COP17 Durban UN climate talks Dec 5

1:47am GMT: Sunday at the Durban climate talks is a day of leisure or a day of faith, or maybe both. In his sermon, the President of Caritas International, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, said:

failure at climate talks in Durban is a moral apartheid that cannot be allowed to happen

Spiritual intervention to smooth the fractious talks was sought out in a climate change church service organized by the South African Council of Churches. According to an Associated Press report:

“We needed to pray for (an) acceptable, balanced outcome, that has a sense of urgency,” said Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who as South Africa’s foreign minister is president of the Durban round of negotiations. Priests laid their hands on her head in blessing during the service.

Let’s hope the service was well-attended.

2:20am GMT: On Saturday the world’s top food security organisations issued an appeal to the UN climate conference to address the omission of agriculture from its negotiating text.

Specifically, we ask that (negotiators) approve a Work Programme for agriculture…. so that the sector can take early action to determine the long-term investments needed to transform agriculture to meet future challenges

I have mixed feelings about this. I admit to being frustrated that the recent IPCC report on extreme events and disasters failed to extrapolate its confidence on temperature predictions to the impact on food production. More hot days and nights reduce growing seasons.

On the other hand, agriculture does enjoy established coordination channels such as the Committee on Food Security as well as funding streams promised by the G20.

Hooking up development programmes in water, energy, health, gender etc etc with climate change mitigation and adaptation is so difficult that some aid researchers now pursue a topic called “complexity”.

2:46am GMT: According to the official report of Saturday’s proceedings in respect of REDD (reducing emissions for deforestation and forest degradation):

the draft text on methodological issues…was adopted with little or no further discussion

In an event where nothing ever seems to be agreed, this sounds like good news. But the Ecosystems Climate Alliance, a group of NGOs fighting to protect natural ecosystems, are far from happy. Under the headline: Brazil Blocks REDD Safeguards, we learn:

Brazil is very selfish to block progress on REDD. Tropical countries rely on financial support to reduce deforestation. The consequence of Brazil’s behavior will be REDD that is not credible and will not obtain sufficient funding

There’s confirmation in a report by the Center for International Forestry Research plus an additional piece of bad news for REDD:

Latest draft texts on REDD+ that will go forward to a plenary session for approval have postponed a decision on financing to next year and watered down safeguards requirements, leaving REDD+ projects in limbo and indigenous groups unprotected

“Safeguards” refers to a list of REDD conditions which aim to protect the rights of forest people and the right of local and national entities to control their own forest policy.

I thought that that Safeguards had all been agreed at Cancun. How naive can you get.

3:14am GMT: n Saturday the national delegations were presented with a draft negotiating text (over 100 pages) which strives to bring together everything discussed in the opening week. Today is the final chance to agree what has not been agreed – which in turn sets the agenda for the ministers who start work on Tuesday.

Rumours continue to fly around on where the key players stand on the future of the Kyoto Protocol and a mandate to discuss a new legally binding agreement. AlertNet has access to an unnamed insider in the US delegation and concludes:

The United States is sceptical that China’s comments it could support a legally binding deal to cut its own greenhouse gas emissions marked a breakthrough in troubled climate talks

The same source declared the European Union’s timetable for a mandate to be impractical.

The Guardian fingers India as potentially siding with the US in stalling progress. The article reckons that:

Europe and the South African chair of the talks are thought to have persuaded the 42-strong Alliance of Small Island States coalition and the 48 least developed countries to back the EU

Mark Lynas – who famously accused China of spoiling the Copenhagen talks – continues to see that country as the lynchpin of the Durban round. He also continues his attack on the Kyoto Protocol, given the outdated division between countries with “differentiated responsibilities.”

If you just want to catch up with the factors driving the political tussles over the roadmap (or mandate) for a legal agreement, Jake Schmidt gives a detailed run down on the NRDC blog.

3:27am GMT: Let’s start the week with a rousing quote from Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace, when asked to compare climate change with the fight against apartheid:

the struggle for action on climate change is incomparable to any other struggle that we have seen. Other struggles have affected one country – or maybe a group of countries – but climate change affects every single human being on the planet

Kumi was talking to OneClimate’s Adam Groves during the Day of Action march on Saturday.

