The UN climate change negotiations in Cancún were originally supposed to be over at 6pm CST. Instead of heading to the beach, bars, or nightclubs, delegates were treated with a new negotiating document at 5pm and the promise of all-night talks in an effort to finish the two-week session with a “positive outcome.”
This document is being poured over right now by delegates in advance of another stock-taking meeting at 11pm. What happens at that point is anyone’s guess.
But here are some highlights from my quick, first read of the document:
- On the vision for long-term action, the document keeps the Copenhagen Accord goal of a 2° limit on global warming but also calls for a review beginning in 2013 and concluding in 2015 to see if the science calls for a safer goal of 1.5°.
- Gas emissions should peak “as soon as possible.” There is no specific date listed, but it calls for working “towards identifying a time frame for global peaking.” Most economists argue the sooner we peak, the cheaper the adaptation costs.
- On mitigation for developed countries, it asks developed countries to communicate their emissions goals to the Secretariat and leaves to the future the precise mechanisms for identifying how they will do this (e.g. the role of offsets, land use, etc…).
- Significantly, the mitigation section makes no mention of Kyoto and has no specific numeric targets or a deadline for developed country mitigation actions! The first emission is less problematic because of advances on the Kyoto track of negotiations while the latter makes the document extremely weak. You really need to have SOME target if you are going to reach the 2 degree goal!
- On mitigation for developing countries, the document calls for them to take “appropriate mitigation actions…aimed at achieving a deviation in emissions relative to ‘business as usual’ emissions in 2020.” Like the developed countries, they will communicate their actions to the secretariat. The implications of some of the language is hard to decipher, but in this section the document explicitly uses the worlds “voluntarily inform.”
- On monitoring and verification (a big concern of the US): goes for domestic verification “in accordance to guidelines to be developed under the Convention”–whatever that means. This is clearly an attempt to bridge the US and China dispute on monitoring and verification. The latter sees international monitoring and verification as an infringement on its sovereignty. Will it work?
- On fast-start finance: it “notes” the Copenhagen accord commitment of $30 billion through 2012 and “invites” donor countries to submit information about their spending.
- Decides to establish a Green Climate Fund with a board comprising 24 members with equal developing and developed country. It “invites” the World Bank to be the fund’s interim trustee. representation.
- The AWG-LCA will continue to discuss legal options
I am sure there is more that I am missing, but on first glance it looks like this is a document meant to operationalize the Copenhagen Accord. It keeps the 2 degree ambition, but fails to recognize that there is a gap in the Copenhagen commitments achieving that goal. It asks all countries to reduce emissions or emissions growth, but has no strong mechanisms to insure countries keep their word. And it doesn’t resolve the controversy over the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
Parties are scheduled to debate this text at around 11pm. It should be a long night.
The United Nations climate change negotiations are underway in Cancún and the rhetoric from the major developed country parties is that they are searching for “a balanced package of decisions.” The top US negotiator, Todd Stern, used that term last week in a pre-conference press conference in Washington and Stern’s deputy on the ground in Cancún, Jonathan Pershing, deployed the similar language in a press conference on Monday.
So what does this mean? A somewhat ominous article in the Guardian suggests that the US is adopting an “all or nothing” approach to the talks. Essentially, the US is pushing large developing country polluters like China and India to submit to emissions cuts from business-as-usual that are internationally monitored and verifiable. In the absence of this, the US will be less likely to support key developing country concerns, such as financing for climate adaptation and technology assistance.
One reflection of this tension can be seen in the proceedings of the AWG-LCA–the negotiating stream that is looking for an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol. A negotiating text was prepared in August for this track, but at 70 pages, it is unwieldy and doesn’t resolve key issues on safe levels of global warming, who should mitigate emissions and by how much, and how emissions should be monitored and verified.
A shorter (33 page) text listing “possible elements of the outcome,” was prepared in the interim by the AWG-LCA chair. It largely papers over the differences in the negotiating text by accepting many of the elements of last year’s Copenhagen Accord to the extent that it presents a 2 degree warming threshold and a financing ambition for developing countries of $100 billion (USD) by 2020.
Like the Copenhagen Accord, the “possible outcome” text is sketchy on how to monitor emissions, actual emissions mitigation numbers, and how the financing mechanism will operate.
What is significant here is that the Copenhagen Accord is essentially being used as a basis for determining what exactly is in the so-called “balanced packages.” Because the US has pushed so hard for some type of international monitoring regime, it will be important to see how these discussions bear out over the next few days.
India has emerged as a broker of compromise, setting forth a proposal for international monitoring. This would meet US concerns, but at this point India is offering its proposal in exchange for keeping the Kyoto Protocol track alive–something that the US (and now Japan) are not interested in seeing.
China has been the most vocal about resisting US demands for an international monitoring regime, so their response to India’s gesture will be another key development to watch for over the coming days.
I’ll be blogging “live” from Cancún beginning tomorrow, so stay tuned at this site or over on twitter.