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COP21: Did fossil fuel states negotiate with a fossil fuel vision and ignore the UNFCCC? PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Posted by Joan Russow
Wednesday, 23 December 2015 04:48

By Joan Russow PhD

Global Compliance Research Project



In the 2014 IPCC Report, the urgency of addressing climate change was reaffirmed;


The world is not ready for the impacts of climate change, including more extreme weather and the likelihood that populated parts of the planet could be rendered uninhabitable. The report argues that world leaders have only a few years left to reduce carbon emissions enough to avoid catastrophic warming, which would produce significant sea level rise and large-scale shifts in temperatures that would dramatically disrupt human life and natural ecosystems.


At COP21 Ban Ki-Moon urged States to negotiate with a global vision not from specific national interests”.


A global vision is not just ‘recalling”(Paris Agreement) but abiding by articles 2, 3. 4 in the legally binding 1992 United |Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This Convention which has been ratified by all member states of the United has addressed many of the contentious issues at COP21.


The1992 UNFCCC  was a global vision.  For the complete document see 



What COP21 should have been was a new global vision wtih legally binding actions to finally implement the biinding commitments and principles  in the UNFCCC 


In article 2 under the legally binding UNFCCC is the obligation :

….stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system

In COP21, there is the following; 

2(a)  Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;



A global vision  would be to address article 2 would be at a minimum to immediately end all subsidies for fossil fuel, to calculate the carbon budget for each state, to divest in fossil fuels and to reinvest in renewable energy, to conserve sinks (not  just as a means to offset emissions), to avoid all false solutions such as nuclear, geo-engineering and biofuels which would all violate principles within the UNFCCC and to compensate for historical  emissions.  



*A global vision would be to abide by legally binding principles under article 3 in the UNFCCC-


1. The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.

2. The specific needs and special circumstances of developing country Parties, especially those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, and of those Parties, especially developing country Parties, that would have to bear a disproportionate or abnormal burden under the Convention, should be given full consideration.

 3. The Parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures, taking into account that policies and measures to deal with climate change should be cost-effective so as to ensure global benefits at the lowest possible cost.


*A global vision would be abiding by legally binding commitments, not voluntary “contributions” (Paris Agreement)



1. All Parties, taking into account their common but differentiated responsibilities and their specific national and regional development priorities, objectives and circumstances, shall:

 (a) Develop, periodically update, publish inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of all greenhouses ….


Article 4 Commitments also  requires the following:

2(a) Each of these Parties shall adopt national policies and take corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change, by limiting its anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and protecting and enhancing its greenhouse gas sinks and reservoirs. These policies and measures will demonstrate that developed countries are taking the lead in modifying longer-term trends in anthropogenic emissions consistent with the objective of the Convention, recognizing that the return by the end of the present decade to earlier levels of anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol would contribute to such modification, and taking into account the differences in these Parties' starting points and approaches, economic structures and resource bases, the need to maintain strong and sustainable economic growth, available technologies and other individual circumstances, as well as the need for equitable and appropriate contributions by each of these Parties to the global effort regarding that objective. These Parties may implement such policies and measures jointly with other Parties and may assist other Parties in contributing to the achievement of the objective of the Convention and, in particular, that of this subparagraph;

(b) In order to promote progress to this end, each of these Parties shall communicate, within six months of the entry into force of the Convention for it and periodically thereafter, and in accordance with Article 12, detailed information on its policies and measures referred to in subparagraph (a) above, as well as on its resulting projected anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol for the period referred to in subparagraph

(a), with the aim of returning individually or jointly to their 1990 levels these anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol. This information will be reviewed by the Conference of the Parties, at its first session and periodically thereafter, in accordance with Article 7;


(c) Calculations of emissions by sources


Given that  the states had failed to return to 1990 levels by the end of the century in 2000.. If only they had returned to 1990 levels by 2000 then now in 2015, given the urgency and the lost time  in 2015  they must make even stronger commitments; 



Real commitments would be time lines and targets in line with existing and emerging science such as 15% below 1990 by 2016, 20% below 1990 by 2017, 30% below 1990 levels by 2018, 50% below 1990 levels by 2020, 65 % below 1990 levels by 2025, 75% below1990 levels by 2040 and 100% below 1990 emissions by 2050,  decarbonization with 100% ecologically sound renewable energy,  


*A global vision would also be to act on the preamble in the UNFCCC

Noting that the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries,…


While there is a section on |”loss and damage”, the developed countries  inoculate themselves by including the following statement;

52. Agrees that Article 8 of the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation;


*A truly global vision is expressed in the poem by Nigerian poet, Nnmmo Bassey. Leave crude  oil in the soil, coal in the hole and tar sands in the land https://pejnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9539:if-you-dont-leave-crude-oil-in-the-soil-coal-in-the-hole-and-tar-sands-in-the-land-i-will-confront-and-denounce-you-&catid=86:i-earth-news&Itemid=210

In addition, At COPs there is a fundamental  systemic constraint, “Consensus Prescription”,  which has benefitted   the fossil  fuel states

At international COPs there is a requirement of consensus.  At COP15,16, ...Papua New Guineaproposed a striving for consensus with a fall back vote of 75%. Over 75% of the states would agree to a strong legally binding protocol that would fulfill the obligation under Article 2 of the UNFCCC. Once there is a legally binding agreement, then the delinquent states should be taken to the International Court of Justice for failing to discharge the obligations under the UNFCCC.

At COP21, initially  under article 22 was the following provision: 


             [3. Without prejudice to the provisions of paragraph 3 of Article 15 of the Convention, the   Parties shall make every effort to reach agreement on all matters by consensus. If such   efforts  to reach consensus have been exhausted and no agreement has been reached,  a   decision shall, as a last resort, be adopted by a three-fourths majority vote of the Parties   present and voting. ]



While it was important to have included this provision for a majority vote under article 22, this principle should have applied to each article otherwise the Agreement would  have been compromised by states’ narrow visions.  In the end on December 12 Article 22 was removed and the document descended to the lowest common denominator.


Instead , the principle in article 22 should have been used in all the articles. If it had been used in Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, there would have been no reference to 2 degrees


 Joan Russow attended COP21 on behalf of the Watershed Sentinel and followed the press conferences given by scientists, human rights climate justice activists, climate refugees environmentalists, developed and developing countries, indigenous rights groups, divest and reinvest groups, end fossil fuel subsidies, health advocates, water campaigners and labour groups, farmers etc










Last Updated on Saturday, 30 January 2016 15:26

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