It was rather excruciating to watch the negotiating at the UN Copenhagen Conference or Cop15 (15 Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I began this blog post some days ago but stopped in wonderment at the mayhem generated by the negotiations and the thousands of civil society groups. On the latter, I was reminded of my own experience in Seattle 10 years ago. Now that was mayhem! But it looked much like that a few days earlier inside and outside the Bella Centre where demonstrators sought to push their way into the Convention Hall. Even more curious – indeed rather incomprehensible – some African delegates walked out of the Conference to protest the sidelining, as they saw it, by developed countries of emission targets. These countries did return but you have to ask yourself – who need’s a serious agreement more than just about anyone – well it’s the Africa countries (and of course the small Island countries). And in a time-limited negotiation setting – who is suspending the negotiations – well I am bewildered.
Well, let’s turn back to Cop15 and what is now called the Copenhagen Accord – the non-binding and non-consensus pact arrived at the conclusion of the Copenhagen Conference. What features of the conference and the accord bear most directly on the Rising BRICSAM states? I think there are two in particular.
The first underlines what I have argued in prior blog posts (example, “The Tyranny of Universalism – The Rise of ‘New’ Institutions in Global Governance”) – that the UN consensus model is inappropriate for forging key global governance decisions. The emergence of the Gx process may be frustrating to many of the ‘193’, but it’s not accidental or serendipitous. The occasions for the ‘tyranny of universalism’ have been severally restricted or eliminated in a widening range of key global governance issues. Climate change appears to be yet another such arena. As New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, has just written (“Off To the Races” - Sunday, December 20, 2009):
Indeed, anyone, who watched the chaotic way this conference was “organized,” and the bickering by delegates with which it finished, has to ask whether this 17-year U.N. process to build a global framework to roll back global warming is broken: too many countries – 193 – and too many moving parts.
While an agreement was arranged – though limited and non-binding – it is evident that the negotiation proceeded among the key carbon emitters – most of whom are the rising power. Notwithstanding the machinations of the key figures – notably Premier Wen Jiabao - the tough work was concluded among the leaders of the US and the ‘almost G5’ – here Brazil, China, India and South Africa – missing only Mexico. It cannot be a surprise – but the insistence on consensus dies hard in global governance.
The second key lesson concerns ‘like-mindedness’ and China’s role. Let me take a pause and return to this in the next blog.