The Clash of Paradigms and Durban [Disaster]

by Samuli Sinisalo

In the UNFCCC, and especially in Durban, there are two major forces in play. The obvious surface is of course that of saving the planet and the climate system from disastrous anthropogenic interference. That is why these meetings are organized in the first place, and it is even inscribed in article two of the convention.

The other force in play is how is this to be done? Who should cut emissions and how much, how are countries to adapt to the climate change? This is where it gets more complicated, confusing and where the blame-game starts.

The developed countries have enjoyed unlimited access to the atmospheric space for well over a century now. Environmental concerns were hardly an issue as the global north climbed the ladder of development and brought their economies to the current standards. For the time being the amount of economic activity is closely linked to the GHG-emissions, especially if countries are to pursue the most cost-effective development strategies.

For many developing countries, the negotiations are not just questions of tackling the climate change, but also about ensuring the right to develope their economies. This has been recognized in the convention by the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR and RC). Up to now, the Annex 1 countries have had the responsibility to cut their emissions and provide financial assistance to the developing countries to deviate from their business-as-usual developmental baseline, and to adapt to climate change.

Durban was a failure because it failed to provide the next legally binding emissions reduction targets. The world has to be satisfied with the EU and a few other countries turning their domestic climate legislation into internationally recognizable form – with very low ambition. Obviously not enough.

The other promise from Durban is to negotiate a new global legal instrument, which has legal force on all countries. This is very concerning for many developing countries, and the most vocal about it in Durban was India. They reminded the world that India a major emitter due only to its size, the emissions historically, as well as per capita, are very low. They do want to preserve their right to lift people out of poverty and develope. The ladder cannot be kicked away, even as the threat of climate change becomes more dire by the day.

As time drags on, and climate change becomes more pressing, the most vulnerable countries have to accept any deal, or there will be no future for the planet. Hopefully they don’t have to sell out their own future by committing to reducing their climate footprint.

Personally I am still hopeful that the Durban Mandate might lead to something, but there is a great chance it is too little and too late. As well as it might be the wrong thing all together. It is a shame they countries failed to deliver a new outcome based on the Bali Action Plan. In the BAP, the CBDR and equity were safeguarded. But this was not enough, especially for the United States.

I put the disaster in brackets for the time being, as I hope a reason to delete it from the text would arise when negotiations get on the way again, but it might be too much to ask.

Time to come up with solutions

by Samuli Sinisalo

The final negotitations in Durban just began. The different negotiating bodies will meet in this order: Ad-hod working group on Kyoto Protocol, Ad-hoc working group on Long Term Cooperative Action, Conference of Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to Kyoto Protocol and finally the closing plenary of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC.

It’s 9pm on Saturday, the conference was supposed to be over by Friday night and we are just in the AWG-KP meeting. It looks like tonight is going to be the long night.

At the moment, there are three possible results for the outcome of Durban. Either the talks will collapse, without any decision. This would not be the ideal solution for anyone. A lot of hard work has been done throughout the two weeks, some progress has been made. The need for immediate action to address climate change is ever-growing. I believe collapse is not on anyones agenda.

Another option is to adopt the texts as they stand. That would also be a suboptimal outcome. The Kyoto text is weak in ambition and lacks legal strength. The LCA text is watered down to two different documents. One is about 40 pages long, includes a lot of good things about 1,5 degrees, ambitious goals for 2050 etc, and those are being pushed forward to COP 18. The other text is about 50 pages, but it too lacks ambition. The AWG-LCA would be closed in Durban, and ultimately killed in Qatar next year. At the same time the LCA would be replaced by a new negotiation mandate, which probably would not be as ambitious as the Bali Action Plan.

The third option is to close the COP in Durban unresolved and pick up the work in Bonn in the intersessional in June. This way the Parties would have time to really analyze the texts and options and contemplate on different options. At the moment as everyone is tired and sleepdeprived, some ministers and negotiatiors have left Durban, we are running a risk of goveling down decisions in haste, without due democratic process and debate. COP bis seems to be the optimum solution at the moment.

The last night draws on

by Samuli Sinisalo

The texts just presented were not accepted by the Group of 77 and China. Later EU also denounced the documents.

Canada had called more ambition from China and India. This was done by name, which is not very politically correct – especially from a country like Canada, which has notoriously low ambition. They were just awarded the fossil of the year award from being the biggest obstructor in the negotiations in 2011.

So new text went into drafting, we’ve been waiting in the conference centre. Now the latest update just came out – the ministerial Indaba will convene again at midnight (in 1 hour). There will be a new text, and there are promises for improvements in the time-frames, ambition and the legal form in that text.

The COP will not reconvene before 10 tomorrow morning. Seems that if the COP is going to be decided in the wee hours of the night, those meetings are either closed to us, or they will happen tomorrow night.

I just hope that the first drafts that were circulated around the conference centre relatively widely, were not just laying down the groundwork for a compromised deal. Circulating bad drafts like that might prepare the crowd for a deal that is an improvement over the first round, but still far from ideal. But this might be just the skeptic in me speaking.

As of now, the security wants to empty the whole conference centre. We are trying to negotiate to have the right to stay. Might be that everyone is thrown out. Ministerial negotiations are just about to begin and civil society is pushed out on the streets. Does not look good in terms of transparency…

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