December 09, 2010

Alex Stark on Where We Stand in Cancun

As you know, we have been following the shrewd insights of Alex Stark, formerly of the Natural Security blog, who has been covering the Cancun UN climate negotiations in person as part of the Adopt a Negotiator program, part of the Global Campaign for Climate Action. Alex was in Tianjin, China for the UN negotiations in October, and has been reporting on the Cancun proceedings throughout the week through her blog and via Twitter. Here is Alex’s latest post:

Negotiators have been working feverishly over the past several days trying to prepare an unbracketed negotiating text with several options clearly outlined on the most contentious issues.  The text will be turned over to high-level ministers to resolve these remaining issues by Friday.  On Monday and Tuesday, negotiators worked behind closed doors in small groups and bilateral discussions on the different issues, passing on a finalized version of their piece of the text to the chairs of the KP (Kyoto Protocol) and LCA (Long-term Cooperative Action) tracks, who worked overnight to pull together two coherent texts to present to the entire Conference of the Parties in an informal stocktaking session this morning.  The COP insiders daily Earth Negotiations Bulletin newsletter reports that “the mood remained constructive in some informals groups, while in the others, some parties reported ‘a complete lack of progress.’”

Where do the issues stand now in the LCA text, what contentious problems remain and where is the United States in all of this?


When the LCA Chair issued her compromise text at the beginning of these talks, the section on MRV was noticeably lacking.  The text has since “evolved… from an empty 36-word shell to a real basis for negotiation,” according to Eco, a newsletter here produced by civil society organizations, but a lot of work remains to be done.  Todd Stern said yesterday at a press briefing that the U.S. sees this issue as being the furthest behind and that the text is insufficiently developed.  The United States wants developing countries to agree to regular reporting on how they are making progress on reaching their mitigation goals and a mechanism for the international community to review these reports.


The finance text has been cleaned up with several options clearly outlined on the most important issues remaining to be discussed.  One of these is the role of the World Bank and other international financial institutions in the new green climate fund’s governance.  The current options in the text would either “invite the World Bank to serve as the interim trustee… [x] year after the operationalization of the fund” or “decide that the trustee shall be selected through a process of open and competitive bidding.”  The U.S., the UK and other developed countries would prefer the World Bank to be involved in the creation of the fund, arguing that this would make it more effective and give donors confidence in its work, while developing countries argue that this would automatically give developed countries a greater say in how the fund is run and would prefer the fund to be established under the guidance of the UNFCCC.  According to a U.S. negotiator, they are close to a definition in the text of precisely what the World Bank’s role as trustee would be.  The governance of this fund- how many board members would come from developed vs. developing countries, or civil society members and other stakeholders- is still undecided.

Another set of options regarding how much developed countries will donate to the fund is also in the text.  One would have Parties commit to jointly mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020, as many countries agreed to last year under the Copenhagen Accord, while the second option would have developed countries commit to give “1.5 per cent of their gross domestic product per year by 2020” (considering that the United States hasn’t yet managed to mobilize 0.7% of GDP for total ODA per year, it seems unlikely that they would agree to this option).  A final concern is transparency.  Several negotiators and civil society organizations have charged the United States with pushing developing countries to be transparent on their mitigation actions without agreeing to a corresponding degree of transparency on how climate funds would be allocated and disbursed.  Eco says that “the United States and other developed countries have been calling for increased transparency for developing countries but have been shy about improving their own.”


The text for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and land Degradation in developing countries has largely been finalized and is waiting for the other issue areas to catch up.  The few remaining issues are expressed in clear options.


The adaptation text only has small changes from the original and has also largely been finalized.  It contains an option to establish an adaptation committee or to “decide to further consider how to strengthen, enhance and better utilize existing institutional arrangements, and the need for new institutional arrangements, as appropriate.”  A negotiator told me that the U.S. prefers the second option rather than the first, which they say would duplicate existing efforts.  A section on loss and damage for small islands and other vulnerable countries still needs more attention from the negotiators before it can be passed on.

Technology Transfer

The word in Tianjin back in October was that this issue was nearly decided, but it seems there has been significant backsliding since then.  This text made little progress in the past few days, and most negotiators blame the United States for blocking progress in this working group.  The primary issue here has to do with intellectual property rights (IPR) that would accompany mitigation and adaptation technologies: developed countries don’t want to give them away, while developing countries say they wouldn’t be able to afford them and the technology would therefore be useless anyway.  According to a developing country delegate, the U.S. and others are “not interested” in giving the technology executive committee, a body that will hopefully be established through these talks, the authority to discuss the IPR issue.  There is also some discussion still on what that committee would look like: developing countries want a majority developing country board, while developed countries would prefer a 50/50 split.  Civil society organizations are also reporting that the United States recently inserted the words “consider to establish” before the clause about a technology committee, weakening the text considerably and earning them the ultimate award in shame, fossil of the day.

This afternoon at a heads of state roundtable moderated by Lord Nicholas Stern, Prime Minister of Ethiopia Menes Zenawi said that if climate change negotiations fail, no other multilateral negotiations will be successful, saying “we all know that we will perish or survive together.”  Negotiators should keep these words in mind as they move forward in these negotiations.

Photo: Lord Nicholas Stern moderated a heads of state roundtable. Courtesy of Alex Stark.

We Stand
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