Bonn Negotiations, May 31st-June 11th, 2010: U.S. Submission

Bonn Negotiations, May 31st-June 11th, 2010: U.S. Submission

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Last December, President Obama accepted a Nobel Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” and his “constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.” He characterized the Prize as “as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.” Yet in Copenhagen, President Obama squandered a historic opportunity to embody this necessary leadership in the global fight against the climate crisis.

The recent submission by the United States to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ahead of the Bonn intercessional negotiations from May 31st-June 11th, 2010 suggests that its leadership is wanting. Indeed, it suggests that the United States is unwilling to negotiate within the terms agreed to by the international community or to accept a meaningful international framework to address climate change—and may actively undermine the existing framework, exemplified in the points below:

  • The U.S. opposes a science-based aggregate target for developed countries.

Rather than negotiating a principled, fair and science-basedtarget for developed countries, it proposes making the aggregate targetfor developed countries “the sum” of whatever global warming pollution they “choose” to reduce. In other words, there is no guarantee that developed countries will do a fair andadequate share of curbing their climate-disrupting emissions.

  • The U.S. opposes comparability of reduction efforts between countries.

Despite clear agreement to do so under the Bali Action Plan of 2007, the U.S. includes no provisions for comparability of efforts between countries. Without an aggregate target for developed countries, the need for comparability among them is even more important. However, the U.S. has opposed the inclusion of effective provisions for comparability.

  • The U.S. opposes commitments that are binding.

While the U.S. claims to support a legally binding outcome, its proposals are substantially non-binding. There is no mechanism to ensure that countries comply with their declared reduction targets, or to even undertake any proportion of the target through domestic efforts. There are no penalties for failing to meet a target.

  • The U.S. refuses the development of clear rules for emission reductions.

Having proposed substantively non-binding, non-comparable,non-science based, self-defined ‘targets’ for developed countries, the U.S.proposes achieving these targets through any “means provided for under theirrespective laws and policies.” In other words, there would be no effectiveinternational regulations on how those targets are to be achieved, providingnumerous loopholes for countries’ actual reductions and disconnecting targets from the objective of environmental integrity.

  • In fact, the U.S. refuses to negotiate its targets at all.

The U.S. continues to submit that developed countries should be able to “choose” and announce their own reduction targets, and not to negotiate them with other countries. It supports the Copenhagen Accord as “deferring to Parties in terms of deriving their respective mitigation undertakings.” This proposal minimizes any opportunity to review the effectiveness of countries’ actions and counters the need for climate negotiations on targets at all.

  • The U.S. rejects a set of goals reflecting all the elements of the Bali Action plan.

Developing countries have called for a balanced set of goals reflecting all elements of the Bali Action Plan. The U.S. opposes goals for emissions reductions framed in terms of technology or financing, or goals relating to funding for vulnerable countries to adapt to the climate crisis. Instead, it supports a 2 degree Celsius global increase above pre-industrial levels, when this implies catastrophic impacts for many developing countries, and over 100 countries demand a goal to limit warming to well below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

  • The U.S. seeks to undermine the consensually agreed negotiating text.

To advance its goals, the United States submission attemptsto elevate the status of the controversial Copenhagen Accord to equality orabove the Copenhagen negotiating texts, which were adopted by consensus. This is difficult to reconcile with directions to the Chair of thenegotiations to draw on the agreed Copenhagen text when developing anegotiation text.

  • The U.S. ignores existing United Nations financial obligations and institutions.

In its approach to issues of finance, the U.S. continuesto ignore its obligations under the UNFCCC. It promotes scales of financethat are woefully inadequate and disconnected from any scientific or economicanalysis. Also, it promotes the primacy of the World Bank rather than theUNFCCC as the institution to govern climate finance—in direct opposition tothe wishes of many countries and in a manner that undermines the role of theUNFCCC on climate issues.

  • The U.S. refuses to show appropriate leadership or responsibility.

The U.S. submission is inconsistent with the UNFCCC’sprinciples of responsibility and capacity—even though these were agreed to byPresidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. Rather than adopt commitments comparable to other developed countries, the U.S. is proposing an approach that would lower standards applicable to developed countries and threatens to undermine the work of all countries since the UNFCCC’s inception.     The United States’ submission displays a clear intention of the Obama administration to limit the scope of the climate negotiations. It is basically unwilling to negotiate on aggregate targets, on the comparability of targets, on the means to achieve those targets or the connection of those targets to other goals—elements basic to any climate negotiation.   The United States intends to ignore its historical responsibility and to block agreement of the climate outcome the world demands and needs. In essence, in order to avoid political pressure at home and save face abroad, the Obama administration seeks to replace the rule of law with a system that suits its short-term political needs.   The world aspires to a climate deal that works. The Nobel Committee endorsed Obama’s appeal that “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.” It is now time for that appeal to be endorsed by President Obama.