At Cancun the move is to replace the regime to voluntary targets for all. India's shift in policy to support this regime will be disastrous for an effective and equitous agreement

The climate endgame in Cancun and how I suspect it will play out in the next 48-hours
By Sunita Narain, CSE, 10 am Cancun time, December 9, 2010

In the past day, key players at the Cancun road show have made separate moves. But these actions are all linked and all part of the Cancun gambit – to take the final steps to replace the current global framework built on responsibilities of countries to the climate problem, into a weak ineffective regime built on the right to pollute for the US. This is the climate-end game and we are seeing it being worked out in the public and behind the scenes.

  1. Japan has announced once again its rejection of the Kyoto Protocol;

  2. The EU and AOSIS want to replace Kyoto Protocol with a single legally binding regime for the entire world – not just industrialized countries but emerging and developing countries (says a leaked document);

  3. The Indian environment minister is reported to have first said that his country will take on binding commitments under an appropriate legal form. He has then said that his country will not take on legally binding commitments. It would seem that India and China are isolated on this issue against the world.

But this is a mock fight. It is part of the drama that is being staged at Cancun. The facts are as follows:

    1. The US that does not want a legally binding regime. Therefore, the aim is to replace the current legal regime for some, with a non-legal regime for all, which is binding through the use of MRV. In other words, India’s domestic targets to cut emissions will be internationalized as this commitment will be measured, reported and verified. It is a backhanded way to do the following:

a. To remove the current distinction between the industrialized countries, which have to take first action, based on their historical responsibilities.
b. To replace the current agreement, which demands that industrialized countries take tough reductions – up to 40 per cent cuts over 1990 levels, with a weak agreement to do nothing.

  1. In the Bali Action Plan it was agreed that there would be three separate regimes

    a. The Annex 1 (Kyoto Parties), would take on commitments     including quantified emission limitation

    b. Other Annex 1 (US), would take on comparable mitigation steps but these would be termed as actions, and not commitments (but the US would have to take on comparable actions to the rest of the Annex 1 countries and these would be based on historical and current responsibility to the climate problem)

    c. India, China and other developing countries would also take on nationally appropriate actions, but these would have to be supported and enabled by technology and financing. These supported actions would be measured, reported and verified.

    This was the agreed framework. Developed countries would take the first actions to reduce emissions; the targets – how much each would have to cut -- would be based on their historical and current contribution to the problem; developing countries would also take actions, but these would be supported and enabled through money and technology. This framework, based on the climate convention is now being shredded and thrown out.

  2. The Copenhagen Accord, pushed through last year by the US and its allies was the aimed to be the departure from the climate agreement. This accord lays out the following;

    a. All countries will take actions based on national pledges and targets. These targets will be based on what each country can do, or is willing to do, not on the historical contribution of the country to the problem.

    b. The target would not be legally binding targets in the form of the Kyoto Protocol, which sets targets and demands compliance based on these targets.

    Instead, there would be a regime on measurement, reporting and verification (MRV). This MRV regime would be a de facto binding regime as countries domestic targets would be verified and progress reported internationally. It would also be binding. Therefore, in the current game play, the MRV regime is the intended replacement for a global regime based on targets and responsibilities.


 Elements of the Cancun end game:

  1. The aim is to replace the legal regime, needed to set targets based on historical and current responsibility with a soft regime based on domestic targets for all, measured, reported and verified to make it binding.

  2. At Cancun, the MRV regime discussions have been given top priority by the US, for exactly this reason. This is the main game in town.

  3. But to provide it cover and push through the regime change, there is much shadow boxing afoot: a single legal regime promoted by the EU and AOSIS and its standard and expected rejection by the Indian and Chinese delegations.


The fact is that this regime change promoted by the US and pushed by all its willing partners in the coalition is disastrous for the world’s fight against climate change.
The US wants its right to pollute. It has provided a perfect formula – it promises us the right to pollute, because it wants to legitimize its own pollution. In this way, the US is not asked to take on targets (called commitments or actions) based on his historical contribution. In other words, it would have to reduce 40 per cent emissions below 1990 levels.

Instead it can set its own domestic targets, based on whatever little it can do. It has initially committed to reducing 3 per cent below 1990 levels, and now says even that much is too much.

We also know that the sum of the current ‘pledges’ if we can call them that means that the world is definitely not close to meeting its 2°C target but is by recent accounts close to at least 3°C or more.

But then why are we surprised? This is a framework made by and for polluters.


The next 48-hour end game in Cancun: The behind the scenes play

  1. The negotiators will be stuck day and night long in rooms, with lengthy text, heavily bracketed and hardened positions. No movement to be seen even as the clock ticks to the last hours.

  2. With no breakthrough in sight, leaders (of select countries) will present text to break the logjam and make the deal on the issues where there is ‘some’ convergence. This will be in the interest of moving the talks ahead.

  3. The pillars will be:
    a. MRV
    b. REDD and REDD+ (forestry)
    c. Technology (without IPR issues)
    d. Finance for vulnerable countries (nothing promised but just some show to keep Maldives and company happy (remember the Wiki-leaks)

  4. These new pillars will be called the Cancun Mandate. In other words (not said or stated), it will replace the pillars of the Bali Action Plan, which calls for enhanced implementation of the climate convention.

  5. Now till the next time the world meets in Durban or Cape Town, next December, the mandate will be to discuss and finalize the elements of this new global deal.

  6. In this way, the 1992 climate convention will be dead. The Kyoto Protocol will be buried. The framework based on equity would be destroyed. Only the new emperor of the world of pollution will certainly have no clothes.

This is the shameless endgame at Cancun. Watch it as it takes shape in the next 48 hours. Your future depends on it.