On Monday, the climate negotiations go into their next round toward the COP 16 in Cancun, when UNFCCC delegates come together in Bonn. But the hopes of those expecting a boon in talks for a 2012 post-Kyoto climate regime are likely to be busted. Already before the meeting starts, it seems certain that the results will be minimal — at best. Turnout of negotiators, in the midst of vacation season, is expected to be low. Even lower are observers’ expectations: Basically, the only joint approach currently thinkable is one blockading further progress in emissions cuts, in which the industrialized countries and the largest emerging market countries operating as BASIC group (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) seem to be, sadly, in agreement….
The groundwork for the “make-no-first-move”-game (the sequel to the pre-Copenhagen version) was made with the decision of the US Senate just a week ago to shelf comprehensive climate negotiations until at least 2011, effectively killing it. Senators decided that with upcoming mid-term elections in November and the country’s public and political priorities focused on a sluggish, jobless ecnomic recovery no such bill was attainable — at least for the time being. Even the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster of the past three months was able to provide the moral fodder for urgent public action on changing America’s oil-dependent, emission-rich way of living, which the US climate bill would have attempted.
Of course, the repercussions of this domestic decision are invariably global: it sounds like a repeat of the pre-Copenhagen scenario, where the inability of the American Congress to take climate actions paralyzed international negotiations. Other industrialized countries are lacking climate leadership as well: Australia in Spring of this year put off a decision about its domestic emissions trading system into the far future. And within the EU, an effort of the environment ministers of Germany, France and Great Britain to raise the community’s ambition on emission cuts faltered late May — not the least on the opposition of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her French colleague, who likewise fears for their country’s economic recovery.
As was to be expected, the BASIC countries after their recent meeting in Rio weren’t the ones either to push global climate talks forward. They point out that because of the historic responsibility of industrialized nations they need to be the first to reduce emissions the furthest. It came therefore not as a surprise that their Rio Meeting ended without agreement on a maximum emissions reductions goal, the group would be willing to meet.
So, the goal of climate negotiators in Bonn next week will have to be to keep just a wee bit of momentum and avoid a complete negotiations standstill, or even a step back. Already, both the departing and the new UNFCCC Executive Secretary have dampened hope for a global deal in Cancun. Cristina Figueres, the new UNFCCC chef, cautioned that negotiators might have to figure out how to keep the Kyoto Protocol alive – say, by extending it another year or two — since the global agreement will probably not magically come together, at least not in time for Cancun, most likely not even at the COP 17 in South Africa in 2011. Such a contingency plan was drafted for consideration in Bonn next week.
Nevertheless, the Bonn agenda is not without meat. Delegates will be expected to make progress in both the Ad Hoc Working Groups on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA). A revised Chair’s text under the AWG-LCAcontinues to focus on key issues agreed under the Bali Action Plan in 2007. From a gender perspective, as it currently stands, it is surprisingly strong: six references are made to gender-inclusiveness and gender equality, sprinkled througout the introduction, shared vision, enhanced action on adaption and REDD. For gender advocates, Bonn would be a success if those references survive the next week (and are maybe strengthened by an added reference to gender considerations with respect to finance delivery).
Of course, the Chair’s text still shows brackets (meaning parties’ disagreement) where it most counts. In the section on a shared vision this is on the level of ambition on mitigation efforts as well as on finance commitments of industrialized countries. Reduction ranges in the Chair’s text are from 75 – 95 percent for developed countries emissions, which an overall global target from 50 -95 percent. In financing, the suggested choices are either a confirmation of the financing target of the Copenhagen Accord (annually US$ 100 billion by 2020) or, better, because it locks the finance commitments per developed country, at 1.5 percent of a country’s GDP. Obviously, the latter choice is also the one which will not find the support of industrialized countries, which have after decades of commitments still to fulfill their .7 percent of national GDP pledge on development finance for poorer countries.
The Chair’s text is a further development of the earlier June text, which was not welcomed by either developing or developed countries, albeit for different reasons — the usual “not far enough” vs “asking too much” dichotomy. This dichotomy, unfortunately, won’t be overcome in the next four negotiation days in Bonn, either. Hopefully, at least, it is not for a lack of trying in a vacation-thinned delegates’ pool.
Photo: Jan Golinski/UNFCCC