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Fiddling While The Planet Burns

Fiddling While The Planet Burns

December 15, 2009 Copenhagen Update: We are uploading this detailed communication from Malini Mehra, Centre for Social Markets to give Sanctuary followers an idea of the confusing circumstances that prevail at the Copenhagen Climate Conference.


Sanctuary’s view is that advisors to country heads continue to treat Copenhagen as yet another United Nations negotiations shop – the kind they have been used to post World War II. This is a huge error of judgment on the part of nations and their representative who naively imagine that the planet has infinite patience. It does not. There is no bandwidth available to the talk-shop professionals who are holding the planet to ransom. Time is inelastic and nature is poised to send all nations, rich and poor, the kind of consequences that we have not even begun to imagine in our worst nightmares. Ed. Sanctuary Asia.


Headline News


1. COP President, Connie Hedegaard and UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer signal a crucial point reached in negotiations – with only 48 hours to go, de Boer says today marks a “distinct and important moment.”
2. Africa group speaks of its dissatisfaction with the process and complains about being sidelined in the process, initiates a walk-out of the KP Plenary to signal displeasure.
3. Chaos at entrance to Bella Centre with introduction of pass system to manage numbers as 46,000 try to squeeze into place designed to hold 15,000.  NGOs on verge of mutiny at lack of access. De Boer calls Copenhagen the most transparent COP he has been to in 14 years.
4. France and Ethiopia issue joint call to limit warming to 2 degrees and ensure adequate financing for vulnerable countries. Call for tax on international finance transactions and marine/ aviation taxes to raise innovative financing for climate action.
5. EU Commissioner Dimas defends EU’s commitment to the KP reminding that EU member states have translation KP commitments into domestic law – with many going far beyond KP – and are heavily invested in schemes such as CDM, accounting for 80% of the 24 billion dollar spend on CDM credits. No intention of ‘killing the Kyoto Protocol’ as accused by G77/ China, but seek to build upon it.
6. Jairam Ramesh, Indian Environment Minister calls Australia ‘Ayatollah of the one-track’ for its insistence on a comprehensive, single outcome.
7. With ministers converging, progress on KP remains stalled and CMP is adjourned as Chair calls for a Contact group to progress negotiations.
8. LCA plenary held up as a consequence. Africa group, China and others determined that LCA will not take place until progress assured on KP track.


Key issues of the day


Ministers have begun to arrive in Copenhagen today marking the second stage of this three stage process at the Conference of Parties in Copenhagen. With the third and final stage about to start on Thursday with the arrival of 113 heads of state,  COP President, Connie Hedegaard, reminded everyone that “Ministers would need to be extremely busy and focused over the next 48 hours if we are to succeed.”


She summarised the key ‘five crunch issues as the following:


1. Annex 1 (industrialised countries) mitigation targets
2. Non-annex 1 mitigation actions – especially from advanced developing countries
3. Finance – especially long-term finance
4. Bunkers (maritime and aviation)
5.Special circumstances of countries linked to mitigation (response measures)


Yvo de Boer admitted that “haven’t seen enough progress” and more ground needs to be covered. Very important phase now and needed a “step-change” in the negotiations with arrival of ministers. He admitted the process would be tough and that “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” They had now brought 192f horses to water … 193 with the recent (10 December) addition of Somalia which had become a COP member.


Parties continued to position themselves with the Africa Group standing its ground that no progress would be made on the KP unless their fears of Annex 1 countries seeking to “kill the Protocol” would be met. They initiated a walk-out by several African ministers which brought a halt to the KP plenary proceedings. Negotiations moved into Contact groups.


When the KP plenary resumed in the evening – after a four-hour delay – there was continuing disagreement on the CMP KP with the entire text remaining bracketed. Reference years for Annex 1 targets remained undecided and the chair decided to forward options for text to help the AWG KP and CMP to come to an agreement. Key issues such as targets had been referred to ministers for further consideration as these would most likely be subject to political decision-making above the level of negotiators. Echoing the thoughts of many, Switzerland said “each time we meet in drafting groups, we add things, but go nowhere.” After some to’ing and fro’ing, the draft report was adopted with no further objections to be forwarded to the COP Presidency.


