Copenhagen leaks on Cancún

Guest post by chinadialogue intern Cao Jun

Familiar ghosts have been haunting the UN climate summit again this year. Unsurprisingly, wrestling among negotiators, lobbyists, scientists and activists in Cancún has echoed the stagnation of Copenhagen. And hopes for an advanced global mitigation commitment sparked a year ago are in ashes.

However a few days ago, WikiLeaks, the controversial cyber “Deep Throat”, stirred up the dust of Copenhagen, setting a fire in the backyard of several delegations, while allowing us to sneak a peek behind the scenes of a retrogressive Copenhagen Accord.

In one of the recent leaks, the whistleblower website revealed how the United States manipulated the Copenhagen Accord. Starting from June 2009, the US launched a diplomatic offensive. During a meeting in Brussels, US deputy climate chief Jonathan Pershing and the European Union’s climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, discussed using financial aids to put poor countries, especially the AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States), under financial pressure. The conversation also explored the possibility of avoiding payment for climate aid by using creative accounting methods.

Another cable from Brussels indicates that the US tried to draw Brazil away from the climate position of the BASIC group, relying on money as a potential lubricant. And later, the US pressured the UN to bar an Iranian scientist from a key position on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  

Such manipulation is nothing new to international talks and Cancún has not escaped. India’s environment minister Jairam Ramesh told media today that he was facing pressure from the Association of Small Island States and LDCs (least developed countries), backed by rich nations, to accept a legally binding agreement on emissions reduction.

Even the cable leaks may well be “one-sided and selective”, as Hedegaard responded in a press conference, this Hollywood-like drama of conspiracy has further rattled already shaky trust between nations and organisations in Cancún. Most worrying is the fate of these small and poor island countries. While developing countries like the BASIC group can still hold “non-negotiables”, these countries have nothing to bargain with – on or under the table.

The current situation is like a gradually sinking cruise ship with passengers from first and second class arguing about who should throw away their luggage first, while those from the third class, with little luggage and voice, have no option but to watch water flooding into their cabins.