COP17 Durban UN climate talks Dec 9

2:21am GMT: Here’s another very technical topic to get out of the way in our daily round-up. Chris Lang, publisher of, has pulled together this really thorough summary of the state of play on the subject of REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation).

Lang restrains himself from expressing an opinon, but it’s not exactly a secret that forest specialists are deeply unhappy with events in Durban. If you derive perverse pleasure in seeing environmentalists in deep despair, then replay the recording of yesterday’s Greenpeace press conference.

3:21am GMT: For the second day running, a relatively small national youth activist group grabbed the headlines at the Durban climate talks. This time it was US student, Abigail Borah, who succeeded in disrupting Todd Stern’s speech to the main plenary.

It hasn’t been an easy conference for the bigger environmental campaign groups, not least due to the touchy security arrangements. But the fortnight has slipped by all too quickly and they must get busy today. As the awful prospect of another lost decade sinks in, everyone knows there’s too much at stake.

Beyond Durban, Avaaz has been doing a great job with its call for signatures under the heading which now reads: “24 hours to save our dying planet!” Addressed to the leaders of Brazil, China and Europe, the appeal has 650,000 signatures, up about 20,000 since I looked a short while ago.

3:50am GMT: It’s not difficult to tell that’s it’s been a day of swirling political developments at the Durban climate talks. When things get confusing, media reports tend to pin themselves to one strand, such as the shaky performance of the US envoy, Todd Stern, or the rather more robust marshalling of resources by the Europeans.

Richard Black of the BBC probably gets as close as any to pulling all the strands together, including the alliance between the EU and the LDCs brokered by Denmark. The African Group also said it would side with Connie Hedegaard who has certainly made all the running. Like all of us, Black remains in the dark on the European position on dates (2012, 2015, 2020 etc).

Did anything else really change? I’m don’t think so. The Canadians appeared to do a dramatic U-turn but I’m inclined to conclude that minister Peter Kent is a loose cannon. I”ve seen the clip of yesterday’s interview and he’s as unconvincing as last week’s shenanigans over resigning from the Kyoto Protocol.

We’re told that Todd Stern has softened his position on the EU roadmap. But my recollection of his first briefing on Tuesday was that he said quite clearly that he was open to discuss a process to take us forward.

Neither the Chinese nor the Indians said very much yesterday. The only thing I can find out about Jayanthi Natarajan is that she has delayed her flight home until Sunday, an ominous move for those of us with plans for Saturday which did not involve the word Kyoto.

India is the party which is most boxed in by its public statements. But there are those three longstanding concerns lurking in the background – equitable access to sustainable development; unilateral trade measures and intellectual property rights. I suspect that we’re going to learn more about what these actually mean over the coming day (or two).

4:15am GMT: Setting the right tone for the final day of the Durban climate talks is this “open letter to delegates” published by Occupy COP17. The parsing is for “human microphone.”

Can you hear me? /

Are you listening? /

These words / are not my own. / They are the voice / of the voiceless. / I speak to you, / not as a nation –/ but as the unheard majority of this planet – / the youth who are inheriting a system / we will not accept. / And I speak to you, / with the authority of every child / yet to be born. / The future belongs to them / not you.

10:43am GMT: Amidst the uncertainties and strain of a press conference held on the final day, Friends of the Earth International sustained their structural perspective that these negotiations are disproportionately influenced by the interests of big corporate power.

If they’re right, what should we look out for in the final outcome? What are the fingerprints of big business?

There are broadly three strands of commercial interest:

the carbon traders – these guys want expansion of the Clean Development Mechanism. The developing countries won’t agree to that without continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. Europe is under pressure from the traders so that’s one reason it supports the KP.

the new energy retailers – they want to sell their kit to poor countries. They want to protect their smart technologies from being copied by China, India etc. Watch for a fight on intellectual property rights.

the big infrastructure builders – they want to build power stations everywhere with a kick from climate finance. They want the Clean Development Mechanism to include their work – including coal technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

One final thought. The interests of the big corporates is not confined to the old industrialised countries. Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs are crawling all over Durban as well.

10:58am GMT: I’m watching the Climate Action Network press conference and…

…at last the NGOs have cottoned on to making the connection between financial events in Europe and the lack of financial commitment in the Durban climate talks.

Jason Anderson, Head of European Climate and Energy Policy at WWF, said:

$200 billion was mobilised to stabilise the euro currency yesterday. We need that kind of decisiveness to ensure that the Green Climate Fund does not remain an empty shell

11:44am GMT: In the current briefing by Third World Network, Meena Raman has confimed my fears about the importance of intellectual property rights in making new technologies available to poor countries.

She reports good progress in some of the informal negotiations on specialist issues such as technology transfer. She says that the draft text is supported by developing countries such as Bolivia and Philippines but is being resisted by US, Canada and Japan.

Her summary of the overall position is that key interests of developing countries (of which IPRs is just one) are being blocked by the usual suspects.

