Running to some 200 pages, the draft agreement is being discussed for the first time this week as officials from 190 countries gather in Bangkok for the latest round of UN talks. There is only one short meeting after this before they meet in Copenhagen aiming to hammer out a final version.
The draft text consolidates and reorders hundreds of changes demanded by countries to the previous version, which saw it balloon to an unmanageable 300 pages. It has no official status yet, and must be formally approved before negotiators can start to whittle it down. Here, we present key, edited sections from the text and attempt to decipher what the words mean.
The text includes sections on the traditional sticking points that have delayed progress on climate change for a decade or longer.
• How much are rich countries willing to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, and by when?
• Will large developing nations such as China make an effort to put at least a dent in their soaring levels of pollution?
• How much money must flow from the developed world to developing countries to grease the wheels and secure their approval? How much to compensate for the impact of past emissions, and how much to help prevent future emissions?
According to the UN rules, for a new treaty to be agreed, every country must sign up – a challenging requirement. The new treaty is designed to follow the Kyoto protocol, the world’s existing treaty to regulate greenhouse gases, the first phase of which expires in 2012. Because the US did not ratify Kyoto, the climate talks have been forced on to awkward parallel tracks, with one set of negotiations, from which the US is excluded, debating how the treaty could be extended past 2012. This new text comes from the second track, which lays out a plan to include all countries in long-term co-operative action.
Behind the scenes, pessimism about the Copenhagen talks is rising. Despite references in the text to a global goal and collective emission cuts of 25-40% by 2020 for rich countries, many observers believe there is little chance such an approach will succeed.
Stuart Eizenstat, who negotiated Kyoto for the US, said: “Copenhagen is more likely to be a way station to a final agreement, where each country posts the best that it can do… The key thing is let’s not go into Copenhagen with all the same kind of guns blazing like we did in Kyoto.”
A top European official told the Guardian: “We’ve moved on from the idea that we can negotiate on targets. That’s naive and just not the way the deal will be done. The best we can get is that countries will put in what they want to commit to.”
Once all the carbon offsets – buying pollution credits instead of cutting emissions – and “fudges” are taken into account, the outcome is likely to be that emissions in 2020 from rich countries will be broadly similar to those in 1990, he said. “That’s really scary stuff.”