Half way house: divided we fall?

At 1 o’clock on December 3, 2011, halfway through CoP 17, the President of CoP 17 held a plenary to take stock of the work done so far. She first thanked the delegates for the “flexibility” they’d shown so far, thus “allowing work to happen”. She was pleased to inform the plenary that work on the Green Climate Fund (GCF) had progressed a lot: indeed, today was a crucial day in the GCF negotiations, such that the Chair wasn’t able to attend the ‘informal stocktaking’, as this particular briefing has been termed. She informed that after 2 rounds of informal consultations on GCF, “a number of countries are willing to accept a report”. 

Her briefing then turned to the CMP (CoP 17 is also the seventh meeting of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol). Her comment was brief: “work is going on on all fronts”.

She then invited the Chairs of the AWG-KP and the AWG-LCA (these are the two tracks in which negotiations are being held since CoP 13 at Bali) to brief the gathering.

The news on the AWG-KP is not good at all. The Chair’s speech sugarcoated the rather grim status of negotiations on this track.

Suggesting “intensive work” was going on, the Chair said that they were “looking at clusters of issues, not the texts”. This means the negotiations are no way close to deciding on the texts of the various agendas that comprise this negotiating track.

He then moved to the crucial issues.

On the question of the second commitment period, the Chair said that “common ground” was being sought by non-Annex I parties and “those” Annex I parties “that are willing to discuss” the question. In other words, it means that nations such as Canada, Russia and Japan are not even participating in discussions. 

Moving on to the question of ensuring no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the Kyoto Protocol, the Chair suggested that talks were going on on what he called “3 modalities”.

The 3 modalities are:?--2-stage process and package of amendments;?--A decision of the CoP: outcome without amendment of the KP?--A declaration of countries as the form of the outcome at Durban

He then went on to say that the last two approaches or directions in negotiations were “possible”, but that the non-Annex I nations wanted neither a ‘decision’ nor a ‘declaration’. Both modalities were “not acceptable” to them. They wanted full ratification. In short, battle lines are fully and quite bloodily drawn here.

The AWG-KP Chair then moved on the question—equally controversial—of emission reduction targets, what in climate negotiation jargon is called QUELROS (quantified emissions limitations or reductions). He said the QUELROS negotiations were about 

--finalisation; and?-- ambition

On “finalisation”, he clarified that Annex I countries “need time”. They wanted time to “go through internal processes for comparability”.

This means Annex I is seriously hedging. They will not take up any quantified emission reductions until there is comparability of action taken—until non Annex I actions are comparable—and they are just not willing to discuss clear QUELROS numbers or figures.

The differences are stark. Small wonder, then, that the AWG-KP Chair said that on QUELROS, “divergences were significant”. On QUELROS, halfway through Durban, there was “no certainty”.

The last issue the AWG-KP Chair talked about pointed to the final spanner developed nations have thrown into the AWG-KP works. The Chair made it clear that on this negotiation track, “a deal is possible but not in isolation”. 

In other words, there will be no outcome in AWG-KP until there is an outcome in the AWG-LCA. Until the ‘big picture’ LCA is also discussing emerges, AWG-KP will remain inconclusive. Thus, the Chair passed the buck on completely to a larger Durban outcome. This can only mean one thing: Annex I countries will accept the Kyoto Protocol only if other countries accept targets.