Crisis or procedure: Your future and the next 48 hours

Food & climate change article written on the 17 Dec 2009

Photo: OxfamAUS

I wish I knew what exactly is going on. This past day has been mayhem. As I write this all is not well.

Let me just have a moment of honesty with you all. I am tired, really tired. 12 long hard days have taken their toll on me and many others in this process. People are frustrated, confused and despairing at the direction these talks are taking.

To paraphrase George Woods, the Climate Action Network Australia coordinator here (who may I add is doing an amazing job):

“There have been all sorts of wildness here today, in the negotiations and in the NGO community. People with passes were refused entry because of the growing number of spontaneous and unpredictable protests springing up. There is a lot of frustration — protestors and other NGOs have been treated badly by police, security and the UN, everyone has been confused about who is allowed to do what, and the UNFCCC process has hit a dark moment, with a great deal of uncertainty about whether an effective and binding agreement can be secured.”

Oh dear.

So far in my blogs I have avoided going into detail around the different negotiating streams and texts… for the simple reason that it is confusing!

But, if you will spare me just a small moment of your time I will some of explain some of it here so you can grasp what is happening.

There are 2 different treaties being negotiated here. Yes, that’s right two.

The first is the Kyoto Protocol (KP). At the moment this treaty is set to finish in 2012 and they are trying to extend it further. But…because this treaty does not involve the US (and also doesn’t place binding emission reductions on the major growing economies such as India and China) they are also negotiating a second treaty. This second treaty, which would involve the US, is called LCA or Long-term Cooperative Action.

Now, you will have heard in the media a lot about countries trying to kill the KP. If KP did end and the LCA agreement did pass this would be called a ‘one-track’ treaty. However, developing countries generally do not want the KP to end because it is arguably stronger than a potential LCA treaty and provides more protection for developing countries. So, this then leaves us with what is call a ‘two-track’ treaty with both LCA and KP.

For the past two years countries have been negotiating the texts that would comprise these treaties. This has been broken into several smaller groups to work on specific sections of each of the treaties, such as adaptation, mitigation, finance, forests etc. These texts have been notoriously long and complicated with numerous different options within the text.

During the past ten days the different groups tried to bring all this text together. They have tried to find consensus. They have tried to find common ground. They failed.

Yesterday the chairs of the two working groups were supposed to pass on the proposed treaty text to the Ministers and Heads of State to finalise over the next 2 days.

Amidst much confusion these meetings were scheduled for 5pm then postponed till 6pm then 7pm then 8pm and so on and so on as negotiators grappled (behind closed doors of course) with what their final proposals would be.

The final KP plenary started at 11pm and finished after midnight.

The final LCA plenary started at 5am and finished at 730am.

The Australian negotiating team looked really tired this morning.

Meager offerings

In short, the text in both the treaties seems almost as contested as it was 2 years ago. It seems just as complicated…and there are still far too many different options within it. Today, I have not met a member of any country delegation that was happy with either of the texts. There has been dissent and there has been public argument.

It is these texts that have now been passed onto Ministers and Heads of States. It is still possible that they will be able to bring it all together…. But to be honest it is unlikely. There are MAJOR disagreements both between countries and within negotiating country groups.

This I hope, provides some idea of what has been happening here. I encourage you all to check out the other blogs on AAN to hear different stories and perspectives on all the days action (and inaction!).

I have many thoughts and reflections on this process, however, I will reserve these for a later date as this blog is already too long and I need sleep…. Which is of course, contingent upon me leaving here.

Tracking for you in Copenhagen, T-minus 48 hours.

Phil.