Home » Uncategorized » Obama’s “Copenhagen Accord” – UNFCCC turns to WTO?

President Obama’s proposed “Copenhagen Accord” aims to shift from developed
to developing countries the balance of “common but differentiated responsibilities” that have been bedrock principles of equity in the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), reaffirmed in the 2007 Bali Action Plan’s carefully constructed negotiating mandate for the
Copenhagen conference.

If agreed, it would—in addition to enshrining scientifically unsound
emission reductions and promising entirely inadequate finance for poorcountries—establish new obligations on developing countries. The result could be the removal of the linchpin on a raft of new responsibilities on developing countries’ policies at a time when the US itself has yet to enact any of its own obligations assumed almost two decades ago.

One indication of the new obligations to be imposed on developing countries is the mere amount of text: almost three times more detailing specific obligations for developing than developed countries.

In addition, President Obama explained in his Bella Center press event that:

“The way this agreement is structured, each nation will be putting concrete commitments into an appendix to the document, and so will lay out very specifically what each country’s intentions are. Those commitments will then be subject to a international consultation and analysis, similar to, for example, what takes place when the WTO is examining progress or lack of progress that countries are making on various commitments…So that’s why I say that this is going to be a first step…this is going to be the first time in which even voluntarily they offered up mitigation targets. And I think that it was important to essentially get that shift in orientation moving, that’s what I think will end up being most significant about this accord.”*

Essential to what would be new for Non-Annex I Parties to the Convention are that “Mitigation actions taken by Non-Annex I parties will be subject to their domestic measurement, reporting, and verification the result of which will be reported through the national communications every two years…with provisions for international consultations and analyses” (President Obama underscored this last phrase four times in his brief remarks).

The WTO counterpart to this proposed UNFCCC process would of course be the Trade Policy Review Mechanism, which is sort of a policy police for each countries’ trade measures and practices. International reviews with determine if countries policies are in compliance with world trade rules.
While the current proposed Copenhagen Accord does not go that far it may extend to similar disciplines eventually. Earlier drafts said that, “A consultative process, the Periodic Forum, is hereby established which will compromise all parties convening regularly to consider the climate policy and practices of parties. The consultative process shall be based on the report of the national authority which will include its national inventory.”

Obama’s UNFCCC move must be seen in the context of the same power dynamics in play at the World Trade Organization, where developed countries promised to reduce export subsidies and increase market access upon WTO’s establishment of a legally binding deal in 1994. But 15 years after developing countries opened up their farming sectors to subsidized imports from developed countries (that undercut small farmers in developing countries and threaten food security), the United States still has not implemented its commitments, even after losing to developing countries several WTO legal challenges. Now, as a precondition for concluding the current Doha round of world trade talks, developed countries are demanding that developing countries “pay twice” by opening their markets even more in exchange for implementing what was already agreed before.

Resolving the global climate crisis means the world must move from a competitive to a cooperative style of international relations, where President Obama lives up to his prize-winning multilateralism and United States pro-actively builds trust with developing countries.

Let this begin in Copenhagen.