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Now, to do the big wrap on the final act, the real President of Mexico is at the dais to make a thank you farewell wrap-up speech, insuring the boffo reviews and benefits of this particular morality play.
But Mexico is that kind of place. Stories and pageants are a key part of the culture, and there is always a lesson to take home as we leave the theater. I will invite you, dear reader, to draw the lesson from the Cancun Package and COP 16 that you see.
Prologue: COP President's Informal Plenary
Act I: AWG-KP Plenary, sending a report to CMP 6
Act II: AWG-LCA Plenary, sending a report to COP 16
Act IV: COP 16 Plenary, taking up report of AWG-LCA
Epilogue: Closing press conference
There are a few twists, Act III and Act IV are intertwined in a complicated way more akin to modern TV serial dramas. But no matter.
So in the Prologue, we set the scene: the happy celebration of a well-fought campaign, regardless of the fact that the victory is mighty thin in concrete terms. But the citizenry are thrilled because the rather tedious thrashing ("Something is rotten in the state of Denmark") has now died out and things are moving forward, albeit at a snail's pace, not a stallion's.
But now comes a plot twist, a protagonist calling into question the entire rationale for the play and the characters and roles therein. In this case, the clarion is the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
Having had its dignity diminished in the chaos of the previously mentioned rotten state at COP 15, Bolivia is demanding respect and consideration of its principles and recommendations.
The way it is doing so is to object to each decision made in the various above enumerated Acts. And of course they do have a lot on their side in terms of critique and recommendations. But they also have little sympathy in delaying the achievement of the denouement that must necessarily happen.
And so at the moment, partway into Act III, we are watching the great symbolic joust between the COP President and Bolivia.
After suitable speeches, banners, trumpets, parades, consultations and other proceedings, Bolivia will get a concession in the text and will gracefully give way, though it must be given several moments for soliloquies on the global stage.
It might take a while. Stay tuned.
For the past week, I’ve observed the UN Climate Negotiations in Cancun with the Sierra Club delegation. Today is the last official day of the conference (with proceedings going into the night), so I’m taking the time to reflect on my experiences and how the negotiations are progressing.
The draft Decision just released this evening moves forward many issues that have been critical to eventually achieving an effective global agreement to protect the climate: (1) anchoring mitigation targets in the draft decision, (2) enhancing the reporting and review process, (3) establishing an Adaptation Committee, (4) urging more ambitious targets, (5) adopting a policy approach for reducing emissions from deforestation,(6) creates a Green Climate Fund, includes technology development and capacity building, (7) a review process to include best available science and consideration of strengthening from a 2C to a 1.5C tempreature rise goal.
The draft Decision adds new subject matter and detail to the model of the Copenhagen Accord, creating conceptual agreements and institutions to operationalize them, but much remains to be resolved in future years, including many details of each of the above points, such as specific rules for forest protection and market mechanisms, how the Green Climate Fund will be funded, and how Countries' mitigation pledges will be adequate to meet the climate goals stated in the shared vision.
The UNFCCC process requires consensus, and while progress has been slow, we should hope it remains steady.
A small but significant addition was made into the LCA text today. In the first section (Shared Vision), the last paragraph states:
The story of this little bit of text has been a long up-and-down saga. The 'just transition' reference has been in and out of the text at least three times. It disappeared again last weekend, only to come back in after a strenuous week of lobbying and behind the scenes pushing (and I worked with Annabella Rosemberg of ITUC and the CAN Shared Vision working group to get an article in ECO supporting reinstatement).
Why is this important? Most of what we work on in the negotiations as environmental groups is the 'how much' -- the timetables and targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions, the amount of finance and technology support needed to help developing countries deal with climate change while developing in a sustainable way.
'Just transition' is about the 'how' -- how to get to the goals by assembling and focusing the work of billions of people to address and successfully reduce the risks of dangerous climate change as well as associated environmental risks, while building a fairer and more sustainable economic future.
As the ITUC has long said, having a 'just transition' to a low-carbon future is crucial, and they have sponsored in-depth debate and development of resolutions and papers that lay out the contours of this approach in great depth. For more info see:
Since I first began working with ITUC at COP 11 in Montreal in 2005, I've been impressed with their serious and creative approach to the very difficult issues that climate poses for all of us.
