In Copenhagen, one of the many civil society groups urged negotiators to work hard by reminding them constantly of the passage of time. Tick, tock was written on buttons and posters all around the Bella Center. Ads that greeted me upon arrival at the airport showed world leaders like Ban Ki-Moon and Yvo de Boer, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, greyed and wrinkled, thinking back to December 2009 and what they should have done.
Now a new deadline is on us. January 31, the date spelled out in the Copenhagen Accord for countries to register their specific emissions reductions commitments, is in just three days. The Accord’s three (3) pages of twelve (12) points of political agreement end with two (2) sign-up sheets:
Appendix I, “Quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020,”
Appendix II, “Nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing country Parties.”
Annex I Parties like the US and EU members are supposed to write their names in the left hand column of Appendix I, then fill in the middle blank with their intended emissions reductions by 2020 and the base year in the far right column. Non-Annex I countries, like China, India, and Brazil, are asked to write their names on the left of Appendix II and their actions on the right. Simple, eh? Like signing up for the church bake sale or your shift at the PTO book fair?
It’s been pretty quiet since December 18/19. Sure, everyone is assuming that the targets countries announced in the run-up to Copenhagen (see this earlier post) will write themselves in the blanks. But what about the national laws needed to make them happen? President Lula of Brazil seems to have bested the pack. He signed into Brazilian law a 39% cut in GHG emissions by 2020, nationally committing to the country’s international “voluntary commitment” at Copenhagen. But stay tuned, for internal reports indicate that he has also vetoed needed legal and political infrastructure critical to the law’s success.
While there’s been a great deal of debate about COP15’s success, in light of the general Accord and the small group negotiation that led up to it, Andrew Light of the Center for American Progress registered this two-thumbs-up calculation of the Accord’s sign-up sheets: “When you add up everything that the 17 largest economies have on the table, not for a treaty mind you, but awaiting domestic action that could happen regardless of a treaty such as the US legislation, then we are 5 gigatons away from commitments that should get us on a 450ppm stabilization path by 2020, essentially 65% of the way there. Given that the world has managed to get on a potential track in that direction with the world’s largest historical emitter pretending nothing was happening in the mean time and, only trying to catch up recently, isn’t bad at all.”
Tick, tock. Let’s check back on February 1 and take stock.