Bonn 3 has begun. So far, it’s not quite as dramatic as its movie-sequel title would have you believe – though it ought to be. The pacing of negotiations is invariably a source of frustration for participants and observers alike.

For the main annual negotiating events (the “Conferences of the Parties,” or COPs), the momentum tends to gather slowly at first and then explode in a burst of activity at the end. The more frequent and less-attended periodic sessions (the “intersessional informal consultations” – don’t be fooled, as they are plenty formal) usually have a bit of a steadier pace.

As I mentioned last week, it is crucial that Bonn 3 produce a workable negotiating text – a clear, concise (under 200 pages!) platform including all of the elements of a final agreement for Copenhagen.

This agreement must be FAB – Fair, Ambitious, and Binding.

Fair means that developed countries take responsibility for their historic emissions, and not only take on responsible mitigation targets (reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as a percentage of a given baseline year), but also provide financial assistance and relevant technological assistance for developing countries to reduce their own emissions and do adaptation work (protect themselves from the burdens of a warming world).

Ambitious means that we’re looking at emission reductions serious enough to avoid global disaster. The science on this point is increasingly clear that developed countries need at minimum a 25-40% reduction by 2020 to avoid a dangerous tipping point. Luis Alfonso de Alba, speaking for the developing countries at the negotiations, called for a 25-40% reduction and a 40% reduction from the G8 nations just one month ago. Sadly, most developed nations aren’t coming close to these numbers.

Binding means the agreement legally commits countries to action, and ideally has spells out some kind of enforcement. There’s a lot of anxiety at the negotiations that developed countries are looking for loopholes. For example, the United States used the language “in conformity with domestic law,” suggesting to some that tweaking domestic legislation at a later date could disable our commitment to the international agreement.

We’ll be looking at how the progress looks through these lenses.

For those interested in getting a little closer to the action, I’ll recommend a couple of daily newsletters produced about the negotiations.

For dense, acronym-laden, but well-researched summaries of the daily events, see the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, available on the left-hand side of the page at:

At the same website, you can also access endless high-resolution photos of people in suits, talking. This gives you a fairly good feeling for what it’s like to actually watch the formal sessions of the negotiations.

The next, ECO, doesn’t attempt a comprehensive summary; rather, it produces short, accessible articles from the standpoint of various environmental NGOs attending the negotiations. It is available at: