Copenhagen policy update

As all will have no doubt gathered from the media coverage, the COP has taken a number of unforeseen turns since the weekend, some predictable, some less so.

Discussions were stalled on Monday for a number of hours when African negotiators protested at the proposal by the Danish Presidency to focus the remaining technical negotiations before the ministers arrived on the Long-term Cooperative Action negotiation track (the track under in which all countries including the US are involved) with only a very limited amount of time dedicated to discussions on the second commitment period of the Protocol.

This was seen as another attempt to sideline the Kyoto Protocol, the track which involves new and binding developed country targets.

There was great concern amongst many civil society organisations that this incident was giving further fuel to the media fire that is allowing developed countries to blame developing countries for blocking the negotiations.

The negotiations indeed appeared to have reached a serious impasse in the last 24hours.

After informal consultations on Monday negotiations restarted, and continued late into the night on both Monday and Tuesday to try to finalise texts under both negotiation tracks to send to the meeting of Environment Ministers in the COP and CMP plenaries on Wednesday.

However, after a night of unconstructive negotiation, including a reported push-back from the US on any language in the LCA on binding commitments to emerge from Copenhagen, rather than final conclusions the ministers were presented with two texts, one of which was framed by an all encompassing bracket, and the other of which contained a variety of bracketed options, with the possibility of Parties coming with further proposals!

Thus negotiations at the technical level failed to achieve much needed progress in advance of the High Level Segment, although progress has reportedly been better under adaptation and technology discussions. The pressure is therefore truly on ministers and most of all, the heads of state to deliver on the breakthrough their technocrats could not.

The Danish Climate Chief Connie Hedegaard announced she will be replaced by the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen. She also announced that the Danish Presidency would be introducing new texts under both negotiating tracks this afternoon, which would be based on, but essentially replace the texts prepared by the Working Groups over the previous days.

However, before the statements by environment ministers could begin under the first session of the High Level Segment several points of order were made from the floor by Brazil, supported by China, Sudan on behalf of G77, the Maldives and Ecuador to object to the host country putting out a new text that has ‘come from the blue’, and not representing the work done by Parties in the multilateral process.

The COP Chair responded that the intention is to ensure the Conference will deliver results and not just talk on procedure, procedure, procedure. He said the Presidency wanted to be transparent and inclusive but still also ensure effectiveness.

As a result, the Presidency’s plan to introduce its proposed texts was delayed until Thursday. With time running ever shorter, the pressure has been intense to make progress in the next 24 hours. Statements on Wednesday evening from politicians expressed frustration, but all impressed the need to achieve an agreement.

Another significant development has been suggestions of a France-Ethiopia, also now being reported as an ´EU-Africa’ position. In interventions in the proceedings and joint press work Ethiopia claimed to be presenting the views of Africa, whilst the new proposals he put forward in fact fall far below the African position adopted a few months ago, both on mitigation and on scale of financing. Ethiopia does not represent the African Group in the UN, but it does heads up a group under the African Union on climate change, and has previously acted as a spokesperson on the African position.

There has been a stern push back from several African Ministers and from African civil society because, although there seem to be some positive elements in the finance aspect of the proposal (support for setting up innovative financing mechanisms for example), it sacrifices crucial elements of the African position of a 1.5 degree C stabilisation level, and the scale of public financing.

As we head into the endgame negotiations are going on day and night, with constant rumours and speculation, and with information often out of date by the time it is shared as the pace, tension and stakes rise. For example, now it has reached Thursday, the Danish Presidency has held back on issuing its new texts and negotiations on the texts prepared by the LCA and KP working groups will continue until tomorrow morning, with a stock taking plenary planned for later today. If the groups fail to succeed in removing the multitude of brackets in the texts in the next few hours, it is still possible that the Danish Presidency will introduce its alternative text.

Whilst the statement by the Chinese in the last hours that no operational agreement would be reached in Copenhagen dampened hopes of progress even further, the last 12 hours have seen a flurry of announcements coming from Japan on short term financing, and most importantly the US on long term financing. These announcements have likely re-injected momentum, but there are many questions on the substance. The Japanese have said nothing on long term financing, and it is not clear whether the money is new, or a repackaging of previously made aid commitments. The US announcement on 100bn echoed an intervention made by Gordon Brown this morning in the Bella Centre, based on an EU position adopted in October. The announcement was made by Hillary Clinton who stressed the link between such financing and transparency of emissions actions in major developing countries. She failed to echo Gordon Brown’s emphasis on the importance of additionality of climate financing. Despite misgivings regarding the questions of the sources and governance of the scale acknowledged by Clinton, many recognize that she is taking a political gamble with the aim of securing a deal.

Oscillation between, yes we can and no we can’t, and whether the agreement will be politically or legally binding here in Copenhagen or later continues and seems now further confused by introduction of the term, ‘operational’ agreement.

The EU, which supported yesterday in the High Level Segment the need to come to a comprehensive and binding outcome will be centre stage this evening, with EU Ministerial meetings ongoing and Heads of State set to meet this evening. Will the EU now move to 30%? Will they make concrete their contribution to financing beyond short term?

Of course, however, what we want is not a deal at any cost, but a binding agreement that will deliver sufficient emission reductions in developed countries and sufficient secure new and additional short and long term financing for developing countries to enable them to adapt and to pursue sustainable development, and our assessment of any agreement will be based on an analysis of to what extent these criteria are securely met.

As you will also have no doubt heard, logistics have proved too much for the Danes, and lack of coordinated planning with the UNFCCC Secretariat and bad decision making over the last week saw hundreds of people, many of whom had came from across the world to be here, standing in the freezing cold for hours on end outside the Bella Centre. The fact that a large number of them, including many from our own CIDSE-Caritas delegation, did not manage to enter the official conference. Security hikes over the next few days now see nearly the entire civil society representation in Copenhagen excluded from the final days of the talks. Frustrated crowds marched to the Bella Centre today, and although there are always those who get carried away, the vast majority continue to focus their efforts on using any methods they can, inside or outside the Bella Centre, to call for climate justice.

Three CIDSE-Caritas press people are still in the Bella Centre, as are two of our policy people. Between a non-stop flow of email exchange and live webcasts civil society is doing its best to keep up the pressure through campaign and media work. A number of CIDSE and Caritas member oragnisations have mobilised their Bishops to sign on to a short media letter calling for the EU to step up its position without further delay.

More to come…

Regards from a very tired but determined crew in Copenhagen

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Filed under Advocacy, Climate Change, Denmark, Europe, Food

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