Top of the COPs

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Copenhagen, Denmark (COP 15) Dec. 7-18, 2009

Focus: In the run-up to COP 15 in Copenhagen, the goal was that of a new global climate agreement — more ambitious, more expansive and more inclusive than Kyoto — to kick in after Kyoto expired in 2012. This hope lay in a two-track action plan that was intended to simultaneously address the global emission-cutting objectives of the 1994 UN convention while updating the developed countries’ obligations under Kyoto.

Outcome: Measured against pre-conference expectations, Copenhagen was a failure. But seen in review, much was achieved. It was a death knell for Kyoto’s unworkable two-tier structure, says Gray Taylor, a lawyer specializing in emissions trading. “[Developing countries] were saying, ‘Common but differentiated responsibilities means we don’t do anything, while you developed countries do it all.’ We had to get off that track.” The most noteworthy document drafted was the Copenhagen Accord, a list of principles that reflected strong political will to control carbon and address climate change, including a commitment to limit the maximum global average temperature increase to 2 C. For the first time, too, developed countries (including the U.S., which had returned to negotiations in 2007) pledged concrete dollar amounts — US$30 billion between 2010 and 2012 — to reduce GHGs and address climate change adaption in the developing world.

Challenges: Although the new commitments were impressive, there was no agreement on specific measures or methods to achieve them. While the Copenhagen Accord was eventually endorsed and recognized by the COP, the process that produced it was deeply flawed; it was drafted in private by just five countries (the U.S., China, India, Brazil and South Africa).

Canada’s role: Canada ultimately signed the Copenhagen Accord and in the process pledged to reduce its GHG emissions by 17 per cent from its 2005 levels by 2020. When measured against the 1990 base-level year used in the Kyoto Protocol, however, that represented just a three per cent cut — half of the six per cent Canada was legally required to achieve by 2012.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]

Doha, Qatar (COP18/CMP8) Nov. 26-Dec. 8, 2012

Focus: In 2011, in Durban, South Africa, delegates had agreed on a new, legally binding deal including all countries that was to be finalized no later than the 2015 Paris COP21 meetings. The focus in Doha was setting a timetable to reach this deal by 2015, while also finalizing an agreement on a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol that would bridge the gap from 2012 until the new all-country climate deal takes effect in 2020.

Outcome: A set of actions, under the umbrella of the Doha Climate Gateway, set the stage for the Paris 2015 agenda. Heading the list: amending the Kyoto Protocol to establish a second, 2012-2020 commitment period as planned. With this done, countries would be able to focus solely on working towards the new global deal in 2015.

Main challenges: Many details, disagreements and commitments remained to be ironed out before 2015; the parties were also required to announce their planned emission cuts in advance of COP21. Due to a higher number of countries not committing to (or withdrawing entirely from) Kyoto, the treaty’s scope was limited to countries responsible for just 15 per cent of global emissions.

Canada’s role: Canada had announced its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011. Doing so allowed Canada to avoid paying the penalty for failing to hit our pledge targets, but it set us apart as the only country to ratify Kyoto and then later withdraw. Since then, notes Harris of the International Institute of Sustainable Development, while the country’s official position has been that we’ll have nothing to do with the second Kyoto Protocol, we remained a party to the UNFCCC, submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions in the lead-up to Paris, and took an active role in negotiations for the agreement.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]

– Brian Banks

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