COP18 Doha UN climate talks Dec 7th

Friday 0840: This title should read “Welcome to the Final Day of COP18” but nobody believes that an end is in sight today. Whilst efforts continued late into last night, there isn’t the sense of urgency necessary to cram an impossibly dense agenda into the next 18 hours.

It doesn’t help that two of the three milestone sessions scheduled for yesterday didn’t happen – the closing working group plenaries for the LCA and Durban Platform negotiating tracks.

There is now a text of sorts for LCA but it’s still missing a section on finance. The Durban Platform process won’t crank into action until the LCA is sorted out.

The working group for the Kyoto Protocol did hold its closing plenary yesterday but the text forwarded to ministers is riddled with brackets – notably on its inadequate pledges for emission cuts, how to deal with hot air carbon credits, access to the offset market for non-participants, the term of the second commitment period and how to get everything started on 1st January.

Securing the second Kyoto Protocol period is the task of one of the five “ministerial outreach” units in operation. These strive for solutions to the COP’s most knotty problems – other topics for them include finance and Loss and Damage.

Nothing is fixed in time today – the remaining agenda items for COP18 will float on a sea of hope rather than expectation.


Friday 1005: Given the global media’s lack of interest in COP18, you have to hand it to the Financial Times for sending its correspondent, Pilita Clark, to Doha.

The difficulty for the world’s most influential business publication is where to publish articles about climate change. It doesn’t have an environment section. It’s a little disconcerting to find Ms Clark’s pieces under the heading:

Emerging Markets

That’s more ammunition for those who fear that action on climate change is being sold to the highest corporate bidders.


Friday 1540: It’s hard to read the runes of the COP President’s stocktaking session which ended about an hour ago.

Most of the negotiating groups aligned themselves with the position of the G77/China group. But the Algerian speaker for G77/China didn’t say much except that the group was holding a meeting immediately after the stocktaking to discuss the overall package.

It was ominous that the most positive voice came from Australia, speaking for the Umbrella group (led by blocking countries like US and Canada). “We’re making real progress. We’re getting closer to a Doha package that we can all agree to.”

This suggests that a bad deal is emerging for the poorest and most vulnerable countries, as predicted in the Third World Network press briefing. Certainly, Pa Ousman Jarju had little patience with the President’s timekeeping jokes and his naive deesire to begin the final session at 1800 today. “We’re not going to be rushed. We want to ensure that we go home with something acceptable,” said the Chair of the Least Developed Countries group.

Connie Hedegaard of the EU was the one speaker who dispensed with niceties about the Qatar presidency.

“Time is running out. The EU feels strongly that ministers should capture the overall package and conduct cross-track negotiations….. and we need that ministerial to happen right now.”

She’s unhappy about a lot of things, especially the lack of ambition for emissions pledges for countries not in the Kyoto Protocol and the lack of financial pledges to match those coming from European governments.

In other words, Ms Hedegaard wants something out of the US before signing up to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. Maybe the old alliance with the LDCs will reignite.


Friday 1605: A spokesman for the Least Developed Countries has laid out the group’s position on climate finance in a press briefing just finished (I apologise that I missed his name).

The demand is that the donor countries raise climate finance from current level of around $10 billion per annum to $20 billion rising to $60 billion by 2015.

“I would say we are ready to go back home empty-handed if we do not get the means to address our problem with climate change,” he said. “$60 billion is a conservative request…in the context of the commitment to $100 billion per annum by 2020.”

Nothing we’ve heard suggests that the donor countries are prepared even to continue at the current rate of $10 billion. Quite a gap to close in the endgame.


Friday 1650: A Climate Action Network press conference has just confirmed that the current pitch of the proposed outcome for the Doha COP is rock bottom. No raised ambition on reducing emissions, no action to prevent carry-over of hot air carbon permits, no new climate finance.

I fear that the phrase “absolutely nothing” will be the trending topic on twitter, at least for now. Celine Charveriat of Oxfam summed up the frustration for the poorest countries:

“These countries are being pressed into accepting the unacceptable. They are put into a horrible dilemma of accepting nothing or being accused of collapsing the UN process. What this is really about is the developed countries not keeping their promises and legal obligations.”

There may be scraps of comfort for the poorer countries in a view expressed by Wendel Trio of CAN Europe. “It’s clear that the whole question of getting new carbon market mechanisms is not going anywhere any time soon,” he said.

It sounds as though Bolivia and the ALBA group of Latin American countries are making a nuisance of themselves on this topic.


