Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:33 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:33 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Climate and UNSC bid


Sam Roggeveen


15 December 2009 10:36

Tim writes:

I saw some of the ABC2 news program this morning, which got me thinking. I wasn't paying 100% attention until it was too late (trying not to burn myself while ironing a shirt), but I gather there was a 'walkout' from the Copenhagen summit by a reasonable number of national delegations in reaction to a watering down or non-continuance of the present Kyoto agreement.

Two things that I think were in the news item:

  • that apparently a large number of these delegations were from Africa and other less developed nations; and
  • the walkout was in response to Danish and Australian positions on the continuance/extension of Kyoto (wish I'd paid a bit more attention to this bit, as I might have it wrong).

In any case, my question is, will Australia have spent its diplomatic capital to achieve Kevin Rudd's dreams in Copenhagen at the expense of a serious tilt at a UN Security Council seat, in light of the need to win/convince Asian and African voters in the Security Council election? I leave aside any opinion on the worth of lobbying for a Security Council seat, let alone actually obtaining one.

Ironing is one of those bits of domestic drudgery that allow for deep thought, so I know exactly where Tim is coming from.

If you look at the ABC's online coverage of this story, it seems that Tim wasn't too distracted, since he has the details about right. So, Tim now has a stiff collar AND he's better informed about climate change — that's a morning well spent.

The reason why the G77 group of (mostly African) states is so exercised by the efforts of rich countries to (as they see it) kill Kyoto is connected to the larger issue of mandatory emissions reductions, which developing countries say should not be imposed on them. As Fergus Green explained in the post he wrote for us yesterday from Copenhagen:

The substantive dispute over the nature and extent of developing country commitments is also wrapped up in a debate over the legal form that a new climate agreement might take. Developed countries want a single new treaty that incorporates key elements of the Kyoto Protocol but also provides a framework for mandatory developing country emissions reductions.

Developing countries want simply to amend the Kyoto Protocol to require deeper emissions reduction targets from developed countries, with additional issues such as finance, technology, deforestation and adaptation to be addressed through a package of decisions by the Conference of the Parties. Small island states want an immediate, two-treaty solution that would both extend Kyoto and incorporate the additional issues into a new 'Copenhagen Protocol'.

As for Tim's question about Australia's UNSC tilt, my guess is that it would only do modest damage to our chances of getting African votes. National positions on climate change have been well set for some time, so the Africans could not have been too shocked by Australia's views. There's every chance that this walk-out was just a bit of theatre to improve the G77's negotiating position.

For more on the merits of Australia's UNSC bid, here's Michael Fullilove on the case for, and Raoul Heinrichs on the case against.