For two years the world has negotiated for an equitable, ambitious and legally binding climate agreement on basis of the Bali Action Plan. And now we are being told that a legally binding agreement is not possible and that we should be happy with a political agreement/ statement at Copenhagen. The amazing part is that most people seem to have bought this idea without questioning what such an agreement is likely to achieve in the future. If two years can’t deliver a new legal climate regime than what is the chance of sealing an ambitious legally binding agreement in next six months or a year?
The idea of the political agreement was first floated by the Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark on 24 October 2009 at the GLOBE Copenhagen Legislators Forum. His justification for a political agreement at Copenhagen (he called it “the Copenhagen Agreement”) was that the negotiations are moving at a “painfully slow” pace and all the items will not be ready by Copenhagen. This was reiterated in the pre-Conference of Parties (pre-COP) meeting at Copenhagen in which our own environment minister Jairam Ramesh participated. In his speech at the pre-COP, Jairam actually conceded that a final agreement is not possible and that we should be happy with some agreements. From then on, the idea of a political commitment took its own momentum and quickly became acceptable to a large number of people, especially those representing the government and the media and even some NGOs. In fact, at Copenhagen most people are concerned about political agreement rather than a legally binding climate regime.
The fact of the matter is that a political agreement doesn’t mean that we will get a legally binding agreement. Bali Action Plan was as much a political agreement as it was a road map to achieve a legally binding climate regime for the world. Two years have passed since the Bali Action Plan but we still don’t have a legally binding climate deal. So don’t be happy if the world leaders agree at Copenhagen sign a (hallow) political agreement. It means nothing. The same old negotiating process will start again and the same old politics will resurface and we will back at square one.