Newsletters from No 10: 22 October 2009
There are just 6 weeks left before the UN climate conference opens in Copenhagen. The last month has been a very active one on the road there, with a UN Summit hosted by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, a G20 Summit chaired by President Obama and two weeks of formal negotiations in Bangkok, culminating in a meeting of the Major Economies Forum in London last week. So I thought an update might be helpful.
Overall there are now clear signs of momentum building towards a deal. As Ed Miliband said last week, an ambitious Copenhagen agreement is now definitely 'doable'. But there remains a disjuncture between what is happening in the formal UNFCCC negotiations and in the other processes surrounding them - including the very active contacts now between leaders and their representatives. And of course there remain, even in the latter, big gaps between countries' positions which will need to be closed. But the desire to close them, and the intensity of the discussion about how to do so, make us believe that an agreement can be achieved if sufficient political will and effort are applied to it.
Gordon Brown’s goals going into this last month were two-fold: to secure personal commitment from leaders to work for an ambitious agreement in Copenhagen, and to seek consensus on the climate financing proposals he put forward in the summer. There's been visible progress on both fronts.
The period kicked off with the UN Secretary General’s High Level Event in New York on September 22. This was attended by heads of government and state of over a hundred countries, an unprecedented number. A series of plenary sessions and round tables during the day ended with a private dinner for a small number of leaders chaired by Ban Ki-Moon. This included Presidents Obama, Hu, Medvedev, Lula, Zuma, Lee, Bachelet, Jagdeo, Sanchez and Sarkozy and Prime Ministers Brown, Hatoyama, Harper, Rudd, Hasina, Reinfeldt and Rasmussen. At the dinner leaders agreed to work with the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen in his efforts to search for agreement at Copenhagen. This gives us real engagement at heads of government level, which the PM has long argued will be essential to secure the deal. The statement Ban issued after the dinner (http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/sg2154.doc.htm) is indeed much more forward on a number of aspects of the Copenhagen deal than one might have anticipated, which illustrates the movement now being made by leaders. The main event Chair’s Summary is at: http://www.un.org/wcm/content/site/climatechange/lang/en/pages/2009summit.
Gordon Brown put forward in June a set of proposals for the Copenhagen financing package to assist developing countries tackle climate change. There were two aspects to the proposals: an architecture for providing and allocating finance which sought to meet concerns for both equity and effectiveness; and a 'working figure' for the negotiations of $100bn a year in public and private finance by 2020. At the point that he made the speech the EU had been unable to agree a climate finance position, no other developed country had put one forward, the developing countries were using this as a reason to hold back on their own offers to take mitigation action, and in the meantime were proposing contributions from developed countries of 0.5-1% of GDP, which were wholly unrealistic and did not frankly further the negotiation at all. I think it is fair to say that the PM's intervention has had a major impact in unblocking that impasse. The $100bn figure is now widely quoted as the ballpark; importantly, it was cited by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in his summary of the heads' dinner at the UN Summit, where the PM presented his proposals. The European Commission has also now published its own analysis, which uses a range centring around $100bn in 2020 for public and private finance flows (€100bn including self-financing by developing countries). The Prime Minister will now be seeking to turn this momentum into a clear EU public finance offer - conditional upon sufficient action from developing countries - at the European Council at the end of this week.
On the architecture of the climate finance package, there has been very considerable movement towards the Prime Minister's proposals, with the European Commission, the US and other developed countries now having put forward positions of a similar kind. Climate finance was the principal issue on the agenda of the Major Economies Forum on Sunday and Monday last week. The MEF brings together the 17 largest economies in the world; it was set up by the US Administration earlier this year to provide an informal space for exploration of the key issues of the Copenhagen deal. The MEF Summit held alongside the G8 in Italy in July established 2 degrees C as the global goal; this London meeting was the second since then at the level of Leaders' Representatives. At UK insistence, this was the first time that the meeting included representatives from poorer climate-vulnerable countries as well as those with the highest emissions.
Held at Lancaster House and co-chaired by Ed Milband and the US Deputy National Security Adviser Mike Froman, the meeting was conducted in a highly constructive atmosphere; there was a definite sense that the serious business of finding convergence between negotiating positions had to be done. This was particularly true on climate finance, where considerable agreement emerged between developing and developing countries on how finance should be governed in the Copenhagen agreement. There was similar convergence (if not yet final agreement) on other issues, including monitoring, reporting and verification and technology co-operation. The Chair's Summary of the talks captures the principal elements - see http://centralcontent.fco.gov.uk/central-content/campaigns/act-on-copenhagen/resources/en/pdf/mef-london-final-communique.
