• GHG Emissions Reductions Commitments and Financing for Developing Countries Remain Hurdles to Agreement in Copenhagen
  • December 18, 2009 | Authors: Susan Parker Bodine; Nathan A. Stokes; Anthony C. Sullivan
  • Law Firms: Barnes & Thornburg LLP - Washington Office; Barnes & Thornburg LLP - Indianapolis Office; Barnes & Thornburg LLP - Washington Office; Barnes & Thornburg LLP - Indianapolis Office
  • The first full week of the Copenhagen climate change conference has provided some indication of what future U.S. climate change regulation may look like. While the ultimate goal of the conference is to build on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions-reduction efforts since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the practical goal for many participating countries is to involve the U.S. and rapidly developing countries, such as China and India, in future climate change commitments. With that, the primary, and most controversial, topics to date have been the GHG emissions reductions commitments for those countries, the manner in which developed countries (e.g., the U.S.), will assist financing developing countries’ climate change efforts in the short and long terms, and whether newly joining parties will be required to meet Kyoto commitments as part of any agreement reached from Copenhagen.

    Three “draft” agreements have been offered to date by the Dutch, a conference working group, and the small island nation of Vanuatu; however, the likelihood that any final agreement emerges by the end of the convention is small. Instead, the participating countries are now negotiating whether to try to finish their work at a June meeting or at the next annual U.N. conference in Mexico City from Nov. 8-19, 2010.

    The timing of the next meeting will affect the timing of U.S. climate legislation. The U.S. has consistently indicated that its final commitments to GHG emissions reductions will be consistent with U.S. law. As a result, President Obama will want a climate bill on his desk before the next climate meeting so that U.S. law can drive, rather than be driven by, the international negotiations.

    Even if a U.S. climate bill is signed into law, the financing issue may continue to make agreement elusive. While the European Union has made a short-term pledge of $10 billion to start financing developing countries, the U.S. has been sparring with China over whether developed countries should finance developing countries at all, without stricter commitments from the developing countries and an effective tracking system for their emissions reductions. If the U.S. ever agrees to financing developing countries, then significant political questions will emerge regarding the source of funding for the U.S.’s financing commitments.