An appeal to sanity

by nathan thanki

Yesterday, a large group of civil society–mostly youth–took the voice and anger of the street into the halls of the UN. While it could never have been a true #occupy–COP is inherently segregated into those with badges and those without; those with pink badges and those with yellow–the idea was still to say: enough is enough. You have had 20 years to negotiate a fair, ambitious, legal treaty. You have failed. We pass a vote of no confidence in you, governments of the developed world.

While there aren’t always clear good and bad guys in these negotiations (despite the US and Canada’s best efforts to be the absolute worst), there is a clear divide of North and South. The North has historically exploited the South, and has historically used up it’s share of natural resources and atmospheric space. All at the detriment of the South. All you need to do is see a flow chart diagram of money, trade, and resources to see. The wealth of the world accumulates in Europe, in North America, in Australia and Japan. But they can’t afford to pay for adaptation and mitigation? They tell the poor of the world to do it for themselves. They’ve gotten rich from burning mountains of coal and oceans of oil, but now they refuse to cut their emissions unless the poor take that burden too? Civil society is divided over whether or not this is a fair ask. The calls for “treaty now” are fine - so long as it is a fair treaty. The concern that some NGOs have is that demanding a treaty by 2015 for everyone is asking India and China to write off their hopes of tackling poverty. More than that, because of low ambition and loopholes, it writes off all our hopes of a livable world in the future.

The media, eager to feed the hatred that Europeans and Americans seem to have toward any kind of competitor – India, China, Iran, Brasil etc – are running with the theme: blame the big developing nations. The EU is loving this. They can split G77 unity by appropriating the calls of the island states and LDCs for emissions reductions, and point the finger at India. Some elements of civil society are helping: Avaaz ran an ad in the Financial Times that showed Africa burning, while grim reapers from USA, Canada, Russia and India floated overhead. So the march yesterday was somewhat split. There were back and forth shouts of “treaty now” and “equity now.”

As well as substantive differences, there were also procedural ones. Most of us were ready to get kicked out, to lose our badges, to stay there all night if need be. The whole point was to bring our voice to the door of the plenary. So most of us rejected the idea of moving the protest outside in exchange for no repercussions. Besides, I for one did not believe the UNFCCC secretariat and security. They’d tell you anything, sure. But then voices from within the protest began sowing the seeds of doubt. “You will not be able to come to subsequent COPs.” “You will be arrested by the South African police for trespassing.” The pressure to leave was too great. We weren’t kettled in, so the protest disintegrated until there were a few dozen left, stubborn as mules, to be removed by the guards. We let our protest be appropriated.

The same must not happen to our message. I understand that the Avaaz blunder is causing them some grief, but it was only an expression of an idea that seems to be gaining ground among civil soceity – that the blockers should be blamed and shamed. But, wouldn’t you block a suicide pact? It is better to frame it like this: who does a block actually benefit? Not China, not India, but the developed nations. Europe and the States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. If it all falls to pieces, then hey presto – they don’t have to live up to their promises, and they don’t have to fulfill their responsibility. If it goes through as it stands, then it’s curtains for ambition, it’s curtains for AWG-LCA, and it’s curtains for the planet. The islands will sink, Africa will burn, the political status quo will remain. We can’t let our planet be taken hostage by the greedy, just like we can’t let our democracy be taken hostage by the greedy. Greed is the right term. Notice how the only thing the rich countries want to share with the poor is the responsibility to reduce emissions. They do not want to share their wealth, their technology, their patented intellectual property.

We should not help perpetuate the lies of the rich and powerful.

I implore activists and others engaging in the struggle to think.  Think about who you represent and how. When you find yourself talking about urgency in the negotiations, ask; where are we urgently going, and who gets hurt aslong the way? Who suffers from a “better than nothing” EU deal? Think about who has already suffered from climate change. Think about who has already acted to stop it. Then think about who the real blockers are. Please consider the true grassroots. The millions living in poverty in India, China, Brazil. Are you seriously going to condemn them to death? Or are you going to stand with them against the real polluters?

The Last Night in Durban

by Samuli Sinisalo

A lot has happened today, I hope. Everything that is going on takes place behind closed doors, so we have no way of accurately reporting it the play by play.

The ministerial Inbada started just few minutes ago, and that will hopefully bring some clarity to the situation.

So far there are two draft texts presented by the COP presidency, to conclude the work in Durban. Text from the presidency at the last minute sounds all too familiar from Copenhagen.

There are two drafts, one about the Kyoto Protocol, another about the LCA text.

As the text stood last night at 5 am, the Kyoto text would be dead as we used to know it. It would lock countries into the pledge and review system until 2020. The pledges at the moment are effectively those presented in Copenhagen. There is no aggregate overall emissions reduction target. Hopefully the consultations still improve the text, legally binding second commitment period and increased ambition would be welcome.

