Summary of the talks so far
There is a longing for agreement in these rooms, but once again parties only seem to agree that they disagree. Sure, countries came to Bonn with an agreed Durban Platform, but they definitely have different views on what the agreements found there practically mean. With only three days left in the Bonn talks, countries have to now really hurry up and decide this year’s work-plan to advance the new Durban Platform process (ADP), increase ambition levels for emission cuts and climate finance, operationalize plans and important institutions, and conclude the work under the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) track and the Kyoto Protocol (KP) track. Progress is even more urgent in light of uncertainty as to whether there will be another inter-sessional, e.g. in Bangkok, ahead of COP18 in Doha at the end of the year.
Long discussions on Saturday and earlier today failed to appoint Chairs and settle on an agenda for the ADP. Views differ mostly on what the future agreement to be negotiated by 2015 will look like, whether, if and when developing countries will take binding targets to cut emissions, and whether ambition between now and 2015 or 2020 will be negotiated under the old LCA and KP tracks or as part of the new ADP platform. Different from the KP and LCA tracks, the ADP is about more – and possibly legally binding – action by developing countries, which is the main reason why everyone is so nervous about where these issues live. Another question is whether ambition should only be about mitigation, or if it should also include finance and technology, i.e. important means of implementing bigger mitigation efforts.
China – together with Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Ecuador and the Philippines – asked to take the contentious agenda item 4 off the agenda, to ensure it’s going to be addressed under LCA and KP where developed countries take binding targets while developing ones only commit to voluntary action. Other countries opposed this suggestion for varying reasons. AOSIS want to keep the ambition agenda within the ADP, worried it may not have a home once LCA may conclude at the end of the year. While the US wants to same because the firewall between them and China disappears. China’s desire to take ambition off the ADP agenda is mainly due to fears that developed countries like the US would jump ship from binding commitments under the Kyoto Protocol and mitigation rules discussed under the LCA.
The fight to determine which developing country will co-chair the ADP with developed country co-chair Norway – India or Trinidad & Tobago – also still needs to be resolved. After consultations over the weekend, one proposal suggests an approach with a rotating chair system with one of them starting this year, and then the other one taking over next year. Alternatively, NGOs are suggesting that in addition to a chair and vice-chair, negotiators should appoint a set of co-chairs of spin-off issues, to ensure continuity for the period of the ADP, creating a sort of permanent “friends of the chair” group with balanced regional representation. Shaking your head in disbelief? Well, everyone is very passionate, who is taking which seat can matter a lot, but going on like this much longer will be hard to tolerate.
Apart from the overall ambition discussion, work on the LCA, the KP and the subsidiary bodies SBI and SBSTA (which deal with Implementation and Scientific and Technological Advice) is moving forward in the regular settings and spin-off groups. Discussions on the new Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), Technology Executive Committee (TEC), the Global Climate Fund (GCF), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), agriculture and REDD are aimed at implementing decisions made in Durban. In the KP discussions, negotiators are dealing with ways to address the oversupply of pollution permits (so called Assigned Amount Units, or AAUs), the length of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and ways to strengthen Kyoto targets.
What is Happening?
People in Bonn are increasingly worried about perverse subsidies. Such subsidies are usually the reason why we can’t get rid of stuff we dislike and reject. Some vested interests make sure the subsidies continue, and we are faced with more of the same bad stuff we have been enduring far too long, rather than seeing the problem being replaced with a solution we like and enjoy. Who, for example, is subsidizing the terrible Maritim sandwiches that torture our taste buds? Clearly, it’s high time to break the influence of the crème-cheese-industry and the white-bread-lobby who are keeping healthy and tasty food off our plates in Bonn.
Faced with a choice, however, most people at these negotiations would probably prefer another Maritim sandwich to another agenda fight. And who is subsidizing those? Well, things are complex, but players who have no interest in action to tackle climate change also have no interest in swift negotiations that make progress and develop strong solutions – think vested interests that make their money with digging up and burning fossil fuels! They are definitely here, but stay mostly invisible, so on Friday some Youngo activists made an effort to expose them and shed some light on their activities in the shadows.
They staged a tug of war inside the Maritim, one side symbolising people from around the world pulling towards a clean and just future for all, while the other side showed dirty industry lobbyists pulling the rope towards their business interests. Negotiators passing by were invited to engage and decide which team they prefer to join (photos at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/
Subsidies are a hot topic in the Rio context, but are increasingly making their way into UNFCCC talks. On Monday, a number of parties spoke about the potential for eliminating such subsidies in order to help strengthen global efforts aimed at cutting emissions, an idea reflected in submissions by not less than 111 countries. In response to this increasing worldwide attention to fossil fuel subsidies, our partners over at Oil Change International have released a number of great materials. A new briefing on fossil fuel subsidies and the UNFCCC can be found at http://www.boell.org/web/52-
Just this weekend, the G8 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies in their statement coming out of the Camp David summit, as former CAN International Director David Turnbull reports on Grist: http://grist.org/article/
What can you do today?
With just 3 days left in the negotiations and uncertainty about more negotiating time before the crucial COP18 in Doha, negotiators finally need to start talking about WHAT they want to do WHEN to cut emissions, rather than WHERE in the labyrinth of the UN talks they are going to tackle the many important tasks at hand.
At the end of the day, the climate, our environment and future generations only care IF action is taken that ensures a swift transition to a more sustainable way of managing this planet, NOT whether it was on this or that negotiating track, and which fancy acronym governments picked to name their forum of choice.
Most importantly, action has to be fair and binding, and negotiators shouldn’t try to escape binding obligations by using cheap tricks that are not worthy of real and responsible leaders.
The US, Canada and China got Fossil of the Day awards yesterday, the first at this session. Help promote the Fossils, here is the link to the press release: http://bit.ly/May21Fossil, and here is a little visual for use in social media:http://facebook.com/tcktcktck
About the authorChristian Teriete
Christian is the Communications Director at the GCCA where he thinks a lot about reframing climate change communications to grow the climate movement and strengthen the mandate for political action.