And I want to commemorate the work of two pioneers of blue-green work, Tony Mazzocchi, a longtime leader in the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, and Jim Jontz. member of the Indiana Legislature and five-term member of Congress, and then executive director of the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment. Tonight, their visionary work has achieved global significance.
So tonight I want to salute the ITUC and its many associated national federations and trade union members worldwide for showing us that 'another world is possible.'
It's always dangerous to guess ahead of time where the sticky points will be in the final deliberations at the end of a COP. Bolivia is going to raise a list of issues but it's not looking like they will actually block the decisions, although there will probably be negotiations to give them some concessions.
A more longstanding concern is with Saudi Arabia, which is very sensitive to any language that would dimiinish their future oil market. And then there is Russia, which has long speciliazed in last-minute blocking (which in a consensus process means a final decision can't be made) on various obscure concerns.
There are still significant worries about some of the bigger pieces on financing and other issues, but in general, the deal is so weak it looks like a least-common-denominator win and right now, barring something unexpected, we will have a Cancun Package tomorrow.
The other thing this represents is a broad view, including countries that are really opposed to each other on key issues, that the UNFCCC is the one place with legitimacy and reach to achieve international agreement on joint climate action. The terrible process in Denmark a year ago has led to what some call "the ghost of Copenagen past." That burden now seems to be lifting.
Not that countries will work together happily ever after. They are countries, after all, and fight, sometimes bitterly, for their perceived interests. But for all the noise about the impossibility of reaching consensus, blah blah (and no doubt the UNFCCC needs a backup voting procedure, which originally was blocked by influence from the US oil industry and has been carried on ever after by, you guessed it, the Saudis), the consensus process has a very different dynamic than majority voting and can, when the political will exists, go a very long way in the right direction.
There was an "informal plenary" at around 6 which basically was the announcement by Maria Espinosa, Mexico's foreign minister and the COP president, about the basic plan and schedule.
The plan and the basic outlines of the draft texts got a rolling wave of applause at the informal plenary. I was outside the building for an informal gathering with our Sierra Club delegates so I missed it, but you can watch the video and more from Adopt a Negotiator/tcktcktck here:
It will be a very late evening, with interspersed plenary sessions and backroom meetings of key delegates and country groups.
The LULUCF draft decision I referred to previously looks less dire than we first thought, but I'll post more later. Off to a Climate Action Network LULUCF group meeting now to talk about that.
This is convenient for countries but terrible for the atmosphere, because it allows countries to increase their emissions without accounting for them. That makes it easier to reach their targets for reducing emissions from sources like power plants, cars and industry.
Credible estimates say that 500 million tons a year of CO2 could fall into this loophole. That's a lot -- more than half as much as all Kyoto countries pledged to reduce by 2012 (their post-2012 pledges would be higher, but not even double).
The details are complex but this is, in my view,. a major defeat for the principle of environmental integrity in the climate negotiations. It doesn't affect the US directly because we are not in the Kyoto Protocol, but it will have an indirect downward pull on our domestic forest and lands emissions accounting approach.
This is still a draft decision, and to be sure it doesn't actually say that "reference levels" will replace the old method, but it lists the levels chosen by countries over the last few months and sets up a review process (demanded by the G77+China, the major developing country negotiating bloc). If the decision goes through as is, it all but guarantees that the Logging Loophole will be officially locked into place in Durban at COP 17 a year from now. But effectively speaking, it's a 500 million ton giveaaway to political expediency and industry interest.
The best-guess timeline is a several hours to look at the new texts, then the general plenaries starting in the late evening and going all night.
No word yet on the "crunch issues" -- the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the launch of the new climate institutions (financial, adaptation, technology and REDD), and a couple others. But we are heading for a very weak outcome.
So the second level is all the rest of us, including NGOs, media, and even most members of the country delegations. I saw the chief negotiator for South Africa, the delegation manager for the US, and the top negotiator for New Zealand who is also manager of the AWG-KP (Kyoto Protocol ad-hoc working group) strolling around outside in the last hour.
And we're all saying, where's the bloody text! The 'text' is the draft decisions to be adopted by the two main plenaries (COP 16 for the UN Framework Convention and CMP 6 for Kyoto) later today -- maybe.
