If apprehensions being expressed by some climate change negotiations observers are anything to go by, the future looks unwelcoming for developing nations.
The stakeholders appear to be uncomfortable with a series of events that they claim began in 2009 at the Fifteenth Conference of Parties (COP 15) in Copenhagen, Denmark (Copenhagen Accord) and culminated at the COP 17 a few months ago in Durban, South Africa (Durban Platform).
Certain circles allege that the Durban Platform is fraught with “landmines and booby-trap” and portends serious implications for the African continent.
The bone of contention is that the numerous gains accruing to poor nations in 2007 at COP 13 in Bali, Indonesia (Bali Action Plan) seem to have gradually been eroded at subsequent COPs, reaching a peak at Durban. The Bali conference reportedly laid key foundations for negotiations on a post-2012 climate regime.
In fact, former Nigerian Designated National Authority (DNA), Victor Fodeke, recalls that the scenario started in Denmark, where the Copenhagen Accord was conceived.
His words: “Look at what happened in COP 15. We came back with the Copenhagen Accord, which started to derail; instead of having a rule-based solution to cutting emissions based on historical responsibilities and common but differentiated responsibilities with respective capabilities. That accord was the beginning of starting another process that is pledged-based instead of rule-based in solving the gigatonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are now responsible for extreme weather, that within the last two years the number of climate-induced disasters have increased by 400 percent.
“The Copenhagen Accord was endorsed in Cancun, Mexico at COP 16. Finally in COP 17, it was operationalised, meaning that in the document of the Durban outcome, that what is being expected in the new dispensation for the second commitment, there is nothing like common but differentiated responsibility, there was nothing like a rule-based but now pledge-based strategies to solve the gigatonnes of GHGs and now resolve to now make pledges. Pledge what? Is it pledges that can solve or reduce these emissions?
“The implication is that some of these disasters will overwhelm critical infrastructures, especially in Africa. Some states will become failed states because of abrupt climate change.
“What we need to do is to look at an African confab under the leadership of the African Union and the Regional Economic Community. There is need to critically analyse the Greek gift we have in form of the COP 17 outcome because it is loaded with booby traps. In Africa (which has less than four percent emission level) now, we have to take commitments, which will close the atmosphere for our development.”
Despite most countries’ desire for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, as the first one ends this year, countries led by the United States, Canada, Russia and Japan are clamouring for the demise of Kyoto and the introduction of a “pledge and review” system instead of Kyoto’s system of binding targets.
The resulting effect of killing Kyoto, according to Trusha Reddy, Senior Researcher, Corruption and Governance Programme in Cape Town, South Africa, would be to consolidate two separate tracks of the negotiation process, which was agreed in Bali, one with binding targets, the other with comparable national efforts and a long-term vision.
Observers believe that the main motivation for killing Kyoto is that developed countries want to lower their level of commitments or avoid taking responsibility for committing to international binding emission reduction commitments altogether.
According to Reddy, “pledge and review” is seen as an attempt to deregulate the international system of climate pollution controls.
Indeed, civil society commentators argue that the system implies that there is no check of whether emission reductions are in line with science and no way to make sure they are actually followed.
They also view it as a dangerous backtracking on promises made by three consecutive US Presidencies to join the international system of binding commitments, and will ensure “atmospheric anarchy” at the moment when the world needs fair global governance of carbon pollution.”
Martin Khor of the South Centre also predicts that the deregulated system will disincentivize developing countries, "when they see those who are supposed to lead the process, falter instead."
Currently, of the pledges, 65 percent of those reductions could happen in countries in the global South and just 35 percent in rich countries, despite the fact that 75 percent of all historical emissions have come from developed countries.
In Durban, there was a unanimous decision to agree to a successor agreement to the Kyoto protocol.
Parties agreed to "develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties." However, the form and content of this future legally binding agreement was not set; whether it will be another protocol, a treaty or take some other form and whether it will set binding targets or require voluntary pledges is the detail to be explored over the next four years.
In contrast to the Kyoto Protocol, under the successor agreement there will be a common legal framework for developed and developing countries. It is substantially for this reason that the US and China are on board. Canada, Japan and Russia are also committed to the adoption of the successor agreement, despite having withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol at Durban.
Fodeke, however, describes the development as a “political”, rather than a “legal” commitment. He believes it violates the legal agreement, potentially resulting in a greater lack of trust and will to deal effectively with climate change, even as it also does not bode well for the scientific gap in the pledges.
“All what we (Africa and developing world) gained up to COP 13 in the Bali Action Plan we have now lost,” he laments.