15 October 2009

Waiting for Inspiration

By: Kaavya Nag

Copenhagen-minus-two round of climate negotiations came to a close last week, on 9th October. Complicated as multilateral negotiations are, this one was particularly successful in spreading some serious despondency. This was particularly so because many big hopes had been reserved for the Bangkok talks.

As far as the negotiation process, it was hoped that a massive negotiating text would be seriously edited in the eleven days (and nights) of negotiations. As far as ambition and political will go, it was hoped that the highest level lobbying by Ban ki-Moon at the UN Secretary General’s climate summit would push political leaders to scale up their ambition, put finance on the table, and some targets to reduce industrialized country emissions for a post 2012 agreement. But also that these political statements would be converted into negotiating text.

Within a few days of the negotiations commencing, it was clear that negotiators did not have a mandate from political up-aboves to move on any of the big stumbling blocks. There was still a massive silence on the scale of finance that industrialized countries would put on the table, on the nature of the financial architecture, on their emission reduction targets up to 2012. Therefore, they did not have the mandate to cut down any text. Progress on substance was minimal, all text is still bracketed (and that means it is still to be edited) – an estimated 2500 brackets (possibly more) are said to be in the current text.

To make the waters murkier, new proposals and text continue to be put forward, when realistically speaking there is little time even to whittle down what text is already in hand. However, the nature of this process is that it is Party-driven. So Parties are allowed to make it as messy as they want to, or as neat as they prefer. New ideas on the nature of a post 2012 agreement are also on the table. Some Parties have suggested that the Kyoto Protocol be done away with (the only legally binding agreement to ensure that industrialized countries meet their commitments), and that the architecture and legal framework of Kyoto be taken into a new Copenhagen outcome. Opposing this is most developing country Parties that categorically do not want the Kyoto to die, and do not want a watered down deal in Copenhagen that does away with international legal commitments and brings down the level of ambition.

What Copenhagen holds, only December knows. Will we get a Greenwash, Failed or an Above-Expectations ambitious deal? Will there be a political declaration or a legal framework? Will the United States come on board? Will the scale of finance be announced? Will developed country Parties agree to deep cuts in emissions by 2050, without heavy dependence on offsets? Will key developing country Parties agree to ‘significant deviation from business as usual’ by 2050? Will technology transfer and capacity building be made accessible and affordable?

Should individual Parties stall domestic action until a multilateral deal gets done? If history is any precedent, countries must not wait to action their domestic plans. International finance may take many years to come, by which time enough damage will have been done to deplete state coffers significantly.

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