The latest hallway rumor is that some expect the session to wrap up as late as 6 pm Saturday. But the Mexican COP presidency has made clear they want it done by tonight. It all depends on the political dealmaking going down right now and through the day and probably the evening in those small rooms.
As for the deal itself, there are a couple possibilities. One would be inability to find a way to keep the chances for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol alive for a year. That would be a collapse scenario with unpredictable but dire consequences. The other is a political declaration, a set of very weak decisions and basically not "kick the can" but a "tap the can down the road" outcome.
My thanks to Ernie, for his willingness to be badgered (by yours truly) into sharing his valuable insights...
Friday morning 3 AM...... Allison, don't blame me, you encouraged me to share my thoughts.... and I warned you... Now 10:30 and I've toned it down a bit...
Only my opinion and I am not making light of the events and actions going on here..... though, today should be good theater.Closing scene of Act 16. Certainly it looks like the Mexican government has tried mightily to provide a forum for meaningful discussion and has been encouraging positive steps to combat climate change. And you always hope,.... you always hope. For me, the information and activities that are swirling around me makes it really hard to get any sense of direction to these talks. The really best way of knowing what is going on, is to keep visiting the Climate Action Network's (CAN) website as well as ENB's website for the most honest interpretation of events, past and present. Any sense of how successful or how much of another failure (16 and counting?) will not be fully known for a few days. Remember Obama and his staff's spin immediately after Copenhagen?
CAN - http://www.climatenetwork.org/
ENB - http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop16/
Some anecdotes, ramblings and recommendations.... not in any order....
I really enjoy the random conversations with people of other nations. I am amazed and saddened by the reps from other countries for their continued lack of understanding of how little the US has and will offer to assist the people of their countries. How many years and how many promises does it take for someone to see the obvious? If Gore and Clinton couldn't get legislation passed, and even if Obama is really interested, the American public and Congress have no will to deal, much less even to acknowledge, man-made climate change. So the American public will have to wait for another sinking of the Maine, or a Pearl Harbor or a 9/11 or a Katrina or a ….... Yes we are good at responding to a crisis but are we good at recognizing thatwe are the frog in the pot on the stove when the heat is slowly being turned up?
I'm not sure if my musings are perceived by the reader as making sense, or believed or just thought of as silliness or someone with a warped or negative perspective. I would guess that the few who know me well and know some of my background and passion (and compassion?) may be listening. But it as much therapy to write these words since leaving them inside my head is painful.
Real change, starts with ourselves.
To me, part of dealing with climate change is to change my behavior. Be as aware first, then keep trying to reduce my CO2 footprint and then find like minded people to be able to work together. The US enviro-groups are well meaning and still in the infant stage for potential to influence. I'm not really joking when I make the following suggestion: we should all be required to have lobbying training from NRA reps. Talk about a small group of people with real political clout! Each of our enviro-groups have different missions but need to find Common Cause, work together better and learn a way to exercise the power and knowledge that we have. Right now we haven't really made a dent. You disagree, I'm so sorry but try and see the obvious. The scientific debate is over, GHGs cause climate change, YET over the last 5 years, more of the American public have shifted back to denial. The disconnect is that money, media/advertising manipulation and our innate desire to not want to see something unpleasant nor change our comfort level, keeps us in a fools paradise, while the rest of the world is already dealing with climate change impact. Part of the disconnect is because as a country, we are isolated and insulated.... Basically, fat dumb and “happy”.... And sooooo obLivious.... So many of us will say I read the news and I even travel outside of the country (two weeks and back home?) and I am certainly educated. How many of us actually interact, much less listen to “foreigners”. We think someone in our country who speaks English with an accent has some type of character flaw though they can communicate in two languages whereas many “Americans” have trouble with one. How many of the thousands of people who came to COP 16 actually got any sense of Mexico? How many flew in, got in their air conditioned bus to go to their air conditioned hotel to their air conditioned conference (with it's security guards, military and police) to get back on their air conditioned bus to their air conditioned hotel to fly back home? Though, MAYBE they went to a historical site by taking an air conditioned bus driven by an air conditioned driver to hear in English, an air conditioned tour guide tell them about a wonderful ancient culture that the Europeans destroyed...(Doesn't help to be reading right now Howard Zinn's - A People's History of the United States)
If we are really serious about changing the American public then it will take, what I call, connecting the dots. Already, there is climate change affecting us, it's just that we are not linking what our senses our telling us. Sure it's going to be more obvious in the future but it's obvious now and we need to take every opportunity and every way to help the rest of us to see what is going on. Acknowledgment coupled with action. Waiting two years for new elections or thinking that Obama is going to save us, or that giving people climate change facts will scare them into denial, is logic, that is counterproductive at best.
