EU Outlines Perspective for the Copenhagen Agreement

Today, the European Commission released proposed outlines for the EU's negotiating position for the agreement to be reached in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009)-in EU parlance a "Commission Communication".  It outlines the Commission's proposal for an EU position going into the international negotiations that begin in earnest the end of March.

They proposed some interesting outlines that I've spoken of before that will be a crucial part of the Copenhagen agreement (see my New Year's Resolution for some thoughts).  Here is what they proposed.

Developed countries should take leadership by taking on further absolute economy-wide reduction commitments in the range of 25-40% by 2020 for the group.  Some part of this reduction would be achieved through domestic action and some portion could be achieved by purchasing emissions reduction credits from developing countries.

How this effort is shared by each individual developed country should be based upon comparable effort guided by the following four criteria (I provided input in my old job for analysis that discussed additional criteria and conducted analysis of different criteria for key countries).  I'll have a separate post on this point later, but the EU suggests the following four criteria:

  • Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita to reflect whether your country is on average "richer"
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) per unit of GDP to reflect whether a country is producing the same level of economic output with similar levels of emissions.
  • Trend in emissions from 1990 through 2005 to reflect early action
  • Population trends to reflect how much your emissions growth is being driven by your increasing population compared to others.

Binding emissions reduction commitments for existing countries and some new ones.  In particular, they propose that binding commitments are taken on by all Annex I countries under the UNFCCC, all members of the Organization Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and all present and future Member States of the EU.  This effectively means that Mexico, South Korea, Turkey (as current OECD members not subject to binding commitments under the Kyoto Protocol); Cyprus and Malta (as EU Member countries not subject to current binding commitments); and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro (as Candidate and potential EU Candidate countries) would be subject to binding commitments.  In the future it could mean Chile as well (as they are in discussions to join the OECD).  These countries combined account for emissions greater than Japan's total emissions so their participation would be a significant change from the current approach.  

Developing countries undertake significant emissions reductions on the order of a 15-30% cut below the levels that they would be otherwise (as this study discussed), including a rapid decrease in emissions from deforestation (as they proposed earlier).  By the end of 2011 they propose that all developing countries, except the poorest, commit to adopting "low carbon development strategies.  These strategies should cover all key emitting sectors, especially the power sector, transport, energy-intensive industries, and forests.  For the vast majority of countries inclusion of these sectors alone would account for the majority of their emissions so these plans would be roughly equivalent to a national strategy to reduce emissions.  These plans and developing country commitments are structured in a two-part manner (similar to the framework we've proposed here and the South African Environment Minister recently outlined as I discussed here):

  1. "autonomous actions" that are mainly financed and implemented by the developing country on their own (we've termed it their "domestic action"); and
  2. supported actions that require assistance from developed countries (we've termed this their "stretch target").

As I said on National Public Radio's Marketplace today:

"Developing countries are now saying that we'll be willing to take some action on our own.  And we would be willing to go even further if we were provided with a set of properly designed incentives."

Performance-based incentives from developed countries linked to the level of mitigation from developing countries.  Access to international funding would be premised on the development of a robust low carbon development strategy.  In outlining their low carbon development plans, countries would outline the financial assistance needed for their "stretch target" and the form of that assistance.  The proposed actions from developing countries would be entered into an international registry with clear provisions for monitoring, reporting, and verification of actions (similar to the approach that the South Korean Climate Ambassador proposed at a press roundtable we hosted).  This structure would create a dynamic of "performance-based" incentives provided for developing countries as an incentive to increase their emissions reduction effort (as I've discussed as a strategy to evolve from "offsets" to sectoral approaches).

Reform and Phase-out of the Clean Development Mechanism to credit actions that only go beyond low cost or win-win options.  And for advanced developing countries and highly competitive economic sectors (e.g., cement and steel) the CDM should be phased out and moved to cap-and-trade systems, possibly through a sectoral approach.

We'll see how others respond to these ideas at the negotiations the end of March.  There has been some criticism that the EU didn't propose specific amounts of money to assist developing countries in emissions reductions, supporting deforestation reductions, and addressing adaptation.  I think the EU is probably holding out details of what money they'll be willing to put on the table until later in the negotiations.

A roadmap to Copenhagen? 

Only time will tell, but this opening bid from the European Commission provides some interesting details on proposed structures for the Copenhagen agreement.  It outlines an intriguing vision from a major player in the international negotiations.  And it builds upon some of the hints from developing countries that have emerged recently.

So it is definitely worth a read for any country serious about getting a strong agreement in Copenhagen.