Friday 1755: Top negotiators from the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries have held a joint press conference at the Doha COP.

Journalists were anxious to establish whether these countries might be prepared to walk out, if there is no improvement in the current Doha package for COP18.

Pa Ousman Jarju, chair of the group representing the Least Developed Countries said: “we want to be positively engaged. We don’t want to reach a stage where we would walk out.”

On the vexed question of new climate finance, Pa Ousman Jarju confirmed that the
the poor countries have a common position on their demands for $20 billion per annum for 2013-2015. “We want the medium term gap to be filled,” he said.

But Tony de Brum from the Marshall Islands put the impasse on finance bluntly: “there is no money on the table that we can see right now.”

Despite their frustrations, all speakers expressd faith in the UN process. “It is the only opportunity to press for our survival,” said Dr Emmanuel Dlamini, chair of the African group of negotiators.

Just two metres above sea level, the Marshall Islands know all about survival. “Our food security has been undermined by salt inundation,” said De Brum. ” There is very little we can do to prevent this happening.”


Friday 2105: While the closing plenary of the Durban Platform working group winds its way through detailed comment on the text (and, no, Todd Stern won’t accept any references to Rio+20), I’ve been pondering the headlines in UK online media following a statement on government spending.

Austerity to be extended until 2018

Just the tonic for Christmas. But wait a moment. Compared with the rest of Europe, the UK economy is radiant. And the US doesn’t even have a medium term fiscal strategy on the table. Formal IMF and OECD outlooks for both Europe and United States are bleak.

Compare that general outlook with what we’re hearing at the Doha COP. The donor countries cite temporary economic difficulties in their refusal to scale up climate finance towards the promised $100 billion per annum by 2020. Come back next year is the message.

But austerity in those economies is set for the medium term. Is the will to honour the promise going to be any greater next year? 2015? 2018?

Austerity doesn’t prevent gargantuan government handouts for disasters like Hurricane Sandy or the UK floods. And those handouts were not triggered by a binding agreement, for which the cheerleaders on finance were President Obama and Hillary Clinton (in Copenhagen in 2009).

Who can blame the poorer countries for demanding an immediate trajectory of climate finance from the current level of $10 billion per annum, both as a sign of good faith and as an urgent need to prepare for climate change?


Friday 2210: Proceedings have descended into farce as co-chair Jayant Mauskar has twice brought down the gavel to close the Durban Platform session, only to retract on the demand of China.

According to China, the “technology is not working,” – the screen message that alerts the chair to a request to speak from the floor. Some delegates may feel that China is deliberately seeking to prolong the proceedings, an impression gained during earlier lengthy interventions.

Now there’s a one-to-one between the co-chairs and the Chinese delegate. Plenty of grievance in the hall.

I do get the impression that ministers really mean what they say in their resolve not to prolong the COP into Sunday, or even late Saturday.


Friday 2230: With some clever suggested wording by Egypt, the Durban Platform co-chair and China have patched up their differences. The gavel has come down on the working group’s decisions and the path is clear for the main COP to embark on its final task of bringing together the three tracks of negotiations.

Well, not exactly a clear path, but they can get started. Hard as you try and wish, there’s surely too much fundamental disagreement to cobble something together. Maybe if they could start afresh in the morning as happened last year in Durban? But there’s no sign of that.

My bet is that they will have to give it up, perhaps promising to resume in a few months, rather than wait a year for the delights of Poland. (by which time the US president may be persuaded to shake up his negotiating team).


Friday 2250: While we’re waiting for the main COP agenda to resume, it’s worth noting the central disagreement in the just concluded debate on the Durban Platform text. It wasn’t resolved and will therefore feature in the closing debate, unless ministers quickly find some compromise wording, in a corridor chat.

We all thought that the problem of principles had been knocked on the head by Todd Stern’s Damascene moment on equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. But we’ve just learned that he has no time for any cross-reference of this issue with the outcome of the June Rio+20 summit.

“The Future We Want” makes it explicitly clear that the UN climate process should observe the 1992 Rio Principles such as common but differentiated responsibilities. It’s hard to understand why the US special envoy might object but he does so in no uncertain terms:

“We (the UNFCCC) are a Treaty. Rio is a political declaration. It’s fine where it was and it doesn’t belong here. We very strongly oppose any reference to Rio, much less the elaborate reference being proposed.”

China took strong exception to this.

“The outcome document of the Rio+20 summit was negotiated with world leaders. All delegates here have to honour what our leaders agreed to.”

Sort that one out.


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