So what did happen behind the scenes during frantic negotiations in Copenhagen? Ethical Corporation was there

Diplomacy is best not measured in a day. Even a hundred-plus heads of state could not prevent China and the United States from diplomatically eyeballing each other in Copenhagen at December’s much anticipated United Nations’ climate conference, COP 15.

The US proposed weak preliminary greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets for 2020 that represent maybe 3% below 1990 levels. But if it expected China to commit itself to binding targets to satisfy US Congress and accept measuring, reporting and verification of its emissions, then the White House had another thing coming.

China’s negotiator Su Wei told reporters he could wait on Congress to pass legislation before moving forward, something unlikely to happen until after this year’s US mid-term elections.

And so, the involvement of the leaders “just spun us out of control,” says Yvo de Boer, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary, speaking to Ethical Corporation.

Without apportioning blame, he admits to “some issues of serious mismanagement,” as the UN process was derailed in the final week by developing country bloc G77 and China, who walked out claiming inadequate consultation and transparency by the Danish presidency of the COP.

However, de Boer is optimistic for 2010’s negotiations. “I think countries – especially developing countries – will want to get back in control inside the UNFCCC and use the accord as a frame of reference to advance progress,” he says.

China on the edge

The Copenhagen accord did not include China and India. Sources in the negotiating room told Ethical Corporation under strict conditions of anonymity that China’s prime minister Wen Jiabao frequently left the room to call the president Hu Jintao in Beijing, prompting French president Nicolas Sarkozy to say he did not want to talk to people who could not make decisions.

China rejected German chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal for developed countries to commit to 80% reductions by 2050. To her consternation, she underlined these were developed and not developing country targets she proposed. Still China said no.

However, the Copenhagen accord is unlikely to supplant the UN process as the search for a comprehensive, legally binding treaty to succeed the Kyoto protocol continues in 2010. The accord has no institutional basis, according to de Boer, and it would take decades to reconstitute a new apparatus to include IPCC guidelines, greenhouse gas inventory procedures and arrangements for national communications.

“Rich nations might be inclined to form an emissions reduction club, the G77 would not buy into this ... there is too much at stake,” he says.

Big developing countries do not really need finance, de Boer argues. Smaller, more vulnerable developing countries will benefit from the accord’s financing measures of $30bn by 2012 in return for a prompt start on action for mitigation and adaptation measures, rising to $100bn per year by 2020.

We got everything

To this end, Federica Bietta, deputy director of the Coalition of Rainforest Nations who negotiates for REDD (reducing emissions through deforestation and forest degradation) told Ethical Corporation: “We got everything we were looking for.”

Money for capacity-building and a fund to move countries to a bigger scale for implementation was all included in the Copenhagen accord, Bietta says, with only standards for measurement, reporting and verification to be rolled out.

As for everything else, it’s still work in progress.

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