"Danish Text" Roils Copenhagen Climate Change Conference


The Guardian is reporting on an apparently leaked draft agreement among rich nation negotiators at the Copenhagen climate change conference. That agreement outlines a plan for rationing carbon dioxide emissions globally through 2050 and how aid to poor nations aimed at helping them adapt to climate change might be divvied up and monitored. UN documents are always tricky to interpret, but this one has provoked a storm of protest from poor country representatives. As the Guardian reports:

The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN's role in all future climate change negotiations….

The document was described last night by one senior diplomat as "a very dangerous document for developing countries. It is a fundamental reworking of the UN balance of obligations. It is to be superimposed without discussion on the talks".

A confidential analysis of the text by developing countries also seen by the Guardian shows deep unease over details of the text. In particular, it is understood to:

• Force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement;

• Divide poor countries further by creating a new category of developing countries called "the most vulnerable";

• Weaken the UN's role in handling climate finance;

• Not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.

Developing countries that have seen the text are understood to be furious that it is being promoted by rich countries without their knowledge and without discussion in the negotiations.

"It is being done in secret. Clearly the intention is to get [Barack] Obama and the leaders of other rich countries to muscle it through when they arrive next week. It effectively is the end of the UN process," said one diplomat, who asked to remain nameless…

Few numbers or figures are included in the text because these would be filled in later by world leaders. However, it seeks to hold temperature rises to 2C and mentions the sum of $10bn a year to help poor countries adapt to climate change from 2012-15.

One observation: As economist William Easterly has pointed out, most of the $2.3 trillion in aid that rich countries have poured into developing countries over the past half century has been wasted. Could that be why the negotiators of the "Danish Text" want better monitoring and greater control over whatever climate aid they hand out to developing countries? Just asking.

One further note about that 2.67 tons of carbon each rich person would be allowed to emit in 2050 - currently the average American emits about 20 tons annually and the global average is 4 tons. As I noted in my April, 2008 column, "Are You Stomping the Environment Flat?," the last time …

Americans emitted per person roughly 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide annually back [was] in 1870. In those days, per capita GDP was $194 per year which would be equivalent to about $2,500 today.

Again, just saying.

See whole Guardian story here.

Note: I will be reporting from Copenhagen next week.