NZ knew about leaked 'Danish Text'

Nick Smith. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Nick Smith. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand officials were consulted over a document which has compromised climate talks in Copenhagen, but consider it only one of many to be discussed.

Environment Minister Nick Smith confirmed officials at the United Nations conference had seen the "Danish Text", which has provoked criticism from developing countries who fear it will shift more of the burden to curb greenhouse gases on to poorer countries.

The text, leaked to the Guardian newspaper, suggests world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN's role in future climate change negotiations.

The Guardian reported it was shown to only a handful of countries since being finalised.

However, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Yvo de Boer said it was an informal paper and held no power.

Dr Smith backed that view and said New Zealand had been consulted about the document, which was likely to be just one of many.

"Quite clearly if we are going to make progress there are going to need to be papers distributed among delegates."

They were not the only proposals that had been discussed, Dr Smith said, and he would not say whether New Zealand supported the document.

The document is being interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals.

Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairman of the group of 132 developing countries known as G77 plus China, said: "The text robs developing countries of their just and equitable and fair share of the atmospheric space. It tries to treat rich and poor countries as equal."

The text is a draft proposal for the final agreement that should be signed by national leaders at the end of the Copenhagen summit on December 18.

It was prepared in secret by a group of individuals known as "the circle of commitment" but understood to include the United States and Denmark.

"This text destroys both the UN convention on climate change and the Kyoto Protocol.

"This is aimed at producing a new treaty, a new legal initiative that throws away the basis of [differing] obligations between the poorest and most wealthy nations in the world," said Mr Di-Aping.

Antonio Hill, climate policy adviser for Oxfam International, said it was only a draft "but it highlights the risk that when the big countries come together, the small ones get hurt".

Kim Carstensen, head of the climate initiative for the environmental group WWF, said: "The behind-the-scenes negotiation tactics under the Danish presidency have been focusing on pleasing the rich and powerful countries rather than serving the majority of states who are demanding a fair and ambitious solution."

Six New Zealand politicians are travelling to the conference - Dr Smith, Prime Minister John Key, Trade Minister Tim Groser, Labour MP Charles Chauvel and Green MPs Jeanette Fitzsimmons and Kennedy Graham.

* Why there's anger

A confidential analysis of the text by developing countries states the draft would:

Force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement.

Divide poor countries further by creating a new category of developing countries called "the most vulnerable".

Weaken the UN's role in handling climate finance.

Not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.

* Rivals speak up

"The text robs developing countries of their just and equitable and fair share of the atmospheric space. It tries to treat rich and poor countries as equal."
- Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese chairman of the group of 132 developing countries known as G77 plus China.

"This was an informal paper ahead of the conference given to a number of people for the purposes of consultations. The only formal texts in the UN process are the ones tabled by the chairs of this Copenhagen conference at the behest of the parties."
- UNFCCC executive secretary Yvo de Boer.

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING: AGENCIES

- NZ Herald

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