India should not support the Copenhagen Accord, says CSE

New Delhi, January 8, 2010: India should not sign and endorse the Copenhagen Agreement, says CSE. The Accord is an extremely weak document, which deliberately forgives industrialised countries’ historical responsibility for climate change and worse, is designed for meaningless and ineffective action to curb global warming.

  • Copenhagen Accord is weak, meaningless and fundamentally flawed. It will be bad for the fight against climate change and bad for India.

  • It allows developed countries to increase emissions -- by negating the position that Annex I emissions should have peaked by the year 2000. It does not set drastic emission reduction targets for these countries. If this Accord is accepted, the world will not be able to meet the 2°C target. It will be on course to at least 3°C and more – which will be disastrous for India’s and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

  • It legitimises inaction by industrialised countries and shifts the burden of the transition on to developing countries. In this way, it rejects the principle of historical responsibility and equitable burden sharing, emphasised by the Indian prime minister.

  • The Copenhagen Accord is an accord to give the right to pollute to the biggest and most powerful.

  • India must ask for its right to development – and not be cajoled by an agreement that gives the rich world the right to pollute.

It is a polluters’ accord. It will be disastrous for the fight against climate change and bad for India and the world, says CSE.

“The Copenhagen Accord allows industrialised nations to get away with a pledge-and-review system so that they can decide to set weak and inadequate emission reduction targets domestically and not be under international legally binding commitments. Developing nations like India gain nothing, but allow industrialised nations like the US an easy way out,” said Sunita Narain director, CSE, briefing media on the post-Copenhagen developments here today.

Nothing but a bad deal
The Accord is completely ineffective in the critical matter of cutting emissions from industrialised countries. “Its framework for cutting future emissions is bound to take the world to climate catastrophe,” points out Kushal P S Yadav, head of CSE’s climate change unit.

The Accord does not set a firm peaking year for Annex 1 countries. According to accepted science and politics, these countries should have already peaked in their emissions in the year 2000. The Accord, in fact, gives them a cop-out by allowing them to use their domestic pledges to actually increase -- and not decrease -- emissions. The US pledge, for example, allows it to increase its emissions for the next 10 years or more.

According to the IPCC, industrialised countries must cut emissions by at least 25-40 per cent by 2020, but the current pledges (which the Copenhagen Accord will now legitimise) only add up to reductions of 12-17 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. Worse, the country with the biggest historical responsibility, the US, gets away with a target of 3 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

The Copenhagen Accord destroys time-bound emission reduction targets for industrialised countries. Instead, it simply says that these countries can commit to implement individually or jointly the emission reduction targets that they will themselves decide on.

In other words, these countries will be allowed to set their own weak domestic targets. The targets will not be based on internationally agreed burden sharing arrangements – how much industrialised countries must cut to keep the world within the 2°C temperature increase and free up the atmospheric space to allow developing countries to grow.

This provision will be disastrous for the world and set up a framework based on inequity and unfair burden sharing. This virtually guarantees that the world will not be able to prevent runaway global warming, and will only allow emissions to increase in the rich world, says Narain. It must, therefore, be rejected. Equity in burden sharing, a principle that the prime minister has strongly emphasised on, is completely rejected by the Copenhagen Accord.

Shifting the burden, not sharing the pain
We know the world has to reduce emissions drastically to cap temperature at 2°C or 1.5°C. By 2020, global emissions have to be in the range of 40-44 billion tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), against the business-as-usual scenario of 57 GtCO2e. This is when it is also clear that the historical responsibility of industrialised countries is stark – till 2007, 60 per cent of global emissions came from these countries. In this scenario, equitable burden sharing would require drastic emission reductions by the Annex 1 countries and funds and technology for developing countries to pay for their transition.

But the Copenhagen Accord totally rejects equity. It freezes inequity and makes India and Indians third or fourth class citizens of the world. How? The UNFCCC secretariat’s leaked paper on assessment of current pledges of the Annex 1 and other countries makes it clear that the burden of the transition has shifted conveniently to us. The current ‘pledges’ of Annex 1 countries require them, as a group, to cut only 2.1 GtCO2e by 2020. This is grossly inadequate and puts the world on course for at least 3°C increase. But worse, it also shifts the burden of the transition on to us.

The voluntary emission reductions taken on by China, India, South Africa and others add up to as much as 3.7 GtCO2e – more than what all industrialised countries will do by 2020. India’s voluntary carbon intensity reduction target cuts its emissions by 17 per cent below business-as-usual by 2020. If this is accepted, it will mean that India, with some 17 per cent of the world’s population, will ‘get’ some 4 per cent of the world’s global carbon budget by 2020. Immoral and unacceptable, says CSE.

There is nothing in the Copenhagen Accord that can compel industrialised countries to take stronger near-term targets in order to avoid dangerous global warming. And India, by supporting the Accord, will ensure that it will freeze the inequity in the world for perpetuity, says Yadav.

This is particularly important because equity is not just an historical accident. It is a pre-requisite for an effective framework, which accepts the right to development of developing countries and creates a framework to pay for the expensive and unaffordable transition to low-carbon economies of the future. India must demand its right to development, not legitimise the US’s right to pollute, says Narain. 

For more details, please get in touch with Kushal P S Yadav (9810867667,