COP-17 Outcome

12 December 2011 --- This is a postscript on the COP-17 outcome as I have more information about what happened after I left. I feel that they must have strengthened the language, added CBDR back in, or done something about long-term financing of the GCF to sweeten the pie. There were too many developing countries prepared to block agreement when I left. At least in regard to the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the "Durban platform" statement shows some strengthening of language in regard to the second commitment period. Before it said something like "noting the Parties' intention" for a legally binding agreement. Now it says "decides to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change." I don’t know what happened with the other issues.


11 December 2011 --- The COP-17 was supposed to be over Friday, December 9th, but they suspended the session around 11 pm Friday night saying they would resume at 10 am Saturday. I went early to get a seat for 10 am, but that session didn’t start until 6 pm. All day the building was full of people huddled in groups, sharing what they had heard was happening and planning their strategy. The Climate Justice Now group convened about 11:30 by a couple people finding each other and emailing the rest. We shared what information everyone had and brainstormed how to respond to what seemed the likely outcome. The draft texts were available and we could see the direction it was going, so a press release was prepared.


The COP session convened at 6 pm as a “stocktaking” by President Nkoana Mashabane. She just made a strong argument to approve the Durban package of decisions. She said that we have worked long and hard and shouldn’t let that work go to waste. The world is watching. Let’s not disappoint them. Then she closed the session.


A few minutes later the individual Chairs of the four sections began a marathon session on the specific proposed agreement. But there was not agreement on the proposed decisions. These excerpts from the statement by Switzerland summarize the general feeling. “Switzerland came to Durban to fulfill Bali Action Plan set out at COP-13 and to operationalize the decisions made in Cancun last year. … But this text is weak, thin, insufficient. … The shared vision is blind. … However, Switzerland will accept it because it is absolutely necessary. It would be terrible to lose these tiny steps. With regret, we accept.”


Here are some examples of weak language.

The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention … Noting the quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets to be implemented by Parties included in Annex I … Decides to continue in 2012 the process of clarifying the developed country Parties’ quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets, …


As Bolivia stated, there is nothing to guarantee compliance with these targets.


Because references to the countries’ “common but differentiated responsibilities” were deleted, the previous two-track system where developed countries have the primary responsibility because of their historical debt and developing countries that have not been responsible for the problem have a different set of responsibilities was lost.


On the subject of the second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, the weak language was even weaker. The Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol … Decides to review at its eighth session, and revise as appropriate, the design of the … subsequent commitment period, …


This is not commitment, it is a plan to talk about commitment in December of 2012, when the second period of commitment would have to start three weeks later, allowing no time for ratification or detailed planning. This decision needed to be taken in Copenhagen.


To three countries, Canada, Japan, and Russia, the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol seemed pointless without the major polluters involved, the U.S. and the emerging economies. The withdrawal of those three countries leaves only 16 percent of global emissions covered by the second commitment period. But still the financing of adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change is connected to the Kyoto Protocol, so developing countries did not want to see it die.


There were many issues in regard to balance brought up by the developing countries because the developed countries and their corporations seemed to have too much control of the process. They went into marathon negotiating sessions that extra Saturday night, so there may have been some concessions to the developing countries to get the final agreement. I didn’t stay until the bitter end this time because I had a plane to catch early Sunday morning.


The more serious insidious issue is the extent to which market mechanisms crept into all of the proposed solutions. For example, if agriculture is a part of the carbon market as a means of offsetting carbon emissions, then agricultural policy will be determined to suit the financial community, the 1%, not to feed people, the 99%. For more on this, see the Climate Justice Now press release.


The press releases coming out of the U.N. are heralding a great achievement, but it seems to me a minor one which merely keeps the process alive, which doesn’t really justify the tremendous effort that is put into it. But then, I guess it is major when one considers the alternative of no process at all.

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