18 March 2010

LH asks Prime Minister to reject Copenhagen Accord

Dili, 16 March 2010
Excellency Mr. Xanana Gusmão
Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

La’o Hamutuk is writing this letter to you regarding the result of the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009. La’o Hamutuk participated in this conference, and we continue to help Timor-Leste’s government and people to understand this important issue, and take constructive action.

We believe that Timor-Leste Government delegation has already presented the outcome of the Copenhagen Conference to you, and you will decide whether to accept or reject it.

After returning from the conference, the Government of Timor-Leste has not yet made a decision on the Copenhagen Accord (CA). We’re happy that the Timor-Leste government is taking some time to consider this accord before making a decision, because it will be a very important decision. And as we suggest below, we ask the Timor-Leste to reject this Accord.

Below are some points we think that the Council of Ministers should consider before making a decision about the CA.
  1. The government of Timor-Leste has ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Kyoto Protocol (KP), because Timor-Leste has a strong commitment to contribute to repair the climate. The CA is not consistent with Timor-Leste’s objective and commitment on climate change. It came from a small group who don’t want to take responsibility for their actions which have destroyed the global climate. We know that the Timor-Leste delegation went to the conference in Copenhagen with a clear and good position, and we hope they continue to have the moral courage to defend their position. This position is defended, not only by Timor-Leste, but also by many small and poor countries that have been hit hard by the negative impacts of climate change.
  2. Timor-Leste is part of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Small Island Developing Countries (SIDS). Based on information from the government delegation to Copenhagen, Timor-Leste represented these groups in negotiations with developed and industrialized countries. This was a big honor for Timor-Leste, and we hope that we will not betray it, the honor to defend small developing and small islands countries’ rights.
  3. The fourth report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that if the world does not decrease its emission by 40-45% (from 1990 levels) by 2020, and by 85-90% in 2050, the earth will face a huge disaster, and many small islands will disappear. This does not include countries that will suffer because of the sea level rising, hotter climate, drought, etc. Timor-Leste has the moral responsibility and national interest to defend small countries and small islands’ right to continue to exist.
  4. Some countries have associated with the Copenhagen Accord. Timor-Leste may also be tempted to associate to this Accord to get funding from the Green Climate Fund, or to get access to other facilities. But this accord is not a Conference of Parties (COP) agreement, so it does not replace funding under UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol. We believe that funding under Kyoto Protocol, such as the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), is currently enough for Timor-Leste to implement initial actions related to climate change. We think that by associating with the Copenhagen Accord, small and poor countries will weaken their positions in COP 16 (Mexico) and other future negotiations, and this is certainly will make it more difficult to achieve a just solution for climate change. It is not correct that we can only be involved in future negotiations on climate change by associating to this accord, because the negotiations about climate change in COP are done under the UNFCCC, not the Copenhagen Accord.
  5. The Copenhagen Accord contradicts some basic principles of the UNFCCC, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. It also contradicts the Kyoto Protocol because it leaves it up to the developed countries to reduce their emissions, with no legally binding targets. It is not a democratic agreement because it was decided only by a small group of countries, not by all countries in COP. This is against the principle of consensus in the UNFCCC. If Timor-Leste associates to this Accord, we are going against some principles in UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol that we have ratified.
  6. The Reduction Emissions from Forest Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) mechanism is a market mechanism that will give very little benefits to developing countries, compared to the disaster caused by emissions from developed and industrialized countries. Taking care of their forests is an action should that all developing countries should undertake for their own good, and developed countries should not count it as emission reduction by their country only because they funded it. REDD+ is injustice for developing countries because it inflicts negative impacts on people living near or in forest areas, whose livelihoods depend on the forest and whose culture links them with the forest. Timor-Leste, with or without the REDD mechanism, has to take care of it forests to protect land, water, flora, fauna and other forest resources that have been destroyed over hundreds of years.
  7. Finally, we think that it is important for you to talk to people in countries that have suffered and continue to be highly vulnerable to climate change, in Africa, Latin America, and other countries who have suffered the most from climate change. What they want? Should developed countries to reduce their emissions, or to they want to be paid to take care of their forests? The UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol clearly give the responsibility to developed countries to do both. They have a climate debt they should pay.
  8. Recommendation

There are two positions for the government of Timor-Leste to consider:

  • “Wait and see”, to know if the developed and industrialized countries propose adequate emission reductions, or not.
  • Reject and not associate with the Accord

La’o Hamutuk recommends that the Timor-Leste Government reject the accord based on the reasons we have described. But, if the government of Timor-Leste insists on associating with the accord, we recommend that you to take the first option: wait and see the commitments from developed countries to reduce their emissions before making a decision. Associating with the accord before knowing the commitments from developed countries is signing a blank check for them. Timor-Leste needs to consider that the Copenhagen Accord is not based on the principles in the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol.

That’s all our opinion and recommendations, thank you for your consideration of this letter, and we believe that you will make a wise decision on this issue.


Ines Martins, Juvenal Dias and Maximus Tahu
Climate Change Team - La’o Hamutuk

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