Taking stock- Kyoto killers and secret societies

Update-In the plenary stock-taking session, Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres made it clear that “there is no secret text”.  So the rumours are just rumours for now…

We are halfway through the negotiations and today  all of the parties are taking stock of the progress so far, and looking ahead to what’s to come in the next week.

So far, the outcomes of the negotiations are well-matched with the low expectations of this conference. There have been some small agreements made, and some small steps backwards, but only two major events- Kyoto killers being outed, and a secret texts by select group that might change everything.

Japan (and Canada and Russia) have been exposed publicly for not supporting an extension of the Kyoto Accord, which is set to expire in 2012. If there is no extension, the world’s only binding international agreement to reduce emissions will effectively die, and there is no guarantee that there will be any agreement (let alone a detailed one) in the next two years to replace it.  This is like selling your old house while your new one (electric of course) is still only a sketch in an architect’s notebook. It will take years to design and build a new agreement, and we risk being homeless in the meantime.

The second item of interest is that there have been some rumblings  on the horizon about a secret text from the Mexican government. It is rumoured that this text will be presented tonight at a Ministers meeting, and that the outcome of this is that the voluntary submissions under the Copenhagen Accord would be turned into a binding agreement.

While this sounds like a good thing, it is actually dangerous. All countries under the Copenhagen Accord agreed that we must keep warming to less than 2 degrees to avoid dangerous climate change. But just-released research shows that the current pledges would mean warming of 5 degrees (maybe more). Once these pledges are cemented as targets, there is little or no incentive for countries to make stronger.

This  trend of small groups of countries drafting text in secret (similar to the process that created the Copenhagen Accord) is disturbing.  The established process under the UN is the only method we have to make decisions about climate change while including the voice of everyone in the world.  This flaunting of protocol is especially worrisome amongst comments from the Canadian delegation that calls into question the entire UN process.

So which is worse, a bad agreement or no agreement? Which is better, a binding agreement for some countries, or a non-binding agreement for all countries? Which is more effective- a slow but inclusive method, or a fast but exclusive method? We hope that all parties find the best answers to these questions in the upcoming week of negotiations.


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