Good COP, Bad COP

What the deal would look like
by -- December 17th, 2009

Dinner with negotiators describes the increasingly unlikely deal

While we seem to be hurdling towards a very basic political agreement on emissions mitigation, adaptation, (and everything else besides forestry), several gentlemen involved in the negotiations last night detailed the deal that they thought could be made.  I am holding their names anonymous to keep to my word, but at a very high level dinner last night, they described that the grand deal has really only 3 elements: (1) tonnes, (2) money, and (3) measurement, reporting and verification.  In other words, there needed to be (1) sufficient GHG emissions reductions; (2) sufficient financing for the developing world; and (3) sufficient verification requirements for the U.S. to guarantee that China was living up to its word.


On the question of “tonnes,” the thought was that cumulative global emissions needed to descrease to 44 million by 2020, 35 million by 2030, and 20 million by 2040.  The “bottom up” approach of pledging emissions reductions appears to have gotten that 2020 number to about 47 billion, so they felt we were not far away.  The ask: perhaps the U.S. could agree to 2-3% more by 2020, influencing China to commit to raise its 45% emissions intensity target (emissions per GDP) to the 50-55% range, which would then trigger the EU to raise its 2020 level to a 30% reduction rather than a 20% reduction.  When pressed on how the U.S. might otherwise start this chain reaction, as an additional 2-3% reduction by 2020 might be an impossible political lift, they hypothesized that the U.S. could make up for it with a further 2030 reduction.


On the question of “money,” they pointed out that the African nation’s leader in the negotiations had asked for $50B annual by 2015 and $100B annual by 2020.  (Apparently that same leader is taking some heat from his own constituency for even putting a number on the table).  They thought that, for the developed world, no deal should be left undone for such “small” numbers, and also thought that the Africans would not walk away as long as the number was close to the target.  The U.S. share of a final number?  “About 30%.”


And on “measurement, reporting and verification,” or “MRV”?  They thought it was a nonissue substantively, as scientists has sufficient capability of verifying emissions with remote means such as satellites.  But they also acknowledged that it was a very salient political issue in the U.S. — as one said, “you cannot agree to something if you cannot answer a Senator’s question of ‘how will we know that China is doing what they say they will.'”  Negotiators are working hard to find text that threads the needle between the need to answer the U.S. Senate’s questions and China’s need for respect for its sovereignty.


So there you have it — the terms of a deal that could happen, according to those involved in the negotiations.  Will it?  Their read is it is unlikely to occur here — one said he flies back and forth between hope and despair, so check in with him in a few hours.  But maybe the issues have been sufficiently narrowed so that progress can be made in the future.

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