Graceful summarizing the progress of 2,000 people arguing about literally thousands of separate issues on scores of major topics on a number of different negotiating tracks is tough.
That’s it for the disclaimer – on to the graceless summaries!
Atmosphere of negotiations according to sources on the ground (which doesn’t include me at the moment, sadly). Quiet. Not the usual circus. None of the normal side events hosted by NGO. No innovative demonstrations. An environmental newsletter counted one member of international press in attendance.
Speed of negotiations. High-level US negotiator in off-the-record session says talks are going slowly, but there is some progress. The text is getting smaller. Is there enough progress? He doesn’t know. Scary. Yvo de Boer, who leads the UNFCCC secretariat, says frankly “Time is running out.”
Some people look at the level of detail in country negotiating positions as tactical – wait until late in the game to give away information about your positions as leverage. Others, including American negotiators, say some countries have not fully developed – they don’t know – their own positions.
From Reuters: “With time pressing, Elliot Diringer of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change said Copenhagen would, at best, agree a framework for a deal with many details to be filled in later. And he said it was “highly unlikely” that the U.S. Congress would agree on a climate bill by Copenhagen.” Argh.
Financing. The United States is making noises around scaling up the level of financing, agreeing that everyone’s on board with this goal. Still not clear what this means, but the US has now at least MENTIONED money for the Least-Developed Countries fund.
The World Resources Institute puts out useful summaries of country positions (available here if you are interested) on a range of issues. The recently-released document has the US on finance saying the same thing I heard Jonathan Pershing say two months ago: “The private sector is expected to be a much larger source of funding than the public sector.” Some worry this is a roundabout way of saying “don’t expect much from our government.”
CDM. (Clean Development Mechanism) The US wants to keep using them. Unless the US ratifies Kyoto (this is not going to happen, as Pershing and others say repeatedly, as most people know, and as a few frustrated non-US people refuse to admit) this needs to make the Long-term Cooperative Action text. Sounds like an interesting split – the State Dept. team wants a sectoral approach, while the EPA folks in attendance, and presumably back home, are scared of what that would entail in terms of measurability, reportability, verifiability (MRV for the acronym-lovers the negotiations are full of – I’m not one of them). State dept. recognizes we’re not on track to fully develop a sectoral approach anytime soon.
Double-counting. This is a messy issue. Developed countries, namely the EU at this point, want to…. Let me just give you language from an NGO briefer. “At present the developed countries are planning to undertake creative accounting with carbon off-sets, and are in danger of double counting both the emissions reductions and financial resources the off-sets deliver in developing countries as well as counting them towards their own mitigation targets.” I remember standing around a gathering of NGO people in Bonn when this first came out. They said confidently “This is a trial balloon. We’re gonna shoot it down.” The balloon’s still floating, and the same people are getting nervous.
Level of ambition in mitigation targets. Official data from the secretariat said the mitigation targets offered by developed countries excluding the US are somewhere between 15 and 21% below 1990 levels. This is well below what the science demands. The (relatively) strong cuts are coming from the EU, Switzerland, and Norway. The bad cuts are coming from Canada, Japan, and Russia. It’s amazing how easy the US is getting away with its weaker targets. Many believe it’s the most we can get through congress. Viewed through a basic lens, the US is proposing not a reduction from, but a return to 1990 levels. It’s more complicated than that, but I won’t get into it now.
China says: (via Reuters) Yu Qingtai, China’s special representative for the UN climate change talks [said] the two major obstacles… are the lack of political will by the developed nations to take the lead in emission cuts, and no substantial progress in providing finance and technology to developing countries.
That sums it up better than I could.