The Beginning of Changing the Convention

10 Dec

On December 9, during the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) under the agenda item of the consideration of proposals by Parties under Article 17 of the Convention, action can be taken if “deemed necessary.” Proposals were provided by five countries: Japan, Tuvalu, U.S.A, Australia and Costa Rica.

Tuvalu (formally known as the Ellice  Islands, fourth smallest country in the world) provided the following statement:

Being one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, we are  honoured and pleased to speak.  Our future rests at the outcome of this meeting. As parties are aware, Tuvalu has proposed a legally-binding protocol to be incorporated under the COP. This protocol is not a replacement of the Kyoto Protocol. We believe it should complement the ongoing protocol. We have made Amendments to make this clear. Our proposal for new protocol was tabled six months ago. Therefore this is not a last minute matter. All parties have had the chance to read this proposal. Key elements in proposal follows closely the elements of the Bali Action plan. It has a section of shared vision. It highlights the importance that actions addressing climate change must aim to ensure global temperature increases are well below 1.5 degree Celsius and greenhouse gas concentrations must stabilize at 350 ppm at the most. Our survival is contingent on these numbers. It is a matter of survival.

We have elements on mitigation, incorporating provisions relating to developed countries parties paralleling actions inscribed in the Kyoto Protocol. For developing countries, we have prescribed elements relating to of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and a registry for NAMAs. On Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), we have proposed a comprehensive set of actions to properly address this issue. We have proposed substantial arrangements for funding of REDD. We have emphasized importance of protecting rights of indigenous peoples. We have addressed economic consequences in a responsible manner and have provided a means to give special attention on potential impacts on women and children. On adaption, we have prescribed specific actions to ensure the most vulnerable countries are afforded the appropriate protection against the impacts of climate change. We have proposed concepts such as an adaptation expert committee, regional centres, a special funding window for adaptation and an international insurance facility and a process for compensation. On technology, we have proposed a technology facility and a development technology centres. On finance, we have proposed a multilateral fund on climate change based on the administrative structure established for the adaptation fund board. The fund would have five funding windows: one for mitigation, one for adaptation, one for REDD, one for insurance, and one for technology. We have also included other procedural provisions relating to immunities, and entering the force.

The proposal by Tuvalu was tabled six months ago, not last week, or today. My Prime Minister and many other heads of state have clear intention to sign a legally-binding agreement. Nothing less. No political declaration, no accord or set of COP decisions will undermine our resolve.

We are here to seal the deal.

We are here to commit to a legally-binding agreement that will guarantee the future of Tuvalu and millions of others in the world. The world is watching is. The time for procrastination is over. It is time to deliver. As recalled by the President’s  (Colleen Hedgaard) opening statement, “Political will – will never be stronger.”

Now is the time to deliver.

Tuvalu has delivered.

We have an agreement; we have the means. Let us pull out the red carpet, put ink in our pens, and drag out the signing table. We call all leaders to sign two legally-binding documents in Copenhagen: (1) amendments to the Kyoto Protocol, and (2) a new protocol which we have called the Copenhagen Protocol, in honour of this great city. We therefore call for a formal contact group to be established to consider the Tuvalu proposal with a view for signature next week. Now is the time to deliver.

Watch the entire meeting here:

In response, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) supported Tuvalu’s strong statement. [Those who expressed their support: Grenada, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Jamaica, Marshall Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, Fiji, Mauritius, Barbados, Palau, Cape Verde, Samoa, and Saint Lucia]. The members of the African group and Least Developed Countries (LDC) also supported the eloquent message by Tuvalu. [These members include: Sierra Leone, Senegal, Rwanda, Togo, Gambia, Niger, South Africa, Mali, and Burkina Faso, and Chad].

G77 and China opposed Tuvalu’s proposal for reasons of focus and attention (China said new proposals are “distractions” but showed “full sympathy” for AOSIS) on the Bali Action Plan, and the reminder of time constraints. [Those who expressed their opposition: India, China, Costa Rica, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, Bostwana, Libya, Syrian Arab Republic (noted lack of mention of land degradation and desertification in talks), and Venezula].

As a consequence of discussions, the President of COP15 said that a contact group will be formed with a coacher from Annex I and a coacher from the non-Annex countries. Immediately, Saudi Arabia (G77) proposed that there is no need for a contact group. Instead, the distinguished delegate of Saudi Arabia proposed the responsibility to be given the President herself or the Vice President. Barbados (G77) said that they respected the President’s decision. Later the discussion continued with issues concerns about time constraints (against contact group – meetings to discuss and possibly draft) and the need for maximum transparency (in favour of contact group). The countries who made statements were seemingly consistent with their respective groups and their statements previously made, if they had taken the floor before. However, a need for “unity in diversity of views needs to be maintained,” said the distinguished delegate of the Dominican Republic (AOSIS). Counties who supported Tuvalu said that the establishment of a contact group is the “proper way.” However, Algeria (G77) said that they felt “uncomfortable” with a contact group because of the idea of the “death of the Kyoto Protocol.”

Then the President answered the discussions by suggesting informal consultations to be done and then reported back to the group later. Tuvalu (AOSIS) was unhappy with this and highlighted the core element of delivering a formal process. Barbados (G77) responded by changing its “vote,” noting the vital survival of people and the need for transparency. Saudi Arabia (G77) carried on the debate by “strongly objecting” and commented that establishing a contact group is “ignoring the convention.” India followed Saudi Arabia and claimed itself vulnerable to climate change as well and how the contact group and the proposals made under Article 17b”expressed low confidence in the Kyoto Protocol.” (Consider the reaosn why Article 17 exists and India’s response of vulnerability. Is India suggesting or confirming that the vulnerable countries are given more significance in the discussions?).

Finally, the President said that consensus is required to establish a contact group. Therefore, informal consultations will take place. Venezula (G77) then delivered an emotional speech about how” no paper will save”. A document does not equate political will. Algeria (G77) emphasizes the urgency and sensitivity of time – “the boat is sinking.” China (G77) added  that given its largest population/representation in the world means that they are the most affected by the adverse impacts of climate change. (Again, confirming vulnerability is used in a statement). China finished its statement by noting a new contact group would “duplicate work” and “demean the Bali Action Plan.”

Ultimately, the President announced that due to time constraints and in accordance with rulings and procedures, this agenda item will be addressed through informal consultations. In response to the President’s decision, Tuvalu called for the suspension of COP.

In this event, there are a few things to consider:

  • Maldives has not arrived yet. As the story of COP15 continues, the appearance of the President of Maldives may strengthen Tuvalu’s proposal.
  • The U.S.A, Canada and generally, the Umbrella Group’s views were absent.
  • The existing attachment or appreciation for the Bali Action Group has been evident – why?
  • Stepping stone approach: is an enhancement of the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol enough as a stepping stone? Or has history hinted that the proposed Copenhagen Protocol (from scratch) implemented in addition to the Kyoto Protcol is necessary or most effective to solve the urgency of the common issue of climate change?

The discussion for this agenda item has not been resolved yet.


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