What do countries think about the Durban Platform for enhanced action?

by nathan thanki

Welcome to the first COP of the rest of your lives. Though Copenhagen will forever remain the most widely observed, undermined, devastated, ruinous UNFCCC meeting, it wasn’t until Durban that the sea change became official. US lead negotiator Todd Stern’s famous “if equity is in, we’re out” sneer epitomised the new paradigm that is being cemented in the climate negotiations. Justice, both inter- and intra-generational, is out the window. Decision 1/CP.17, which established the ad-hoc working group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), blew the negotiations wide open (as you will recall from my previous entry). While this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing—indeed we are all of course depressed that there hasn’t been a meaningful emissions reductions legal instrument—it depends on how the ADP approaches its work of creating a new legal outcome by 2015. Will it support and complement the Convention and its provisions and principles, or will it undermine them and undercut justice? As this is a country driven process, it is all up to the Parties to direct proceedings…so it is worthwhile to have a look at some of their thoughts regarding the ADP.

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How did we get to Doha

A brief(ish) history of the UNFCCC and a peek into the future

by nathan thanki

People ask us “what’s going to come out of Doha” as if these negotiations were disconnected from prior negotiations on climate change. A clue is in the name: it is the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18). In order to know what to expect in Doha, we must therefore see it in context; this requires both a historical understanding and an understanding of the current political landscape. Developments at COP17 last year in Durban marked a new chapter in the unfolding saga of the climate regime, and we are still trying to decipher what the long term legal and political implications could be. This blog entry will look briefly at the main ‘big picture’ developments, attempt to unpack the outcome of Durban, and offer some outlook for Doha and beyond.

If you’re really rushed for time, my basic conclusion is that while advocates of climate justice might see some wins and many losses on a more technical level in Doha, in terms of the bigger picture we are dangerously close to seeing a double travesty of justice—with not enough being done to avert a climate catastrophe AND the responsibility for that inaction being handed off to the developing world, in spite of historical responsibilities and their need for poverty alleviation. But hopefully you will read on…

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USA scores own goal by moving the goal posts

by nathan thanki

There was quite a stink created this week when US Special Envoy for Climate Change (the big-shot who shows up late to the UN climate talks and gets interrupted by his constituents for not truly speaking for them) made a "remark" to his old College, Dartmouth. There was widespread condemnation of the apparent u-turn on US climate policy, which had previously agreed (in 2009, 2010, 2011) to a target of keeping global temperatures below 2 degrees celsius. After all, more than 100 countries and large swathes of civil society actually call for 1.5 degrees celsius as a limit to the amount of warming. But today Mr. Stern has downplayed those concerns, saying that the US is not renaging on anything and that the "flexibility" he called for is about breaking stalemates rather than undermining this principle.

At the risk of boring everyone, including myself, let's take a look at Mr Stern's speech, available here, and read for ourselves. Comments in blue italics are mine.

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Over-rolled by Giants

~ Jane Nurse

The first week of the Intersessionals in Bonn has seen a ferocious fight over the agenda of the ADP and an even more hotheaded haggling over the chair and vice-chair positions of the ADP. India on behalf of the Asia-Pacific group has laid claim to the chair long after the deadline for nominee submissions and after WEOG as well as GruLAC submitted their candidates.

In this battle for power over shaping the process that will lead to another legal instrument by 2015, China and India have assumed the role of advocates for upholding the interest of developing countries. However, in reality we should not be fooled to believe that the big players comprised of developed and developing countries alike represent anything else but their own interests at the expense of the most vulnerable ones.

GruLAC banked on the support of the EU in attaining the chair of the ADP. Now it looks though as if the EU’s feeble support is waning in favor of countries that are perceived as more politically and strategically powerful, not only in the climate change negotiations but also in other UN realms as for instance the UN Security Council. What is happening is not the pressure of just requests taking hold but of the big players striking deals among themselves at the expense of the small developing countries.

China and India – the hope of the developing countries – seem to be treating their small and vulnerable developing country compatriots from the SIDS and LDCs with the same abrasive condescendence as the developed world would. While China wages a strategic battle against the adoption of the ADP agenda, India takes on the campaign on winning the chair of the ADP. Meanwhile, the EU flexes its financial muscle to beat everyone into submission on these ADP issues by threatening withdrawal of financial support. It is clear that this move, while not explicitly aimed at GruLAC, will affect most notably those countries with the smallest financial capacity. The current ADP struggle serves as another reminder that alliances are fickle bonds only alive as long as mutual interests are being served. In Durban the Alliance of small Island States (AOSIS) was useful to the EU but Bonn is no longer Durban. Thus while the developing world fractures over questions of regional representation it is the developed world that benefits. This once more cements the status quo of the wealthy and powerful countries triumphing in pitting developing countries against each other in the haggling over influence and power.

One might also wonder whether we should be fighting over which country chairs the ADP or actually fight for getting the best candidate possible. Ultimately the chair should not serve any particular country or region but facilitate the work in the most equitable, efficient, and transparent way possible. Yet nobody seems to care whether we are selecting the best-suited individual, who will mediate between the interest of developed and developing countries alike and ultimately serve the interest of all people in the world. We have the science and potentially even the economics to deal with the issues ahead, but the political will to use these tools is caught up in the process of politicking.