The State of Play

Jonathan Williams

Here’s my first blog of COP. I am one of the four lucky CYDers accredited as delegates in the first week by TakingITGlobal, so I have succeeded in entering the areas of the negotiations. I am hoping to provide you with a description of the negotiations as they stand today, and particularly areas of dispute.

The most important objective for Cancún negotiations is to generate the preconditions and momentum for agreement on a renewal and updating of the Kyoto Protocol next year at COP17 in South Africa. All the negotiating tracts are important in this view, but this is particularly true for discussions of the Kyoto Protocol itself.

Thus Japan’s declaration of opposition to a renewed, post-2012 Kyoto Protocol is today’s most important negotiating news. Japan has set a bad tone for negotiations around a new legally binding agreement, earning the country its first Fossil Award of 2010. Positively, at least the European Union announced a shift of position today in support of a Kyoto renewal.

By now, you should have some idea that the areas that seemingly host the greatest potential for concrete steps forward in Cancún are creating an overview institution and concrete commitments for climate finance, and creating a framework for measuring, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions (MRV).

Disputes with respect to financing primarily surround hammering out the scope of commitments and who will manage these funds. Currently, $200 billion has been committed in climate financing by 2020 overall, but few individual countries are committing their portions of these funds. It is crucial to ensure funders commit the necessary moneys and then honour their commitments. With respect to administration of these funds, there are essentially two sides. The US prefers for the World Bank to manage climate financing directly or indirectly through the Global Environment Facility, as the US has control over the World Bank. Developing countries oppose this position, frustrated by their experiences with the GEF to date and preferring that financing be overseen by a body reporting directly to the UNFCCC and accountable to all parties, including the least developed countries. A resolution of these tensions is conceivable.

MRV consists of countries agreeing to a framework for the accurate measurement and reporting of their greenhouse gas emissions, as well as providing the necessary resources are available to pay for this. It is crucial that we measure our greenhouse gas emissions accurately for us to address climate change. Loopholes in measuring and reporting permit countries to avoid emissions reductions as they wish, but unmeasured emissions have the same effect on the environment as measured emissions. Many countries are seeking to undermine MRV to defend certain industries or earn undue credits for emissions ‘reductions’ that are only accounting tricks.

These two ‘tracts’ of negotiations are becoming intertwined. The US is pushing for developing countries to accept rigorous MRV practices as a condition for agreement on climate financing. Many developing countries are perfectly willing to accept this deal, but some are not, including China in particular. China is not inclined to publish its emissions sources internationally.

One of the two sides has to give on this issue, and it should be noted that developed countries are not perfect practitioners of MRV either; Canada is particularly inclined to misrepresent our emissions from land-use and forestry, and developed countries oppose the calculation of emissions from marine transportation and international air travel.

Not much news from Canada today. Civil society will have our first meeting with the Canadian Delegation tonight to gain a better understanding of Canada’s positions on various negotiation issues. These meetings should continue daily for the rest of the negotiations.

So these are the main negotiating news from the first real day of negotiations. Myself and the rest of the CYD will do our best to keep you informed as the process evolves.

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