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WikiLeaks, Climate Politics and Cancun

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The past few weeks have been “eventful” in the climate change arena. The whistle-blower group WikiLeaks exposed some obscure practices surrounding international climate negotiations (which have been called by some climate bullying, bribery, espionage, blackmail and dirty diplomacy).

The confidential US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal how US and EU governments used money, threats and espionage to gain support, particularly from developing countries, for their “climate” agenda at the United Nations Climate Summit (COP 16) last year in Copenhagen. The objective of the US diplomatic offensive was to gain political backing for the controversial “Copenhagen Accord”.

The Copenhagen Accord is an unofficial document (that is, not adopted in the UN process), which serves many of the US interests. The accord allows that each nation chooses more amenable targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts, and cannot guarantee the cuts needed to avoid dangerous effects of climate change. Also, it threatens to circumvent the UN efforts to extend or craft an adequate replacement for the Kyoto protocol, by which developed economies have binding obligations. As a result, strong objection to the Accord mounted among many countries, particularly developing nations and those nations more vulnerable to climate change. The mission of the US were then to overwhelm such opposition – by gaining support of as many countries as possible, it would be more likely that the Accord would be officially adopted.

The leaked diplomatic cables show how nations such as the Maldives, Saudi Arabia and representatives from the Alliance of Small Island States and African Union were “persuaded” to back up the Accord. They also reveal the US determination in forging alliances against their most influential adversaries: Brazil, South Africa, India and China.

Currently, the Copenhagen Accord is backed by 140 countries – which comprise 75% of the countries that are parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and are responsible for over 80% of greenhouse gas emissions.

See some of the US diplomatic cables relating to climate change:

  • On potential financial and technical support to Saudi Arabia in diversifying its economy in the face of climate change
  • On the prospects of US and EU bringing nations to support the Accord
  • On the Dutch government’s ploy to solicit support for the climate Accord from countries receiving development assistance
  • On the Maldives government promise to support the Accord in exchange for US funding
  • Meanwhile, the first major UN meeting on Climate Change after the failed Copenhagen Summit took place in Cancun, Mexico. Expectations were naturally low. None the less, modest progress was made in relation to cutting carbon emissions, climate aid, preventing deforestation, enabling technology transfer and monitoring emissions. These outcomes are far from “saving the planet”; however, for many commentators the Cancun agreements help restoring credibility of UN’s negotiation process.

  • WikiLeaks cables reveal how US manipulated climate accord (guardian.co.uk)
  • Cancun climate agreements at a glance (guardian.co.uk)
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