A week of non-results

December 6, 2010

A week of non-results

By Arnab Pratim Dutta,

A week of negotiations has passed in Cancun, but seekers of a binding deal on climate change continue to grope in the dark. With almost all negotiations being caught in a deadlock, the two-week conference may not agree even on the bare minimum to take the talks forward to the next year. At best, it can only produce some sort of a ministerial statement or a Conference of Party’s decision, one which may have little substance.

The Cancun meeting was being seen more as an exercise to codify specific issues, so that the two tracks of negotiations on the Ad Hoc Working Group on Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Actions (AWG-LCA) could be concretised into fair and legally binding agreements in 2011 in South Africa. Despite the optimism of Patricia Espinosa, the conference president, who said on Sunday that a “balanced package of decisions” was to be arrived at, the negotiators have not managed to agree, and both these processes are moving at a snail’s pace.

Since the first day when Japan bombed the negotiations by saying that it will not be a party to the second phase of commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, the mood in the talks has remained sombre. Should KP be a set of non-binding promises, like the Copenhagen Accord, or a binding agreement is what negotiators are trying to tackle. This is reflected in the draft that the chair of AWG-KP, John Ashe, submitted on Saturday: the draft leaves an option for not having a legally binding second commitment period. Barring the European Union, all the other major developed countries (including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Russia) have supported this option from the chair.

Just to recapitulate, the first commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012, where developed countries -- barring the US -- have agreed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent. The second commitment period was to begin from January 2013. As a Venezuelan negotiator said on December 4, there is no chance of an agreement in Cancun on the commitment period; instead, what may be agreed upon is a set of watered-down decisions.

The second track of negotiations called long-term cooperative actions (LCA) has faced its own set of difficulties. In the week gone by, most of the issues have remained open-ended. These include finance from developed countries for mitigation of Co2 by developing countries; technology transfer; adaptation; transparency; and forestry. Both the fast-start financing of US $30 billion for the first three years, as well as the long-term financing of US $100 billion per year need to be prepped up. On Saturday, the chair of the AWG-LCA released a new text focusing on the possible elements of an outcome for the Parties to help bring out a negotiating text for long-term commitment actions. The draft, however, is weak on international finance -- it does not say where the money will come from or how it will be distributed.

For the first year (2010), US $10 billion was promised by developed countries for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, but very little of that has been given. The EU has announced a funding of US $2.2 billion, more than half of which is loans and equity -- and not grants, as should have been the case. The US has announced about US $1.8 billion, of which $400 million is through export credits. The remaining $6 billion of the promised funds is nowhere in sight. India has maintained that international finance will make or break any legally binding outcome under the UNFCCC process on climate change.

In a discussion with journalists, Jairam Ramesh, India’s minister for environment and forests, claimed that he has protested to Todd Stern, the chief US envoy on climate change, about the meagre funds. Other negotiators have echoed his sentiments. Bruno Sekoli, negotiator from Lesoto and the chair of the Least Developed Countries, has said that money has been promised but not enough has been put on the table.

Lack of balance seems to be another phrase used to describe the LCA text proposed by the chair. In the Saturday plenary on LCA, negotiators did not want the chair’s text to be used as the negotiating draft; Bolivia spoke out against it. Instead, the draft agreed on at a climate change meeting in Tianjin, China in October this year is what developing countries seek as a negotiating text. Indian negotiators pointed out that there was very little in the draft on mitigation, especially monitoring (measuring, reporting and verification/international consultation and analysis). “There is very little to differentiate mitigation measures between developed and developing countries,” one of them said.