN system the Kyoto Protokol is a pertinent example for such a variable geometry approach. But this remains a reason for controversy.

Complex negotiations are practically impossible beyond a certain number of countries. It is therefore normal that smaller groups try to reduce the differences in the best interests of all, who have to be kept fully informed of the whole process and must stay in charge of the final outcome. The biggest challenge is to build trust between the small group and the rest.

Finally most countries have to make sure that their negotiated outcome gets the approval of their constituency at home: the parliament, the constitutional court and the civil society at large. Climate change policies with its close link to energy policy, industrial competitive issues and the “way of life” in general are of special national sensitivity.

Concluding remarks: What is at stake in Cancun?

 

 

It will be decisive for success in Cancun, how the big players, especially the USA, EU, China, India and Brazil will work out their differences on

 

-       the legal form of the Copenhagen Accord ( binding international treaty or political commitment in the sense of an “agreed outcome”).

 

-       the future of the two track approach of the Kyoto Protocol Parties and the UNFCCC Parties.

 

-       the quality of commitments of the emerging countries, especially China, India and Brazil.

 

-       the establishment of an internationally monitored MRV mechanisms for all big polluters.

Although the developing countries want to keep in place the enhanced commitments of the developed countries in the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, a Kyoto II is an uncertain prospect.

It is very doubtful whether the two track negotiations can continue with a Kyoto II (AWG-KP) on the one hand side and the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) on the other hand side.

I think it is a more realistic approach to merge the two tracks into one process and into one agreed document under the Convention. The Copenhagen Accord clearly points in this direction.

Already the Bali Action Plan (Dec. 2007) decided to launch a comprehensive process “…in order to reach an agreed outcome….” This call for a comprehensive process and an agreed outcome does certainly not endorse a two track approach, as some governments may assume.

Such an overall agreement will be extremely helped by offering developing countries, especially the poorest and most threatened ones, clear financial , technological and technical assistance for mitigation, adaptation and other measures.

The described approach moves beyond the dychotomy of the Kyoto Protocol and the Conference of Parties (COP)  of the UNFCCC into the direction of a new architecture:

The negotiating efforts would shift from the formal legality of reduction goals to the establishment of an effective review process for all notificated reduction targets and other mitigation measures.

In a way a globally agreed monitoring regime for implementation of the notified targets would make up for the lack of legal formality of the mitigation targets.

Such a review process should not be so difficult to be agreed. Regular country by country reviews are common place in IMF, WTO and OECD. They apply to all members and not just to a selective group of countries.

The MRV-obligations in the Copenhagen Accord for developing countries point in principle in the right direction, but it seems odd why countries like China deserve a lesser degree of discipline in the MRV process than developed countries.

 

In conclusion :
Universal legally binding, internationally enforceable commitments are at this point not in sight. Therefore a more pragmatic approach, taking the Copenhagen Accord as the starting point, while also integrating a “Kyoto II” into this framework , has a better chance to produce tangible results in Cancun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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