The LCA track on the other hand would conclude next year in Qatar by a series of decisions. It would end the Bali Action Plan without a legally binding outcome. A new negotiating mandate would be launched, which should be completed by 2015 in COP-21. This is what has been in the works since Bali 2007, and has failed in Copenhagen and ever since. It will be hard to get a deal mandate that is as balanced as BAP, but hopefully the new mandate can deliver.

In any case, a long delay before emissions are actually cut seems to be inevitable.

The text on the bigger picture can be found here:

The text on the Kyoto Protocol is pasted below:

Version of 9 December 2011 @ 05:00
Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol at its sixteenth session

The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol,
Recalling Article 3, paragraph 9, of the Kyoto Protocol, Also recalling Article 20, paragraph 2, and Article 21, paragraph 7, of the Kyoto Protocol,

Further recalling decisions 1/CMP.1, 1/CMP.5 and 1/CMP.6,

Noting with appreciation the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol,

Noting also the importance of developing a comprehensive global response to the problem of climate change,

Recognizing the importance of ensuring the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol,

Cognizant of decision -/CP.17 {    },

Emphasizing the role of the Kyoto Protocol in the mitigation effort by Parties included in Annex I, the importance of ensuring continuity in mitigation action by those Parties and the need to start the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol without delay,

1. Welcomes the agreement achieved by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol on its work pursuant to decisions 1/CMP.1, 1/CMP.5 and 1/CMP.6 in the areas of land use, land-use change and forestry (decision -/CMP.7), emissions trading and the project-based mechanisms (decision -/CMP.7), greenhouse gases, sectors and source categories, common metrics to calculate the carbon dioxide equivalence of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks, and other methodological issues (decision -/CMP.7) and the consideration of information on potential environmental, economic and social consequences, including spillover effects, of tools, policies, measures and methodologies available to Annex I Parties (decision -/CMP.7);

2. Takes note of the draft amendments to the Kyoto Protocol developed by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol as contained in Annexes 1, 2 and 3 to this decision;

3. Takes note also of the quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets communicated by Parties included in Annex I and presented in Annex 1 to this decision and of the intention of these Parties to convert them to quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol;

4. Invites Parties included in Annex I and listed in Annex 1 to this decision to submit information on their quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol by 1 May 2012 for consideration by the Subsidiary Body on Implementation at its thirty-sixth session and requests the Subsidiary Body for Implementation to deliver the results of its work to the Conference of the Parties title of decision on AWG-LCA serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol with a view to the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol adopting them as amendments to Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol at its eighth session, while ensuring coherence with the implementation of decision {    };

5. Decides to adopt the amendments contained in Annexes 2 and 3 to this decision in conjunction with the adoption of the amendments referred to in paragraph 4 above;

6. Requests the Subsidiary Body for Implementation to assess the implications of the carry-over of assigned amount units to the second commitment period on the scale of emission reductions to be achieved by Annex I Parties in aggregate for the second commitment period, with a view to preparing a draft decision for adoption by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol at its eighth session;

7. Decides, on the basis of the outcomes and results described in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 above, that the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol has completed its work in accordance with decision 1/CMP.1;

8. Requests the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice to assess and address the implications of the implementation of decisions -CMP.7 referred to in paragraph 1 above on the previous decisions on methodological issues related to the Kyoto Protocol adopted by Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol including those relating to Articles 5, 7 and 8 of the Kyoto Protocol, with a view to preparing relevant draft decisions for consideration and adoption by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol at its eighth session, and noting that some issues may need to be addressed at subsequent sessions of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

Annex 1. Draft amendments to Annex B to the Kyoto Protocol
Annex 2. Draft amendments to Annex A to the Kyoto Protocol
Annex 3. Draft amendments to the Kyoto Protocol

Separate -/CMP.7 decisions:
Decision -/CMP.7: LULUCF
Decision -/CMP.7: mechanisms
Decision -/CMP.7: methodological issues
Decision -/CMP.7: potential consequences

Options for the Outcome

by Samuli Sinisalo

The last 48 hours of Durban are at hand. Decisions are going to be made, one way or another.

On the future mandate, the LCA working group on legal options for the outcome, came up with a conference room paper yesterday. That paper specified four options for the LCA outcome from Durban. And as we well know, most Kyoto proposals are conditional on what comes out from the LCA.

Option 1 on the paper is: a new protocol to the Convention, pursuant to Bali Action Plan and the Cancun Agreements. Negotiations would be started in 2012, and completed by COP 18 or latest COP 21. The protocol would include mitigation for all parties as targets and/or actions, with MRV and market mechanisms. The protocol also covers adaptation, technology transfer and finance. LCA working group would be extended until the completion of the new protocol.

