Matthew Knott writes from Copenhagen:

The bombshells are raining down so hard and fast here at the Copenhagen climate change summit that somebody had better build a bunker.

The smoke hadn’t even settled on the “climate gate” email affair when news of a leaked secret draft Copenhagen Agreement written by the Danish Prime Minister and the spooky-sounding “circle of commitment” — a group including Kevin Rudd and the leaders of other industrialised nations — exploded at lunchtime on day two.

Suddenly the mushy day-one platitudes of co-operation and consensus were gone, as developing nations accused richer countries of sabotaging the UNFCC negotiating process and attempting to saddle the third world with the costs of tackling climate change.

The so-called “Danish text” is a “serious violation that threatens the success of the Copenhagen negotiating process”, said Sudan’s Lumumba Stanislas Dia Ping, who heads the G77 group.

“This is a very serious development; a very unhelpful development,” he said. “The principles that this text is based on are inhuman.”

The only problem is that many of the most frightening aspects of the “Danish text” appear to be imaginary. Props must be given to The Guardian for bringing the leaked secret draft to light, but not for quoting, without even the slightest scepticism, the claims of NGOs and developing country delegates pushing their own agendas.

Take one of The Guardian’s claims currently echoing through the blogosphere: “The draft hands effective control of climate change finance to the World Bank”. In fact, the text doesn’t even mention the World Bank. Rather, it advocates that a climate fund “under the guidance of”, “accountable to” and “elected by” the UNFCC Conference of Parties be set up to finance mitigation and adaptation in the developed world. An International Climate Financing Board, made up of developed and developing country representatives and led by the UNFCC secretariat, would also be set up.

The World Bank scare — talked up by NGOs such as  Oxfam and Friends of the Earth — seems to come from one, rather vague line: “Support from the fund may be channeled by multilateral institutions or directly to national entities”. Hardly sounds like a transfer of power from the UN to the World Bank does it?

The claim that the agreement, if approved, would “not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes” also has a bad smell about it. No such figures are contained in the draft itself, which proposes emissions cuts of 80% by 2050 for developed countries.

Writing up secret draft agreements without first consulting developing countries is certainly a bad look for COP15 Denmark, shattering its image of an honest broker seeking to build compromise.

And although it gives no detail on 2020 emissions targets, the “Danish text” is not the work of the devil that it is being sold as.

“Overall the text, if agreed, would provide a framework for an agreement that could lay the foundation for an ambitious global agreement,” says Erwin Jackson, of the Climate Institute.

As well as the 80% by 2050 emissions pledge, it also includes recognition that global temperature should not rise beyond two degrees and flags a mechanism for financing renewable energy uptake in the third world by shipping and environmental levies.

The Guardian got the story half-right: the “Danish text” is worrying, but for what it doesn’t say rather than what it does say.

Where are the genuinely ambitious emission pledges from the US and other developed nations? Obama’s promised 17% reduction on 2005 levels by 2020 represents a measly 4% on 1990 levels.

And if the world can finance trillion dollar bank bailouts why can’t it do the same to prevent African and Bangladeshi children dying from climate change-induced floods and droughts?

China, Brazil, India and South Africa are said to have developed their own draft agreement as a counter to the “Danish text” and the G-77 is planning to do the same. Stay tuned: this battle is only just beginning.

Peter Fray

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