On climate finance the next stage is now the G20 Finance Ministers meeting in St Andrews, Scotland, on November 6 and 7. At the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh (as a result of another Gordon Brown push) leaders agreed to ask their Finance Ministers to look at options for the climate finance elements of the Copenhagen agreement. The UK chairs the G20 Finance Ministers, so while we cannot guarantee the outcome - some of the G20 countries have previously been reluctant to discuss this issue in that forum – we will be working very hard for substantive progress.
(It's worth noting while we are here that the G20 Pittsburgh Summit had another noteworthy result in the climate and energy sphere. This was the agreement to phase out domestic fossil fuel subsidies. This was a rather remarkable commitment which, if implemented, would have a huge impact on fossil fuel consumption in a large number of countries, simultaneously incentivising energy efficiency, renewables and nuclear. The full G20 communique is at: http://www.pittsburghsummit.gov/mediacenter/129639.htm)
The other visible area of progress on the road to Copenhagen over the last month has been in the commitments made by a number of individual countries. The UN Summit was perhaps most significant for the speeches made by President Hu of China and PM Hatoyama of Japan. Making his first ever appearance at the UN - to speak about climate change - Hu said that China would step up its efforts to develop a low carbon economy. In particular it would commit to reducing the carbon intensity of its economy (that is, emissions per unit of GDP) by ‘a notable margin’ by 2020 from its 2005 level. This is the first time that China’s leadership has committed to using this date and this metric, which combines all its currently separate indicators (energy efficiency, renewables deployment, etc) into an economy-wide figure. Carbon intensity multiplied by projected growth rate would equal China’s projected emissions in 2020, which is exactly what we need to know to ensure that the deal is ambitious enough. So this is a major step forward. But of course it really all depends on the figure for carbon intensity improvement to which China commits. We are pressing them to announce this before Copenhagen.
Hatoyama, fresh from his election as the new Prime Minister of Japan, committed his government to reducing emissions by 25% in 1990 levels by 2020, a major increase on the previous administration. He also announced that Japan would establish an emissions trading scheme, which provides further impetus to the development of a global carbon market. His and Hu’s announcements were followed a few days later by an equally significant statement from Indonesian President Yudhoyana, who said that Indonesia would aim to reduce its emissions by at least 26% over business as usual by 2020, largely through reductions in deforestation. This is the first quantitative commitment by a major non-OECD country. It is notable that Brazil has now also said in public that it will announce a quantitative goal for 2020, also focusing on reduced deforestation. There is undoubted movement among the developing countries here.
The UNFCCC negotiations, Bangkok
I should also say something about the formal UNFCCC negotiations in Bangkok. You may have read some of the more lurid press reports about what happened there, with the EU accused of wanting to abandon the Kyoto Protocol and so on. The truth is rather more prosaic. The EU merely restated its long-held position that the post-2012 agreement must include binding commitments from all major countries, including the US and China, which the Kyoto Protocol does not. That is frankly obvious. The EU believes it is best achieved through a single new treaty, which incorporates and builds on the key elements of the Kyoto structure - including binding economy-wide emissions caps for all developed countries and an expanded and strengthened carbon market. The rhetorical theatre which accompanies UNFCCC negotiations makes for good journalistic copy but doesn't always add to public understanding. In fact the negotiations did some good work, reducing a previously huge and unwieldy Copenhagen text to a much more manageable length, and establishing subject working groups to consolidate it further. In some areas there was some genuine convergence of positions. But overall the negotiators are still identifying options, not negotiating them, and with just one more negotiating week in Barcelona next month before the Copenhagen conference opens, it is all proceeding much too slowly.
'For the planet there is no Plan B'
So as the PM said in his speech to the Major Economies Forum meeting on Monday, it is clear that this process will not achieve an agreement in Copenhagen without political leadership. That is what Gordon Brown and other heads are now intensifying their efforts to provide. The PM warned that Copenhagen was a test of the international community's ability to tackle major global challenges: if agreement could not be reached, 'for the planet there is no Plan B'. I attach a copy, and you can also read it at http://tinyurl.com/yjx5o2h.
THE 4C MAP
I also wanted to alert you to the map published by the Government this week showing the impacts of climate change in a '4 degrees C' world. Launched at the Science Museum by David Miliband and Ed Miliband with the Government's Chief Scientist John Beddington, the map uses the latest peer-reviewed science from the Met Office Hadley Centre and other leading impact scientists. It's a useful campaigning tool. The map has been distributed via British Embassies throughout the world, with considerable media coverage: there are interactive and downloadable versions in 7 languages. It's available at http://www.actoncopenhagen.decc.gov.uk/en/ambition/evidence/4-degrees-map/
And finally… if you have managed to get to the end of this email and are still interested in more, I would urge you to go the Government’s Act On Copenhagen website, which contains news, videos and links on everything to do with Copenhagen - including the chance to pledge your support for an ambitious deal. It's at www.actoncopenhagen.co.uk
With best wishes
Special Adviser to the Prime Minister
10 Downing St
London SW1A 2AA