Progress at the COP17 climate talks in South Africa are paused but some fear that the delay will mean they run out of time
John Vidal, The Guardian, December 10, 2011
The momentum and urgency of last night’s negotiations appears to have melted away this morning. A revamped negotiating text did not appear until around 10.30am local time and an informal ministerial meeting will not convene until 5pm. The danger is that the clock runs down and the talks run into the sand as ministers begin heading for the airport.
I have just seen a senior EU official in the underground park. “Look”, he says, “they are already taking away the coffee machines. Time is running out. What is maddening is that the LCA text [the negotiating strand that involves all countries] was so long in coming out. We were happy with the revised KP [Kyoto Protocol] text. We could live with it. Having the ministers meet at 5 o’clock leaves so much room for the spoilers.
“Right now we have sent people to the the presidency to find out what their game plan is. How can you strike a deal when the three major elements – the roadmap, the KP and the implementation of the Cancún agreement are not sorted. These are big things … There is real negotiating work to be done. Now we hear that key players are leaving or have already left. Time is critical now. We don’t have a problem with people leaving because some developing countries will be in a situation where they cannot rebook flights, or may not have the money.”
Here’s the UK’s energy and climate change minister, Chris Huhne: “These are very long and complex negotiations. The LCA text has 56 pages, and that’s just the stuff outside the key agreements. Its tempting to see a Machiavellian process [at work]. It’s more the case that people get tired, the result is that things go slowly and there are misunderstandings.”
On the second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol – the crucial issue of whether there will be legally binding carbon targets for some countries beyond 2012 – he was adamant. “If a date is reintroduced into the text with a date further out then it has to be balanced by what comes between now and then.”
People are now meeting in huddles. Here’s what has just popped out of the WWF team: “Negotiations are now right up against the clock. As things stand now the text is very weak, and offers no credible process to crank up efforts to cut emissions. In these last few hours, progressive players must fight to raise ambition – but based on current texts, we would be heading for disastrous levels of warming of 4C,” said one member of the delegation.
And here is Tim Gore, Oxfam’s policy adviser: “Whatever the outcome, it is clear that an agreement struck here will not, on its own, ensure the level of action necessary to stay below two degrees warming. Governments must come together around the most ambitious package possible today to keep the door open on efforts to really get to grips with the climate crisis.”
John Lanchberry of the RSPB tells us that the wording on Redd finance – the plan to reduce deforestation – is agreed. “It’s weak on substance and kicks further discussion about where the money for Redd [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation] will come from into next year. However, it links finance firmly to the biodiversity, social and governance safeguards agreed in Cancún last year, which is excellent”
Mohamed Adow, working for Christian Aid, speaks for many in the NGO community here. His analysis is this: “The latest draft texts are so dangerously inadequate that we could be closing the door to a 2-degree limit on warming. On the Kyoto side, although there is one welcome paragraph saying there will be a second commitment period, it’s cancelled out by the rest of the document. It’s currently so weak that without amendments, it’s Kyoto in name only.”
“On the LCA side, the United States is blocking agreement on two absolutely essential elements of a deal: the Green Climate Fund and the emissions cuts which it needs to undertake that are so urgently needed. Without these, the talks are likely to miscarry. At the moment, the United States and its umbrella allies are blocking the rest of the world from protecting people in poor countries from climate catastrophe … I am pleading with negotiators to use the few remaining hours of these talks to secure a better deal for people across the world.”