What ‘Plan B’ for Copenhagen Climate Change Conference Might Look Like

By | October 16, 2009

Negotiators are already talking about “plan B” for the Copenhagen climate talks in December, with uncertainty growing that nations will be able to agree in time on a tougher and broader U.N. climate pact.

While that might sound bad, some analysts say that none of the major players is talking about “no deal,” just a deal that will take a little longer to agree on.

The following are possible scenarios for the Dec 7-18 Copenhagen talks.
The U.S. Senate passes its climate bill before Copenhagen, allowing Washington to offer a 2020 emissions reduction target and substantial funding for poorer nations for climate change adaptation and green energy technology.

Developing nations agree to formally include their emissions reduction actions into a new climate deal. They also agree to report regularly on how these efforts lead to a substantial reduction in the growth of their emissions and to open up such efforts to independent scrutiny.

With these steps, other rich nations toughen their 2020 emissions reduction targets, pledge near-term climate financing and agree on the need for substantial longer-term financing, how that money will be raised and how it will be managed.

In reality, the U.S. Senate might pass the climate bill in the first part of 2010, allowing President Barack Obama’s administration to bring a 2020 target and financing pledges to the table during a major U.N. climate meeting in Bonn in June.

At worst, nations would have to wait until annual U.N. climate talks in Dec 2010.

In addition, developing nations say they have concerns about the legal nature of a broad climate pact, particularly over efforts to set aside or radically overhaul the Kyoto Protocol.

Copenhagen might instead yield an agreement deciding on the political essentials and add conditional offers by China, India and other big developing nations based on what the United States was prepared to do once the legislation passed.

Global conservation group WWF says the essentials would include: a clear indication of the sources and methods of funding and to ensure the money comes from predictable revenue streams; clarity on the bodies managing the money and the level of developing country representation; and immediate funding.

Failure to at least agree on this could lead to just a broad political statement at the end of Copenhagen on what the structure of a new agreement should be.

The U.S. Senate votes against the climate bill, but other nations reluctantly go ahead with many measures to fight climate change anyway hoping the United States will formally join the global effort at some point.

In the worst-case scenario, negotiations start to resemble failed trade talks that repeatedly stall. Nations instead work on bilateral clean-energy and carbon offset deals that fail to achieve major reductions in the growth of emissions.

(Sources, WWF, The Nature Conservancy, E3G) (Additional reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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