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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

at COP15 « Previous | |Next »
December 17, 2009

I started monitoring proceedings of COP, the UN climate change conference, on the web last night. Since my bandwidth quota is close to full--its the end of the month--I could only watch for an hour or so. Many who have been registered as delegates are unable to gain access to proceedings and spend most of their day waiting in the queue.


What I saw was the proceedings bogged down by procedural wrangles --points of order. What I saw at the conference of the parties was unhappiness by Brazil, China and India about the failure of the Danish Presidency to present the text designed to establish consensus.The proposal, which involves keeping elements of the Kyoto Protocol structure, is said to form the basis for further negotiations which are now entering into a crucial final phase.

The impression I got was that they are getting nowhere, there are many unresolved issues and there is a growing frustration amongst the developing countries continues to build. Presumably, there is an intense power play going on behind closed doors. Some has to start giving ground somewhere.

Al Gore turned up and applied the pressure. He needs to because the average global temperatures rise by no more than two degrees now looks to be closer to 3.5 degrees with the current offers for greenhouse gas emissions on the table. You can kiss some island states goodbye.

I have no idea what is happening around the negotiations on the two track process (extending Kyoto and a forging new agreement to replace Kyoto). We do know that the rich states complain that Kyoto makes no demand on developing countries, particularly China and India, whose carbon emissions have risen fast and will dominate future growth. The rich nations want a fresh treaty, arguing the world has changed and the major emerging economies such and China and India must commit to curbing their huge and fast growing national emissions. However, the issue is that Kyoto is the only legal treaty compelling rich nations to slash their greenhouse gas emissions. Does that mean two draft treaties or one? It Depends on the balance of power I guess.

I do not know what compromises have been reached (if any) on the key issues: real reduction commitments from the industrialised world with targets and timetables, corresponding commitments to meaningful action by the large developing nations like China, India and Brazil, and money on the table to manage the transition to clean energy in the Third World. From what I can gather the draft text has not been made public. So it is safe to assume that there is still no agreement on a basic framework on which world leaders can negotiate.

Giles Parkinson at Business Spectator says that:

One of the working parties focused on creating an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol met until 7am on Wednesday, formulating a text that included so many brackets – following tit-for-tat gamesmanship between the US and G77 nations – that it was as good as useless as a document for the leaders. When the Danish hosts proposed their own text, minus a bunch of brackets, in an attempt to find a path forward, the representatives of China, India, and Sudan voiced their protests, accusing the hosts of imposing their own ideas. The ambassador from The Maldives rose to tell them to get over it, all to no avail.

Apparently, the Danish hosts had put the finishing touches to what they hope will be a compromise text, and were consulting a group of 25 ministers, including Wong. But even this was proving difficult, as ministers were hard to corral and appointments were not kept

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:18 AM | | Comments (8)


Expectations of a draft text being produced this morning failed to materialise. There is no draft. They have failed to broker an agreement and become bogged down in procedure.

Uncertainty about emissions cuts from the major developed countries plus America's insistence on a monitoring regime for emissions cuts by rapidly emerging economies had led to the impasse.

the power plays must be intense behind the doors. I understand that the Europeans are out to break the solidarity of the Africans, whilst Australia is telling the Pacific nations to shut up and get in line.

Still trying to conjure with that sentence about "being able to look my kids in the eye" etc, delivered with impeccable straight face.
For a closer look at the realities of Labor enviro, can I commend an article by Age journo Paul Austin just out, entitled:
"Back flips on protestors and privacy leave us all in the dark".
Not least because this article also dwells on other issues raised very recently here, that some found disquieting.

It is hard to get much insight into why things are bogged down in procedure. Leonore Taylor in the Australian has a go. She says that:

The big developing countries -- including the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, China, as well as India and Brazil -- have been successfully using the G77 negotiating bloc to employ the procedural blocking tactics that have so far prevented this conference from making even the tiniest steps forward.
Major developing world ministers are refusing to even take part in political-level talks about emission-reduction commitments by developing countries and how they should be verified.They fail to show for meetings.They refuse to even countenance discussion of a text drawn up by the Danish presidency that might give the 140 world leaders arriving here by the hour some hope of reaching a deal.

Maybe. But that account makes the US + Co the good guys.

The African and Pacific Island nations are very critical of the developed nations --US + Australia---for not doing enough to cut emissions to keep the global temperature rise to 2 degrees. 102 of the world's poorest countries are holding out for emission cuts that would result in a temperature increase of no more than 1.5C. Anything below that, they say, would leave billions of people in the world homeless, unable to feed their people and open to catastrophic weather-related disasters--- a 2C increase in average global temperatures translates into a 3–3.5C increase in Africa.

Augustine Njamnshi of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance puts the 2C proposal in harsh terms: "You cannot say you are proposing a 'solution' to climate change if your solution will see millions of Africans die and if the poor not the polluters keep paying for climate change."

Australia calls these kind of criticisms unproductive and works to get these poor countries to reduce their demands. The Alliance of Small Island States have made the right call because the more ambitious target of keeping warming below 1.5°C avoids passing the temperature tipping points for abrupt climate change which would cause severe sea level rise that would devastate their island nations. Australia is willing to sacrifice these small island states.

So an alternative narrative would be the G8 powers are willing to do just about anything to get a deal in Copenhagen that favours them.

A confidential UN analysis reveals that the emissions cuts offered so far at the Copenhagen climate change summit will lead to global temperatures rising by an average of 3C.

The analysis seriously undermines the statements by governments that they are aiming to limit emissions to a level ensuring no more than a 2C temperature rise over the next century. I reckon that since the negotiators know full well that the paltry emissions cuts they are proposing are a guarantee that temperatures will rise to 3+C

Why cannot the rich developed nations abandoned their attempt to kill off the Kyoto protocol in order to salvage a deal at the climate change summit in Copenhagen? They need to give ground.

Kyoto which places legally binding commitments on rich – but not poor – nations. What is wrong with a two track process,one part of which maintains the integrity of Kyoto?

An alternative narrative to that of Leonore Taylor's is that the attempts by rich developed countries to ram through a "Danish draft" resulted in China and other powerful emerging economies (Brazil, South Africa and India) lining up in opposition. In alliance with the African bloc and other members of the G77 group of developing nations, China has blocked a week-long attempt to kill off or downgrade the Kyoto protocol.

Developing countries rightly fear that the rich developed nations will ensure that a new treaty will not place strict and legally binding commitments on the developed countries to cut their emissions, unlike the Kyoto protocol. Hence the need for the two track process.

On the other hand, the most powerful developing nations do need to accept an international regime to monitor and verify their pledges to curb their emissions. National sovereignty is not an absolute--India and China are being too precious on this--and they need to give some ground on the accountability issue.

The African and Island states are quite rational to argu that they do not want the Kyoto track to be ended before new instruments are in place. They have a lot to lose. They do not want to be the ones sacrificed so that the US and Australia can protect and keep on running their polluting coal fired power stations.