COP-17 Country Reports

8 December 2011 --- I have been to most of the Country Reports. While the Ministers are negotiating in closed sessions, the open sessions involve each country giving their statement. It was my favorite part in Cancun, so I went to most of them. It took three days for all 193 countries plus Palestine.

Each country described their individual experiences with the effects of climate change. The only countries that didn't mention serious problems were the industrialized countries that emit most of the greenhouse gases. It seems to me that there are more countries reporting serious impacts from climate change this year than last: floods and droughts (even in the same area), changing seasons, hurricanes, sandstorms, landslides, coastal erosion, salt water incursion, glaciers melting, record high temperatures where it is already hot, encroaching deserts, sea level rise, coral bleaching due to temperature rise and ocean acidification. More countries mentioned the increasing severity and frequency of extreme events. El Salvador quantified it. They said in the previous 40 years they had one extreme climate event every decade. In 2010 alone they had nine!

There are varying consequences of those impacts. Sea level rise threatens the very survival of small island developing countries. Saltwater incursion threatens water supply and reduces agricultural productivity causing increasing starvation. Increasing desertification and temperatures also reduce water supply and agricultural productivity, which threatens food security.

At the same time all countries reported on their mitigation efforts, which included often very impressive transitions to renewable energy and green economies. Even those countries with very small levels of carbon emissions that have contributed little to the problem and, under the Kyoto Protocol's two track system, are exempted from that obligation, have announced very impressive reductions and transitions to a green economy.

Developing countries mostly reiterated their alliances with the Group of 77 and China, African group, Least Developed Countries, and/or Alliance of Small Island States. They emphasized the absolute need for the second period of commitment for the Kyoto Protocol and at least a plan for a legally binding agreement that will include all countries, as well as predictable, stable financing of the the Adaptation and Green Climate Funds.

The developed countries explained the extent to which they had met their obligations in emission reduction and contributions to the fast start financing. Most endorsed the new financing mechanism, the Green Climate Fund. And, they explained their respective positions. Japan, Canada and Russia all explained that they would not be part of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol unless the major polluters, the U.S. and the large emerging economies, especially China, were also required to reduce their emissions. This was stated more diplomatically, of course.

Noting that without those three nations, only 16 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are covered, the European Union stated their conditional policy. They will go along with the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, but only if there is a roadmap to a legally binding agreement that includes all nations, at least by 2020. Some reported this as saying the EU is delaying action so they don't have to reduce their emissions, but that is not their intention. They are calling for the second Kyoto period without a gap for ratification, but are serious about pulling the U.S. and the emerging economies in eventually.

The really contentious issue is with the dependence upon market-based mechanisms, which all the developed countries favor and even insist upon. A few countries, including Belize, specifically mentioned that public financing is needed. I have made transcripts of my two countries, Belize and the U.S. I also got a copy of the Venezuela report, which I translated from a copy in Spanish, so it may not be totally accurate. I wanted this one because it was the best presentation of all, the only one that was interrupted in the midst with applause and received sustained applause after, instead of the few scattered polite claps. The spokesperson from Venezuela, Claudia Salerno Caldera, is a young woman who is very dynamic.




Back to COP-17