COP-17 High Level Sessions

6 December 2011 --- The Ministers have arrived and today was the opening ceremony for the high level segment of COP-17. The dignitaries spoke, the Executive Director of the UNFCCC, President of COP-17, President of South Africa, and UN Secretary General. Then several Heads of State spoke, most of whom were representing groups of countries. They were speaking to the Ministers, explaining their group’s agenda, so the issues became a little clearer. All were very compelling and several represented the most vulnerable countries, so the urgency and importance of a positive result from Durban was emphasized. As usual, more details follow if you aren’t too tired of reading this and have the time.
I was happy to see that the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon is here. I had heard that he had given up on the UNFCCC process and was concentrating on sustainability programs and the green economy. He spoke in the opening ceremony and in another session following that highlighted some innovative projects. I got a flyer about an open dialogue he is having tomorrow. I found him very engaging and may go to his open dialogue tomorrow.
All the groups of developing countries challenged the industrialized countries to be ambitious in their mitigation goals because the current science predicts that goals and pledges of today will amount to as much as a 5oC temperature increase before the end of the century. Much more ambitious goals are needed. Developing countries call for completion of the Cancun agreement, which is operationalizing the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Fund, and the National Adaptation Plans. They also insisted on a second commitment period of the KP without a gap.
The European Union explained that there is a problem with the second KP commitment period in that it would be a new treaty requiring ratification. There is not enough time before January 1st, 2013, when the KP ends for a treaty to be ratified by 55% of the countries signing.  This should have been done in COP-16 in Cancun, or even COP-15 in Copenhagen. It took three years before enough countries had ratified so the KP went into force. But COP-15 in Copenhagen was such a disaster that it took a whole year and the Cancun COP-16 to repair it. While there was talk of the second commitment period for the KP, it was not possible to consider it, so everything was put off to Durban.
There are several options offered to avoid a gap between the first and second commitment period,

  1. a two-stage process with amendments to the original treaty and then a new treaty with time for ratification,
  2. a provisional ratification before January 1st, 2013, to be followed by a verified ratification, or
  3. unilateral declarations by countries to cover the gap period.  

Throughout the country statements are comments about the countries not part of the KP, which of course is only the U.S., the elephant in the room. Developed countries make comments about the emerging economies having to step up, which means China, India, and Brazil.
This week the Ministers will have lots of closed negotiating sessions, so there are only a few stocktaking sessions to inform the rest of us what is going on. There are many, many side events inside the official area and outside at the university where there are many interesting teach-ins. But my favorite part in Cancun was the country reports, so I will spend the next three days hearing all 194 countries report the effects of climate change on their country and their work toward a low carbon economy.



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