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Yvo de Boer: The “Danish Text” Sunk COP15

Despite the flourishing rhetoric at the outset of the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen last December, by the time the conference got underway it was already apparent that the degree of tension and mistrust between the developed and developing world would likely hobble efforts to negotiate a “fair and binding” agreement to deal with climate change at an international level.

By the time the conference had ended, the entire UN process of climate negotiations was called into question as unwieldy and ineffective; many accused the UNFCCC as a body past its prime. The outcome seemed to bear that out as the disappointing Copenhagen Accord put forth “aspirational goals” settled upon by closed-door negotiations amongst a small group of nations.

But it was the “Danish text” written by Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen that set the tone for suspicion and back room dealings pitting rich against poor, developed against developing nations. So says UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer in a letter (pdf) written to his colleagues only days after the conclusion of the conference, and just released in a book by Danish journalist Per Meilstrup. In the letter, de Boer lays much of that failure and mistrust at the feet of the draft text from Rasmussen:

[It] destroyed two years of effort in one fell swoop,” de Boer wrote to colleagues. “All our attempts to prevent the paper happening failed. The meeting at which it was presented was unannOne ounced and the paper [was] unbalanced.”

The draft text was meant to be revealed when the talks met in deadlock – a sure thing to happen – but the problem, de Boer implies in his letter, was that the draft text was clearly advantageous to the United States and the west, steamrolling the poorer developing nations. The text was leaked to the press after it was presented to a few countries a week prior to the start of COP15. Not surprisingly, the approximately 157 countries that did not get to see the draft before it was leaked were offended and outraged, and the talks faltered from the start.

In his book, however, Meilstrup characterizes the Danish text as the “jewel in the crown of the presidency’s strategy,” saying that in fact the draft was “quite fair and balanced” and stood a chance of success if it had been presented in a more diplomatic fashion. Had it been so, a “much stronger outcome” would have resulted from the two-week climate summit.

All those heads of state a “mistake”

In his letter, Yvo de Boer also commented that in the end, inviting all the heads of state (120 in all) to the conference turned out as a serious mistake:

Inviting heads of state seemed like a good idea. But it seriously backfired. Their early arrival did not have the catalytic effect that was hoped for. The process became paralysed. Rumour and intrigue took over”, de Boer wrote in his letter.

Sources and further reading:
Guardian
Copenhagen Post

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