COP: The Final Countdown

COP: The Final Countdown
Group photo of the NAPs negotiators. The talks got hot, but in the end people could still get together for a picture.COP: The Final Countdown
Hug between the US negotiator (on the left) and the EU negotiator after the exciting NAPs session mid-day Saturday.

**These blogs recount the remaining days of COP17 sent to us by John Howard.

Friday, December 9th: COP Exhaustion

The conference was supposed to end on Friday, theoretically with an evening plenary session that began at 8 pm. However, the meeting only ran an hour, with little to no concrete accomplishments or timeframe for wrapping up the COP. So the COP continues on Saturday, but with much less energy and lower attendance. I can only hope that the skeleton crew here wants to get down to business so we can move on.

In some ways I’m happy the negotiations are still going on, as little has been accomplished, although I’m also getting frustrated that things keep getting dragged out with little assurance of a final, successful outcome. Apparently some parties were at the conference center until 3am last night/this morning, which meant approximately 16 hours of being at the COP for many delegates.

The one update I can provide comes from a document put out by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties (better known as AWG-KP), which is one of the six major constructs of the COP process. I am happy to report that they have settled on a second commitment period time frame for the Kyoto Protocol (KP), but it only runs from January 1, 2013 through the end of 2017, so 5 years. This is not a long time considering that the Protocol needs to get ratified to go into effect, and it took 9 years for the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol to go into effect.

Saturday December 10th: “Any show stoppers here, any show stoppers?”

As of 14:45, things have started to move again! I write this as I sit in on the only open meeting of the day thus far, actually the only one posted with a time. This is a discussion of an SBI (Subsidiary Body on Implementation) topic: National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). The acronym no way reflects the meeting as it is easily the most exciting meeting thus far of the conference).

The pomp and circumstance of the UNFCCC is melting faster than a Greenland glacier! Countries don’t have little name tags, the UN staff is dispersing, and people aren’t wasting time with “Thank you, the honorable delegate of someplace”. This is what I came to see and wanted for two weeks! What a nice birthday present! I was wrong that COP is like a zombie today, it is more like a sleepy teenager just waking up after a late night.

Basically the chair of the SBI, an Australian, is rearing to go. He prefaced the meeting with “I’m only interested if there are any Show stoppers here? Any show stoppers”. The only part the chair “wants to review is the Preambulatory text. Frankly, I don’t want to review any of it”. This tells me they are getting down to business and want to move forward!

Two seconds before the meeting was going to close, the US raised an objection, and a valid one: The new text does not correlate to what was agreed last night/this morning. The main coordinator for the previous sessions is “on the plane,” so the agreed upon version is lost, except in the memory of the attendees, some of which are not here. The main players at the table with a recollection of the text are the US and EU, and they don’t like what is in the text.

The gloves are coming off in this meeting, so to speak, with accusations that Least Developed Countries are getting cut out of the process. A Bangladeshi delegate went on a mini-tirade that he was not informed of this meeting, and thinks that “LDCs [Least Developed Countries] are not informed on this matter”, with the matter being funding for national adaptation plans. The US delegate, Amanda, got a little hot under the collar, and strongly replied that the US does not mean to exclude countries. She offered to bring Jonathan Pershing, the US State Department’s Climate Change negotiation Czar, into the room right now to back up her statement.

After this heated exchange, things settled down, and a final document was agreed upon. The US made a very strong point of the document needing approval by their lawyer, who was one of three members of the US delegation in the room. One hour of negotiations and they were back to where the document should have started from, but the important thing is they made a document that all parties agree upon. Moreover, the parties reconciled their differences, and did some hand shaking and hugging after the meeting. Additionally, the negotiators honored one of the COP veterans from Tonga who is taking a new position (this is her 10th COP-Yikes!) by giving her the last word and agreeing to her request for a group picture. This was definitely the most human meeting I’ve seen and reminded me that the delegates/negotiators are people at the end of the day, even if they make funny decisions and get buried in bureaucratic conformance.

All in all, the delegations seem more relaxed than they have been all this week, likely because many of their specific tasks are done. I’d expect being relaxed should make it easier to come to an agreement. It is now up to the big decision makers to agree and sign a document that will preserve our world. It sounds like these sessions will take place tonight…may we get the deal we need!

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