10:32am GMT: A simple but vivid African metaphor put the world’s carbon traders in their place earlier this morning at the Africa Group press briefing.

Dr.Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, Chair of the Group and environment minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, referred to the wish of many business interests to dump the Kyoto Protocol but keep the Clean Development Mechanism going – this is the instrument of the Protocol that runs the rules of carbon trading, without which the supply of carbon credits would dry up:

they want the KP rules but they don’t want the KP. In Africa if you want the mango you must like the mango tree also. If you want markets to continue, if you want strong robust rules then keep the mango tree. That’s what the Africa Group stands for.

Earlier in the meeting, Seyni Nafo of Mali, explained that African environment ministers met yesterday (Sunday) and reaffirmed five principles to take them into high level negotiations this week:

*commitment to the multilateral rules-based process

*a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol

*priority for Africa is adaptation and the existing fragmentation of adaptation funding must be sorted out

*imperative of fast start finance and the Green Climate Fund

*operationalise the Cancun agreements

10:49am GMT: This morning’s press briefing of the Climate Action Network (speaking on behalf of the world’s NGOs) looks as though it is going to be devoted to an attack on the negative tactics of the US delegation in Durban.

This is led by Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace, in much calmer but more menacing frame of mind than in the streets of Durban on Saturday.

the world was held hostage for 8 years of denial during the Bush administration. We expected better from the administration of Obama. We understand their problems but their negotiators have not come here to negotiate – they have come her with a big red pen and have spent the weekend trying to delete everything of value in the draft agreement

Naidoo’s message to the US was:

if you cannot get your team on the ground to shift their negotiating positions then we are saying to the Obama administration: MOVE ASIDE…. the US delegation here is betraying not only the rest of the world but also they are betraying the 400 municipalities in the US who are trying to do something

Other CAN speakers are pursuing similar arguments.

11:15am GMT: the Climate Action Network press briefing has closed with further confirmation the India and US are perceived as the blockers in the negotiations.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, complimented India as one of very few countries making serious investment in green economic development. But in the context of a legally binding climate change agreement, she warned:

stop isolating yourself and play with the rest of the world. Show that emerging economies can demonstrate leadership

The panel was asked what can be done to shift US intransigence. Speakers recalled to the breakthrough at the 2007 Bali conference which was achieved by threatening to exclude the US from the UN process to fight climate change.

But this happened at the very last moment in Bali and the NGOs want to get the message out at this earlier stage. It’s also clear that they believe that the mood of the American people is behind those who want real action on climate change.

It looks as though we should anticipate a crescendo of appeals over the heads of the Obama administration to connect with municipal and grassroots groups who have already taken steps to reduce emissions.

11:37am GMT: China’s head of delegation, Xie Zhenhua, is in town and has wasted no time in conducting the country’s first press briefing of the Durban conference an hour or so ago. The centre piece was a list of five conditions that must all be fulfilled for China to sign up to a mandate to reach a legally binding agreement on emissions reductions.

I don’t have an accurate translation at this stage so, very provisionally, these conditions are:

*a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol must be agreed in Durban

*all other countries must be willing to work to a 2020 timeline for implementation

*the Green Climate Fund must be launched in Durban with plans to ramp up funding to $100 billion per annum, by 2020

*full operationalisation of the Cancun agreements in Durban

*completion of scientific review of adequacy of pledges by 2013

I’ll watch out for more definitive wording.

11:50am GMT: There does seem to be a shift in mood this morning regarding the fate of the Kyoto Protocol. Christiana Figueres (head of UN climate secretariat) gave a positive interview over the weekend and made no effort to retract when questioned in the press briefing half an hour ago.

Citing the views of the Chair of the working group dealing with the Kyoto Protocol, she said:

Countries are considering how to bring a Kyoto Protocol second commitment period into effect, and not whether

Christiana said that negotiators are discussing points of detail, including the scope for participants to increase their ambition (for emission reductions).