12:14pm GMT: Is she still smiling?

This is the barometer of hope that we can see in any presentation by Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, President of the UN climate conference.

and the answer is – Yes, big time. All these positive things to say…

The LDCs, EU and African Group are moving towards common ground.This also includes the bigger group G77+China

(She doesn’t mean China itself, that’s just the name of the group). But then she says:

Other parties are coming on board

As long as that statement remains valid, we could be heading for an agreement of sorts in Durban.

12:47pm GMT: I’ve seen a press release timed a couple of hours ago from the Ecosystems Climate Alliance with a self-explanatory headline:

Finance Sources Dropped from REDD Text

This refers to the endeavours of the negotiations to agree how to pay for the scheme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

The note explains:

Disagreement centered on market mechanisms and how to address the concept of offsets and carbon markets….the REDD decision on sources of finance lacks specific information on sources of finance.

REDD may not be dead but it’s undoubtedly going through a near-death experience in Durban.

3:15pm GMT: Let’s move on from all this singing and dancing in the protests and get back to business. We were hoping to catch up with a briefing from Jayanthi Natarajan, but it looks as though she has cancelled.

What might be keeping the Indian Minister for Environment and Forests from an early finish to the business of this conference?

Many observers feel that the showstopper in the negotiations is the insistence that any agreement on emissions reductions should be cemented within a legally binding agreement, like the Kyoto Protocol. Countries like US, India and China don’t like this.

I’m not convinced. One thing about legal terminology is that it can often be circumvented by….more legal terminology. Surely some clever wording can be found to satisfy all parties.

I’ve been influenced more by the untypically dull presentations in Durban by Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, a body which assists developing countries. For a fortnight his needle has been stuck in a groove which replays the large gap in emissions per capita in India and China, compared with the United States.

And yet the US is insisting on “parity” in the mitigation expectations of all parties in the new agreement under discussion. Earler today, Martin Khor was still playing the tape:

if we don’t solve this problem (of common but differentiated responsibilities) we will not be able to get all 192 countries to agree to this thing. For them (India) to be treated the same as the US – I do not think this is fair.

These countries listen to Martin Khor. I don’t think the Europeans have a problem with CBDR (as it’s called) but, unless the US can be persuaded to get reasonable, we’ll be left with a weak outcome.

4:53pm GMT: I checked out the press briefing by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance which finished just now.

The NGO representatives on the platform didn’t have any specific update on the reaction of the Africa Group of negotiators to the latest draft text. But their mood was downbeat.

The Zambian spokesman (apologies for not picking up his name) observed that a poor result here in Durban will rebound on the multilateral system generally and on the forthcoming Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in particular.

This is the set piece event of 2012 for all concerned for poverty reduction and environmental integrity.

He also mentioned the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN framework that was agreed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, alongside the Convention on Climate Change.

I think he’s right – indeed the Rio+20 preparation is already weighed down by low expectations. But our concern must focus more on the UN climate change regime which may no longer be sufficiently robust in the minds of political leaders to withstand another major setback.

And let’s hope that’s not going to happen anyway.

5:13pm GMT: A high octane reaction to the draft text from Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, speaking at the Focus on the Global South briefing. If his anger proves contagious, we’re in for a stormy evening indeed.

we call on the G77, the ALBA Group, the Africa Group, the AOSIS to say clearly that enough is enough for this nonsense. We cannot afford to pretend that nothing is going on while the world is burning.

DON’T KILL AFRICA reads his placard.

7:01pm GMT: Before we encounter any more draft texts, here’s an outline summary of the day’s events. (I invite my colleagues to follow up with any errors or omissions).

With the overnight wind in her sails, the European Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard used the day’s opening press briefing to add pressure on those parties yet to be won over by her roadmap.

Soon we heard that Brazil and South Africa had been seduced, leaving China, India and US as the main hold-outs. Perhaps the gameplan was to isolate the US and repeat the endgame of the Bali conference in 2007.

Criticism that the NGO movement has been too sleepy in the Durban’s sultry atmosphere was finally answered in the most decisive fashion. A “flashmob” of activists filled the hallways, singing and chanting messages to the delegates by human microphone. About 100 protesters have been stripped of their conference badges.

Interviewed moments before his ejection from the Convention Centre, Kumi Naidoo – head of Greenpeace – expressed outrage that the world’s banks had overnight mobilised $200 billion to rescue the euro currency, yet could produce nothing for the Green Climate Fund.

These events were captured in dramatic fashion by the OneClimate team. Here’s Jeffrey Allen’s report.

A new draft of the outcome text was initially accepted by the EU as a basis for further negotiations. But an about-turn was forthcoming when its allies, including the small island states, refused outright to consider the document.

We understand that a revised draft may shortly materialise. There is uncertainty over the remainder of the timetable. Rumours that work will be held over to Saturday may prove false if some key players have booked an early exit from Durban.


this post was first published by OneWorld UK