Blogging Durban: Day 4 (Dec 1)

Demonstrations Outside COP-17

Good news!

Oh, wait.  No there isn’t.  Anyway, back to COP-17.  At present, the EU is by far, the biggest pusher for a binding regime.  They’ve already adopted, in 2008, a regional plan to cut 20% of EU emissions by 2020, and promised that they will increase that to 30%, if a binding agreement is signed for the post-Kyoto commitment period.  Moreover, they’ve been pretty adamant about getting parties on board a “road map” towards a binding agreement which should enter into force by the latest, 2020.

At present, it’s not entirely clear what the EU proposed Durban Road Map will look like: one major issue is that Tomasz Chruszczow stated on November 24 that a binding regime should include “100 percent of all emissions under one global umbrella,” while other recent press releases refer to targeting the “major emitters.”  This is an important distinction – due to the necessity of obtaining consensus to create protocols and new agreements under the UNFCCC – just on the basis of numbers – it will be far easier to create a binding regime focusing on the top 12 emitters (which combined, emit 80% of the world’s GHGs) than to try to convince close to 200 countries to agree on something.  Of course, doing so would mean breaking down the G-77 bloc on this issue.  The thought, at this point, of global consensus on binding obligations, is mind-boggling.

Brazil, the EU Road Map, and Financing

Some of the delegates themselves seem, already, to be somewhat disillusioned.  In discussing the EU Durban Road Map today, the Brazilian delegate, ambassador André Corrêa do Lago stated with some resignation, “Well, we have to talk about the same subjects, basically, every day.”  No kidding.  Anyway, Corrêa do Lago indicates that there may be some confusion among the principals about what the proposal is.  While expressing support for a binding regime, strengthening the UNFCCC and KP he states some concern about textual ambiguity in the EU proposal: “The issue is that, in these negotiations, a little word can make a lot of difference.  We have to see which elements Brazil can be comfortable with.”  Finally, reiterating the position of the G-77 + China bloc, “we are not agreeing with the idea of the world, in this road map, as a whole.”

Corrêa do Lago also makes an important, and potentially sobering observation.  One of the mechanisms through which the KP was being implemented is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).  In short, Parties with Annex B commitments could get credits for cutting emissions by funding low-cost projects in less developed countries (LDCs).  Potentially a win-win situation, this theoretically would allow richer countries to cut emissions cheaply (since the atmosphere doesn’t care where carbon comes from), while fostering technological transfer to LDCs.  Without binding commitments, there will be no incentive to invest in the CDM.  This also raises a similar question about the Green Climate Fund (GCF).  While the Montreal Multilateral Fund was an important element in obtaining LDC support for phasing out Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs), it was created pursuant to a binding agreement.  Without that, it’s not immediately clear what kind of institutional support there will be to transfer the technology needed to China, India, Brazil, etc., to allow them to ‘leapfrog’ over the path of dirty industrialization, particularly as there would be no agreed-upon standard of cuts to which the provided funds would apply.

Japan

Japan has an interesting approach here, which may be comparable to that of the US.  Japan has already stated that, like Canada (and effectively the US), it has no interest in ratifying a second commitment to the KP.  At the same time, they’ve not withdrawn from the KP, and are in fact going to “…continue our efforts towards GHG reduction, and would like the improve the CDMs and so on.”  Moreover, they want to adopt “…a single legal document that establishes a fair and effective framework with which all the major economies will cooperate” in the future.  On this approach, they state they will stand “hand in hand with the EU” in lobbying for a binding regime – but one which does away with the KP’s limited approach, incorporating rules for a small majority of GHG emissions.

In addition, they’ve  been promoting their multilateral aid program on climate change, stating that “…it is necessary for both developed and developing countries to achieve low carbon growth all over the world.”  Under this plan, Japan is pledging to transfer policymaking expertise and technological know-how to LDCs through “concrete measures” intended to go right up until Rio + 20 next year.  At present, Japan has provided $12.5 billion dollars, primarily to the poorest countries, and is planning to develop technological transfers in goods such as solar cells.

Take it away, Climate Action Network!

CAN

Well, right off the bat, Kelly Dent from Oxfam states that the world will need $200 billion a year to get the action necessary to meet our climate goals.  I’m not sure what she’s basing these numbers on, but if she’s right, I’m buying beachfront property in Montana right now.  The rest of their press conference is too depressing to cover.

Overview: Are We Talking About the KP, or Something Else?

One thing that seems to be muddled in the discussion right now, is: what kind of a binding agreement are people talking about?  The NGOs, particularly CAN-I, as well as developing countries in the G-77 + China (if Argentina is to be believed) are primarily interested in creating a second commitment period to the KP.  The Umbrella Group is ostensibly interested in a binding agreement, but are explicit in saying that it should NOT be reification of the KP – again, for pretty valid reasons.  Now, the NGOs claimed today that the EU is on board for an extension of the KP, but based on the EU’s earlier pronouncements that LDCs should be held to binding obligations, it’s not clear that that is correct.

What would be the benefit of extending the horrid, horrid institution of the KP in a second commitment period?  It is doubtful that it would necessarily lead to decreased global emissions, particularly since the countries responsible for about half of the current GHG emissions (US and China) are not under the regime.  However, it would create incentives for continuing the CDM and, given the repeated interest in institutionalizing the GCF, may create the institutional support for the Fund.

Well, we’ll see.  At the moment, I’m primarily curious about the creation of the GCF.  At present, that remains my best hope for a positive outcome this year.  Again, I’m not sure how that will play out absent some kind of related regime, but, eh, couldn’t hurt.