A rough guide to failure at Copenhagen

‘If Copenhagen isn’t destined to succeed’, asks chinadialogue editorial advisor Alex Evans, ‘then what are the ways in which it could fail?’

The following is an excerpt from Alex Evans ‘a rough guide to Copenfailure’ first published on the  global dashboard blog

– First, we could see a Bali #2 – in other words, talks conclude with a high level political declaration that’s spun as a breakthrough, but that actually has little more content than the Bali Action Plan that negotiators agreed in 2007. All the tough issues would be deferred to a COP15 bis follow-up conferenceor indeed to COP16 in December 2010 – or for that matter to an ongoing process like the Marrakech talks that followed Kyoto to hammer out the technical ‘rule book’.

– Second, we could find ourselves facing a Bad Deal – a situation in which a headline deal (with actual numbers) is agreed, but ambition is far below what’s needed to put the world on track for average warming to stay below two degrees C.

– Third, we could end up in a Car Crash – a scenario in which the talks end in outright collapse, with or without a commitment to keep talking.

As important as how the summit itself could fail, though, is the question of what happens next. One possibility is that failure at Copenhagen leads to a breakthrough, which is then followed by smooth and successful implementation (Good Deal). But two rather less attractive scenarios are also possible:

– First, the process could become the Multilateral Zombie that we talked about in our paper (pdf) on climate institutions earlier in the year: so despite efforts to resurrect the process at a COP15 bis (or later in the process), the requisite political will never materialises, and the UNFCCC process becomes a zombie – staggering on, never quite dying – just like the Doha trade round before it.

– Alternatively, it could succumb to Death by Climatocracy – in which an apparently ambitious deal fails during implementation, with inadequate attention paid to the supporting institutional infrastructure, and the deal slowly collapsing under the weight of its own complexity.

Alex Evans’ complete guide to Copenfailure is available at Global Dashboard.