France and Ethiopia issue joint initiative


In a move that was surprising as it was bold, France and Ethiopia, representing Africa, launched today an appeal to all Parties to “adopt an ambitious agreement on 18 December limiting the increase of temperatures to 20C above preindustrial levels, as recommended by the IPCC, and ensuring that vulnerable countries will receive adequate financing to face the challenge, translated into a legal international instrument as early as possible in 2010.”


They called for a “halving of global CO2 emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. This implies, according to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, that developed countries commit to reducing their emissions by 80% at least by 2050 and to adopting coherent and comparable mid-term objectives.” Further they called for “the most advanced developing countries” to adopt “ambitious low-carbon growth plans and actions aimed at yielding a significant deviation of CO2 emissions compared to “business as usual” scenarios and compatible with the recommandations (sic) made by the IPCC.”


The proposal called for 40 % adaptation funding for Africa in light of the continent’s climate vulnerability. A proposal sure to cause much discussion with other vulnerable countries from across AOSIS and the LDCs who seek their own breakdowns of the funding pot. In a move reminiscent of France’s push in other quarters for innovative finance mechanisms to support climate adaptation, the two countries also called for the “creation of a tax on international financial transactions [Tobin tax] and consider other sources such as taxes on sea freight or air transport [bunkers].” (Brackets added.)


The joint France/Ethiopia initiative is sure to set the cat among the pigeons and be seen by some in the G77/China as a ‘disloyal’ act by Ethiopia (a fellow G77 member), but such transboundary initiatives are occurring more frequently now – witness the joint Norway-Mexico proposal for a Green Fund - and mark the slow re-shaping of intergovernmental bloc politics. One only hopes that they bring much needed political momentum to the negotiations in their final days.


Focus on the GOI


Still no press conferences announced by India – only two so far in the last nine days – so information is gathered through interventions in meetings. A number of other developing countries – Brazil, Indonesia, AOSIS, Africa Group, G77/China – are holding daily press conferences but India is communication-lite at this COP.


One of the few visible interventions was by India in the KP Plenary this evening when the country made its displeasure at the current state of the KP known, noting that “We have what we have, but it is in no shape to go to the Minister.”


There were also reports of Minister Jairam Ramesh having snubbed COP President Connie Hedegaard in her request for India and Australia – the traditional developing/ developed country model – to co-chair a meeting to break the deadlock between countries on the one-track/ two-track approach.


According to Australian press reports, the Minister said, "Australia is sort of the Ayatollah of the single track" referring to the country’s determination to get a one-track outcome from the Copenhagen climate talks. The so-called Australia proposal, backed strongly by the US, Japan, New Zealand and Canada, calls for all UNFCCC parties to put their commitments onto a joint ‘registry’ of mitigation actions. In effect a ‘Pledge and Review’ system as favoured by the US.


Developing countries such as India have resisted this arguing that it dissolves the distinction between Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 developing countries. They see it as threatening the two-track approach that had been enshrined in the Bali Action Plan – binding commitments for Annex 1 parties under the Kyoto Protocol track, and non-binding commitments for non-Annex 1 parties under the Long-term Cooperative Action track. Australia objects that this would place no legally-binding obligations on non-Annex 1 parties such as the USA and let advanced emerging nations such as China and India off the hook.


In an attempt to overcome differences, the COP President, Connie Hedegaard, had asked Jairam Ramesh and Australia's Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, to meet and thrash things through with other nations including China and Brazil. Minister Ramesh then reportedly pulled out of the talks saying he was "too busy" to chair a three-hour meeting with Senator Wong, adding “Penny Wong remains a good friend of mine, a very valued colleague" but he would not be  chairing a session with her.


The move has raised questions about how closely India is cleaving to her ‘red lines’ such that even meetings to discuss non-negotiables become non-starters.


The fear for India appears that even agreeing to such a meeting could force the country to soften her stance principally rejecting any parallelism with Annex 1 countries –  potentially the thin end of the wedge to binding emissions targets for major developing countries.


Whatever the reason, diplomatic friction has now been caused and we await clarification on this – and other GoI moves at this crucial juncture – in Copenhagen tomorrow.


For further details log on to: https://www.csmworld.org/


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