We heard a similar conclusion from Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace in the earlier briefing by the Climate Action Network. He was far more gloomy about it, however, reflecting: “the Kyoto Protocol may not end up in its grave in Durban but it will remain in intensive care.”

What we don’t know is which party has blinked in order to achieve this rumoured breakthrough. Has Europe backed down on insisting that US, China, India commit to discussions on a roadmap to a full legally binding treaty by 2015? Or have those countries found way around this condition?

12:15pm GMT: Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the South African chair of the Durban climate talks, was bursting with positive statements in this morning’s UN press briefing. 

“China is beginning to answer the question how”….”we are responding to the call made by the global citizenry” and much more of the same.

In answer to a question, Maite said that she had not heard about any “fix” to settle the affairs of the Green Climate Fund.

She insists that, in her role as facilitator of informal discussions, she has not encountered a single country which is not in favour of the Fund or which believes that the Fund will not be launched in Durban (it was of course “launched” last year in Cancun – I hope she’s referring to approval of its operation and funding strategy).

Ms Nkoana-Mashabane has a disarming ability to smile even when she’s dealing with the most irritating intervention in the plenary sessions which she chairs. The intensity of the smile does vary, however. This morning, after a weekend break, it was on full beam. We’ll keep an eye on the smilometer as the week progresses.

12:29pm GMT: Today’s US delegation press briefing is due to start any minute.

How will it respond to the blistering attack in its negative “red pen” attitude by NGOs earlier this morning?

Everyone else is talking positive today – can the US match that?

Will they turn up?

12:42pm GMT: Todd Stern, US special envoy on climate change is speaking now.

The contrast with his Chinese counterpart is more striking than ever. Xie Zhenhua has an inscrutable countenance behind which a hint of humour is never absent.

Todd Stern just does inscrutable.

His statement: “I’m pleased to be here representing the US,” carried the conviction of the condemned man asked for his final words.

1:10pm GMT: this was terrible. Where were the real journalists in the briefing by US climate envoy Todd Stern just completed?

We had a sequence of American media asking questions designed to make Mr Stern feel that Durban ain’t so hot after all. They were tough questions but not the tough questions.

Nobody asked about the chronic shortfall in current pledges for emission reductions, especially in relation to recent scientific reports.

Nobody asked about the African anger that the continent’s soil is overheating while the grain baskets of the north flourish.

Nobody asked why the US delegation is being so obstructive in the line-by-line work which these negotiations must get through.

Where were John Vidal and Richard Black? Why was no African journalist invited to ask a question?

1:23pm GMT: In terms of what Todd Stern actually said in the US press briefing, I sense the critical moment came in an unplanned afterthought.

He had just completed a long peroration on why there’s virtually no chance of agreement in Durban on the core issue of a future legally binding climate regime. The next question was almost under way when Stern scratched his head as if regretting the negative tone of his words – he interrupted so that he could add a bit more:

There’s two aspects to the European proposal that’s being talked about. One is the process (what they cal la roadmap) to carry us forward to period when we could be getting credibility for a new agreement. The other is how that final endpoint will look. We’re quite open to having a discussion to lay out a process but not to determine the legal form.

I wonder whether, without really intending to, Todd Stern just painted a picture what might become the Durban mandate.

1:38pm GMT: sorry to keep posting about the Todd Stern press briefing but it’s clearly critical to setting the tone for the ministerial phase of the climate negotiations starting tomorrow.

Well known positions of the US were repeated. No legally binding deal which attempts to differentiate between national obligations – “legal parity” is the buzz phrase. And presumption that the emerging economies like China and India are just not ready to accept this.

A couple of other points of possible interest:

*Stern is due to meet his Chinese counterpart tomorrow

*US emissions are down about 6% on 2005, on way to 17% target by 2020

And finally just to wind everyone up, here’s Stern’s comment on the governance of the Green Climate Fund:

I want to see a Green Climate Fund that will draw in a lot of capital (my comment here – that means leveraged borrowing). I like climate negotiators very much and I spend a lot of time with them but climate negotiators are not necessarily the right people to run a multi-billion dollar fund

Anyone remember the management of the US banking system circa 2008?


this post was first published by OneWorld UK