On January 24, 2010 the so-called BASIC Bloc - (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) held its second meeting since the Copenhagen Summit last December. The BASIC Bloc, along with the United States, were among the key players involved in last minute efforts to put together the Copenhagen Accord at the end of December's meeting.

In a joint statement the Ministers expressed their intention to communicate information on their voluntary mitigation actions to the UNFCCC by 31 January 2010 and called for the early flow of the pledged US$10 billion in 2010.

The Ministers spoke of the importance of the Copenhagen Accord as "representing a high level political understanding among the participants on some of the contentious issues of the climate change negotiations" but emphasized a negotiating agenda very much in keeping with the approach leading up to Copenhagen that started in Bali two years ago. The statement says:

"The Ministers underscored the centrality of the UNFCCC process and the decision of the Parties to carry forward the negotiations on the two tracks of Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) under the Convention and the Ad hoc Working Group on further emission reduction commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) in 2010 leading up to COP-16 and COP/MOP6 at Mexico. The Ministers reiterated that all negotiations must be conducted in an inclusive and transparent manner."

The Ministers also called on the COP 15 President (Denmark) to convene meetings of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC (AWG-LCA) and the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) in March 2010, and to ensure that the those groups meet at least five times before the Mexico Conference. (See previous post for a brief summary of the outcomes of the AWG-LCA at Copenhagen.)

It appears, then, that it's back to the "Bali drawing-board' as far as the BASIC Bloc is concerned.

This message is at odds with the flurry of sentiment following Copenhagen that the UNFCCC will likely (or should ) disintegrate into more manageable negotiating frameworks such as the G-20 or Major Economies Forum. See for example,remarks by US policy analyst, Robert Stavins.

It is difficult to imagine, however, that the G20 or something like it could establish an agreement framework that would go beyond the type of high-level political agreement exemplified by the Copenhagen Accord.

As reported in the Canadian Press, Canadian Environment Minister Prentice appears to agree that any international agreement would require consensus beyond the G20 to be legally binding.

We are therefore left with the question: is the Copenhagen Accord a turning point in international climate talks or does it simply amount to a high level announcement amidst what is shaping up to be a long-term, incremental, negotiating process under the UNFCCC?