COP17 Durban UN climate talks Dec 8

1:54am GMT:¬† Yesterday’s simple low-cost action by the Canadian Youth Delegation in the International Convention Centre must be the envy of all those well-heeled environmental groups desperately seeking attention at the Durban climate talks.

That photo of the six activists standing with their backs to the Canadian minister enjoys widespread global coverage this morning – and concentrated coverage in Canadian media.

This was no fluke. The CYD (as they call themselves) has been scoring publicity points from Day 1, last Monday, when they modelled the BituMensWear in protest at the Canadian tar sands oil programme. There will be more than a few NGO campaign managers wanting to know who is the creative mastermind at work here.

10:38am GMT: In the main Durban plenary just now, Todd Stern, US special envoy on climate change referred to the big agenda items for the conference – a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol and agreement on the future architecture of the UN climate regime. He said:

we are deeply engaged in these issues and committed to find workable solutions

This view is not shared by most observers of the Durban talks. The protest which delayed the start of Stern’s speech was almost certainly motivated by the obstructive approach of the US negotiating team.

Take one example. The draft negotiating text relating to future funding of the Green Climate Fund includes proposals for a shipping levy which could raise $10 billion per annum for the fund. A considerable majority of government and NGO interests are delighted with this development.

Except on key player, the US, which is doing its level best to get the reference to shipping removed. I have seen one report from CBS News which claims it has been successful:

The U.S. has blocked suggestions of a levy on international shipping and aviation. It opposes suggestions by a high-ranking panel to impose a tax of $25 for every tonne of carbon emissions.

But I’m hoping this is a premature conclusion.

10:58am GMT: Kelly Dent from Oxfam has just said:

in the next 48 hours the European Union needs to show leadership. We know that the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island States want swift action and require EU support.

Yesterday, we reported here on some evidence that the EU/US relationship has taken a step backwards. Alex Stark, the US tracker on the Adopt-a Negotiator project investigated this EU development more thoroughly in her overnight article.

The EU also seemed to fall out with China earlier in the week. Maybe Connie Hedegaard is getting closer to the poorer countries.

11:15am GMT: Speakers from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) are addressing the media.

One small thing I picked up yesterday is that one of the island states is blocking progress in discussions about finance for the REDD scheme (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). I think it may have been Tuvalu.

I’m not sure that Tuvalu is a key player in the forest debate. It’s just possible that the islands are creating negotiating leverage for their more urgent needs. Certainly REDD is struggling and the forest countries will be looking for ways to break the logjam.

11:31am GMT: following up what I was saying earlier about the European Union, the key quote from this session with the Alliance of Small Island States was:

we share a lot in common with the European Union on these issues

The point is that, if the EU backs down at the last moment on its 2015 timetable (as many believe it will in order to preserve the Kyoto Protocol at all costs), will AOSIS and the Least Developed Countries be able to push back against that?

11:48am GMT, 8 Dec update from Bill Gunyon

Todd Stern is defending the US against accusations of a “timeout until 2020”.

His defence is entirely based on the outcome of the Cancun conference last year – which does indeed require lots of things to be done before 2020 and which US supports.

He’s not mentioning that that Cancun Agreements ducked the big issue of emissions reductions. The US signed up to the Bali Action Plan in 2007 committing itself to a parallel agreement to a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period. That means a legally binding emissions reductions regime from 2012.

Now he’s talking about 2020 as though Bali never happened. That’s why his position is untenable.

2:31pm GMT: The Indian journalist asked the Bangladesh minister the 64,000 rupee question¬† – which concerns India’s role.

Bangladesh is one of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) which are lining up with the European Union in favour of continuity of the Kyoto Protocol combined with a roadmap to agree a legally binding framework for all countries by 2015.

India is happy with the first part but not the second. So there is a potential conflict between neighbours. But Dr Mahmud was too diplomatic to acknowledge that – he just said that “India’s role is very vital.”

Europe appears to have cancelled a press briefing that was billed to be a joint session with the LDCs. These positions appear pretty unmovable. It’s going to take some very clever wording to get something out of Durban.

10:14pm GMT: Here’s today’s pacemaker in the Durban negotiations recording a pivotal moment. Connie Hedegaard’s tweet is a few hours old BUT it says that she met with the African Group and the small island states.

Most reports that I saw claimed the the European Commissioner’s meeting was with the Least Developed Countries (which include countries like Bangladesh and Nepal) – others refer to “vulnerable countries“. Neither equates with the African Group (which covers 54 countries in sub-Saharan Africa).

These points of detail may come to matter more as we try to pin down exactly which parties support the EU.


this post was first published by OneWorld UK