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Copenhagen accord in the making

World leaders are working hard this evening to clinch a deal in Copenhagen at the climate change talks. The conference looks like it will deliver a political at the very least, though negotiations on how strong that agreement will be is expected to last well into the night.

The political agreement will provide content for a legal binding agreement and serve as a kind of roadmap for a final agreement. The Mail & Guardian has seen a draft of the agreement, known as the Copenhagen accord, which was released at 17:30 this afternoon South African time.

A third draft envisions a legally binding agreement, that will be subjected to international law, to be signed in all probability in Mexico City in a year’s time.

But the draft seen by the M&G was still weak in comparison of what was needed and no country had committed to any emission cut in the annexes, though the draft suggested that rich countries or Annex 1 as a whole would cut its emissions by 80% by 2050.

It said that developing countries or non-Annex 1 countries would have to report its national mitigation action every two years to an international panel. The actions would be ‘subject to international measurement, reporting and verification”, which essentially meant that the world would be looking over the shoulder of developing countries to ensure they were doing something, even though they didn’t have legally binding caps.

No figures
While the draft took into consideration two baselines as a starting point for capping emission, namely 1990 and 2005 as an accommodation of the US’s position, no figures had been negotiated and filled into the text.
The draft also committed countries to keeping temperature rise to under 2C.

Critics of the draft said that no outcome would be much more preferable to the weak paper that was circulating Bella Centre at the moment.

‘What will [UN Secretary-General] Ban Ki-moon tell us about this paper. Everyone knows it means nothing,” disappointed African delegate told the Mail & Guardian. Sources close to the negotiations said that the high level negotiations were being driven by President Lula da Silva from Brazil, the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and US president Barack Obama. Obama and Jiabao had also held bilateral talks to iron out the huge differences between the world’s biggest two emitters.

Controversial Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi was also understood to be part of the group of 25. Zenawi earlier upset the Africa group by talking bilaterally to French president Nicolas Sarkozy over a finance deal.

Unconfirmed sources said South Africa’s lead negotiator Alf Wills was also playing an important role in hammering out the accord.

Weak speech
Obama delivered what was called a ‘weak and disappointing speech” by NGO’s two hours after his arrival, but has since been locked in high level talks with other heads of state, to try to hammer out an acceptable agreement.

Earlier Obama shied away from making ambitious commitments in his speech.

China was a major force at the talks and its influence was felt widely on Friday. The Chinese had built a strong alliance with Brazil, South Africa and India., and became known as BASIC. All four countries are developing at a rapid pace and have to be conscious of any caps imposed on them that might curb their grownth.

Together they have formed a strong voice opposing many of the weak pledges made by rich nations.
India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, told Indian newspaper the Business Standard that the two sides meet up to six times a day.

Earlier in the day Zuma called on rich nation to shoulder the brunt of the burden. He repeated South Africa’s pledge that with the necessary support South Africa would be able to reduce its global emission by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025.

Take the lead
”Developing countries are ready to play their part in reducing global emissions but obviously rich countries have to take the lead,” he said.

He said he accepted that legal binding agreement would no longer feature at Copenhagen.

”We wanted a legally binding agreement but accept the progress that has been made,” he said.

Zuma said he was disappointed that more steps hadn’t been taken along the path to a global agreement.
”We need to move with speed to finalize this and to overcome those areas of agreements for the sake of our children,” he said.

South Africa also confirmed that it would be hosting the climate change negotiations in two years time, when a the legally binding agreement, now bound for Mexico City is likely to be ratified.

View our special report on Copenhagen with blogs, videos and more here.

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Yolandi Groenewald
Yolandi Groenewald
Yolandi Groenewald is a South African environmental reporter, particularly experienced in the investigative field. After 10 years at the Mail & Guardian, she signed on with City Press in 2011. Her investigative environmental features have been recognised with numerous national journalism awards. Her coverage revolves around climate change politics, land reform, polluting mines, and environmental health. The world’s journey to find a deal to address climate change has shaped her career to a great degree. Yolandi attended her first climate change conference in Montreal in 2005. In the last decade, she has been present at seven of the COP’s, including the all-important COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. South Africa’s own addiction to coal in the midst of these talks has featured prominently in her reports.

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