Blogging Durban: Day 5 (Dec 2)

Categories: Climate Change, Durban COP-17, International Relations

Protests at COP-17

Hammering Out the Green Climate Fund (GCF)

At present, the Parties are still in the proposal stage for the GCF.  Tomorrow, they are planning to discuss the Report published by the Transitional Committee (PDF).  Let’s see… the Report makes a variety of interesting proposals:

  1. It should be run by a Board of 24, with parity between developed and developing nations (recall: NGOs have been adamant that it should also include civil society representatives – fat chance of that being the case, particularly since the Transitional Committee is staffed by government representatives);
  2. It “will” be funded by developed countries, but “may” receive additional inputs from other sources
  3. It should be operationalized as a “country-driven” approach, and will only “encourage” the involvement of the civil society – including “vulnerable groups and addressing gender aspects,” (which is not entirely encouraging for the chances of this instrument being used to empower the most marginalized populations). It will also encourage private sector activities through a private sector facility.
  4. On that note, and given the concern of indigenous peoples with respect to REDD, it will fund “…full and agreed incremental costs [for] adaptation, mitigation (including REDD-plus), technology development and transfer… capacity-building and the preparation of national reports by developing countries.
  5. At the same time, the Board “will develop mechanisms” for the involvement of civil society groups, women, indigenous peoples, and promote social sustainability in its function.

The last two sound very encouraging.  Very?  Somewhat encouraging.  One hopes, in particular, that the language indicating support for vulnerable populations is taken seriously and is not ignored in the conduct of implemented projects (PDF), a problem that has plagued other international financial institutions.

Obviously, with the KP expiring next year, the GCF would be subsumed under the UNFCCC, which lacks binding, iterated obligations – again, contrasting it with the financial mechanism of the Montreal Protocol.  It should be noted, however, that there remains substantial internal debate about the Report: the US is in favor of moving forward with it, given some amendments; other Parties are opposed; others want to adopt the document almost wholesale.

On to the delegates’ talking points!

The United States:

You know, given China’s and Japan’s withdrawal from the idea of binding commitments under the KP, the US suddenly doesn’t look so bad!  The benefit of lowered expectations…  I’m going to pay a lot of attention to them here, as the US is perhaps the most significant veto state, by virtue of being the largest economy, and the second largest emitter.

Dr. Jon Pershing, the special envoy is finishing up his time representing the US here this week, and will transition to a new delegate next week.  Before leaving though, he had a few points about the current state of the debate.  At present, the delegates are involved in, from his perspective, hammering out a “…package agreement that everyone can support,” again indicating some movement towards a globally applicable draft document.  Still, the US remains uninterested in a legal regime.

In discussing possibly the most likely outcome – the implementation of the GCF, Pershing states that the US is trying to make “…fully operational each of the key elements we agreed to in Cancún…” namely “…technology, adaptation, finance, and transparency.”  So, interest in moving towards a Green Climate Fund seems shared among the various Parties – and is certainly supported by the NGO community.

There is some stated confusion regarding who would be subsumed under legal obligations.  Pershing states, in the course of one speech, that rules would have to apply to “all major economies,” “all Parties,” and “major emerging economies.”  The problem is, these are different subsets of the international society – but they do, at least, include the BRIICS nations.  Nevertheless, it is worth noting that, while the US is usually portrayed as the bogeyman in the UNFCCC, the lack of progress towards a legal regime is the foot-dragging of the G-77 + China.  You really have to feel for AOSIS on this one.  With the Umbrella Group and the G-77+China at loggerheads, they and the EU have limited scope.

Another problem characterizing the debates, is that Parties seem to differ as well on what the timeline for additional action will be.  Some see the COP as aimed towards getting an agreement to cover action “between now and 2020,” some are looking for “a proposal beyond 2020.”  The US’ position is that Cancún “…takes us through 2020,” and is vocally skeptical about whether there is additional international interest, not only within the US, but among other nations, in creating new pledges between now and then.  Thus, for the US, Cancún (nonbinding, yes, and?) is the way to go.

The Emissions Gap

Recognizing, however, that (as indicated earlier) fully implementing the Cancún Agreement would still lead to an Emissions Gap, Pershing states that moving towards that is nevertheless a step in the right direction.  In short, rather than making the perfect the enemy of the good, Pershing states that you have to “…marry a politically pragmatic outcome with a scientifically important conclusion.  If you demand more than the politics can deliver, you don’t succeed.”

In contrast, however, Runge-Metzer speaking for the EU, calls for even more ambition than has been indicated so far, given the implications of an unstable climate on global well-being.  At the very least, Parties should start, by the latest next year, 1) trying to understand what the Cancún Agreements mean for Parties; 2) continue the CDM; 3) develop a clear accounting mechanism for all GHG emissions.

The EU

My main man, Tomasz Chruszczow!  Artur Runge-Metzer, in the house!  In discussing his region’s push for a “road map” towards an “…instrument, that eventually we will have on the board, all emitters.  100%.  Globally.”  He claims that developed and developing countries are on board for a legally binding agreement involving 100% of the Parties – this sounds extremely unlikely.  At the same time, the EU is also on board with the idea of creating a second commitment period of the KP which, again, has been rejected so far by Japan, the US and Canada.

Even the EU, however, thinks that a binding agreement will not emerge before 2013 – 2015, but stresses that one has to be created at, “…by the latest, 2020.”  All major economies will have binding emissions agreements, with “common, but differentiated responsibilities.”  Perhaps with voluntary commitments among the poorer LDCs?

Chruszczow makes a point about the problem of linking China with the G-77 as a negotiating bloc: understandably, the G-77 is concerned about applying binding emissions requirements to poor, comparatively agrarian, under-industrialized countries – particularly since they tend to have less emissions per capita than the wealthy nations.  China, however, has per-capita emissions of almost 6 tons of GHGs, while India has emissions at only 1.8 tons per capita.  The implication is that China is covering their irresponsibility with concern about the legitimate grievances of poorer LDCs who are now being asked to respond to a problem not of their making.

Positive Outcomes?

Perhaps the most positive is the interest from all Parties in the GCF.  Other than that, I’ve learned how to spell “Chruszczcow.”

About Kemi Fuentes-George

I am a professor in environmental studies and political science at Middlebury College.