Option 1bis requests the LCA to complete through a legally binding instrument/outcome. My interpretation of this is, that it is very similar to option 1, but the outcome would not be called a protocol.

Option 2 requests the LCA track to complete through a series of decisions, pursuant to Bali Action Plan and the Cancun Agreements.

Option 3 requests the LCA to continue negotiations.

Option 4 is no decision.

This is more or less where the negotiators finished their work. The issues are not forwarded on to the ministerial level. From here on decisions and progress cannot be technical, but political decisions need to be made.

China Syndrome

by Nathan Thanki

With the dirty details of week one out of the way, COP17 is changing gears into the high-level segment. Heads of State are coming to town, security is ramped up (execpt at our hostel) and the drone of talks about an outcome  becomes louder and more persistent. A lot off that buzz is around a Durban deal, the so called “Durban Mandate.” Most of the noise is around whether or not the BASIC countries – Brazil, South Africa, India, and China – will sign up to a deal that legally obliges them (and perhaps many other developing countries other than LDCs) to reduce their emissions. The questions that journalists and some major NGOs are fumbling around with are “will China sign in order to secure further commitments from annex-1 Parties?” and “what will it take for them to do that?”

China, as the world’s largest overall emitter, is sensing that the onslaught is about to start. With the wounds of the global backlash from Copenhagen (where China took a media crucifixion for not signing up to a ‘suicide pact’ ) still fresh, Chinese authorities decided that this weekend was the perfect time to set the record straight on what their official position is. I was lucky enough to gain access to the China pavilion Sunday morning to hear the Chinese negotiator Xie Zhenhua  field some questions.

The general buzz yielded the expected questions such as: what are China’s expectations in general, on the Kyoto Protocol, does China support a legal outcome from the Bali Action Plan (BAP), and what are the conditions for China signing up to the mandate?

Xie sat by himself, unaided by staff or papers, and answered in depth on each point. Regarding expectations, China is quite clear that as the first commitment period of Kyoto (KP-1) comes to a well publicised end here, we must move on to the second (KP-2). As Africa group have pointed out as well in their press brief today, the fact that annex-1 Parties ratified the KP implies they will sign on to KP-2. A KP-2 must be an outcome: it’s the only legal treaty, and it uses the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities, and equity. Everyone keeps saying we cannot bury KP at Durban, and they’re right. We’d have to bury the entire regime too. The transition between the two commitment periods has to be seamless: there can’t be a gap where developed countries can pollute all they want.

The idea of China signing up to emissions reductions (in an obligatory way–they already have ambitious reductions in their 5 year plan) is contingent on the results of KP. China is also calling for a simultaneous review of the implementation of KP-1. How well did the developed countries do in meeting their promises (it’s not a trick question – the answer is the obvious: terribly!) and what does that then imply for KP-2, and long term cooperative action? As China see it, the issue of KP-2 is an issue of testing political trust. How can they trust the developed countries to actually reduce emissions in a non-legal treaty, given that they failed to do it even in a legal one. More to the point maybe, how can they trust that the USA (who notoriously pulled out of KP) will ratify the new mandate?

A deal is expected, yes, but not a perfect one.  Rather, China expects a deal that can be signed and can be implemented.

Annex-1 countries like to point out that developing countries now account for over half the world’s emissions, and that they therefore must be included in new legal arrangements to reduce emissions. But under the Convention, developing counties have commitments – 1bii. And so far, it is developing countries who are showing they have committed to comparable reductions. Annex-1 countries have not shown the same honour.

However, even given that, China recognises that it must curb emissions. So the willingness is there – it’s a matter of the details (which is more than can be said of the US). China have indicated that the new legal outcome should be from the LCA, as mandated by BAP. They also have some conditions. One, the aforementioned review of KP-1. Two, a KP-2 that is separate and not contingent on a new mandate (as opposed to EU’s proposal). Three, progress in institutionalizing mechanisms under the areas of finance, tech transfer, adaptation, and capacity building. These ‘conditions’ are not new or unfounded, but based on 20 years negotiating.

The USA is trying to maintain its hegemonic power, so it must do all it can to trip up and smother it’s rivals. Stuck in a competitive rather than cooperative worldview, the States are playing a risky game with our planet’s atmosphere for the sake of trade flows and bragging rights. However, the recent developments in regard to China’s willingness to play ball could make things difficult for it’s neighbour and BASIC (sort-of) ally: India. With a similarly sized population–and large overall emissions–India looks set to come under fire from the media and governments of the developed world. One can already imagine the India bashing headlines of the tabloids. Are they ready?