If you (and me) really care and if we really want to change our country's direction then we need to understand POWER. Money and votes move politicians. We don't have much money so we have to go after votes. Local, state and nationally we need to work together to get our message across and motivate the people to hold our elected officials ACCOUNTABLE. And then have meaningful legislation passed and enforced.
Maybe we need a “NEW” type of movement, something like the Freedom Riders or Minute Men?
Sure I'm irritated, why shouldn't I be, why shouldn't we all be....... 390 going to 450+ ... 3 inches going to 3 feet+ …. 1 million going to 1 billion+ being displaced or the poor or their children who are dying now....
If I offended some, good, because, at least it means you read what I had to say.... And I do appreciate that..... not that I offended you but that you read my musings.
And I know many of you may have been working harder and longer than I have... It's just that we all need to work smarter...
Heading over to Moon Palace so I can get a good seat....
sooooo much going on each day during the COP that it can be difficult to keep
track of where progress is being made…or not. There are numerous briefings – CAN has daily meetings (Sierra
Club is a member of Climate Action Network which is a global network of about
500 non-governmental organizations), US CAN meetings (includes about 80 US
NGOs), US Delegation with NGOs -- and the list goes on. The SC Delegation has tried to convene
every other day or so, for those who can make it. Conference logistics don’t make it that easy to travel
between venues on short notice.
one can track events and news through the CAN and COP16 websites, including access to live
web cams for some of the sessions.
Two popular media for getting a sense of progress that is being made in
the negotiations (or not!) are the Eco Newsletter and Fossil Awards.
Eco Newsletter is
published daily and provides an insiders look at “what should happen at the
negotiations from CAN’s perspective.”
Our very own Fred Heutte has been Editor in Chief this year. If you
don’t arrive early enough to the conference, you’ll lose out on picking up a
copy. Fortunately, you can read
sponsors the “Fossil
of the Day” Awards – which recognize countries that have performed badly
during the climate change negotiations.
These “slightly sarcastic yet highly prestigious awards are presented
almost daily during the conference.
Of the 17 awards that have been presented thus far, Canada leads the
pack with five such honors, 3 of which are for first place. Sad to say, the US is next in line with
four awards, all of which were received over the last THREE CONSECUTIVE
days! Since these awards are
voted on by CAN members, this is the international NGO community being critical
of the US negotiating stance (ie, impeding progress on multiple fronts). There’s a great article on this in the ECO
The CAN Technology was disappointed that the US chose to now, at Cancun, insist that it will only "consider" establishing the Technology Mechanism rather than actually creating it. Technology transfer has been a core commitment since the beginning of the Convention, and we've already wasted too much time discussing how to do it. A workable proposal is finally on the table and everyone else is willing to go with it and establish the new technology mechanism here in Cancun. Insisting that we should "consider" establishing it was not helpful.
We were confused by this position since the Copenhagen Accord clearly states that leaders agreed to "establish a Technology Mechanism", "operational immediately". This move is surprising in that it seems to go behind what heads of state already agreed to and is effectively an attempt to renegotiate a deal struck among world leaders. For the last year, most parties in the technology negotiations have been working hard to answer the remaining questions and a lot of progress was made in Cancun. While everyone else is being flexible, the US simply isn't.
The US championed the need for a technology center and networks and is developing some regional center pilots, so we don't understand the hesitation about the proposal that's on the table. Concerns by US clean tech companies about being under a burdensome and bureaucratic UN body are misinformed; what our warming world needs is precisely what a multilateral mechanism can deliver: coordinated planning and implementation to speed-up and scale-up the what poor countries and communities need to transition quickly to a low-emissions future."