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.
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.
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.
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.”
are some examples of weak language.
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
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.