Sleep-deprived stocktaking

Tonight’s packed plenary session.

Amara Possian

It’s almost 6:30am and I just got back to our hostel. I wanted to get this out before talking to other people and before any sort of media influence crept into my head because I think something big just happened and I’m not sure what implications it will have for the future.

[Note: Please excuse anything incoherent. I have been awake for over 24 hours.]

What stands out to me as most important is that over the past two weeks, we successfully fostered a spirit of trust and hope. And that is exactly what the UNFCCC process needed. Copenhagen was an enormous mess that shattered trust between developed and developing countries. Last year, a series of backroom deals between a small group of parties led to a surprise accord with voluntary targets that were far too low. Tonight, almost every single speaker thanked COP President Espinosa and the Mexican Government for their transparency, cooperation and openness throughout the conference. On behalf of the Least Developed Countries, the representative from Lesotho said, “we have missed the kind of atmosphere that reigns in this hall today… we thank you Mme. Chair.”

We got a weak deal but we have laid a foundation for COP-17. We did not make much progress but we have ensured a lifeline for the process. We have put things back on track. In their statements tonight, several countries acknowledged the spirit of compromise that formed the foundation of these particular negotiations. The negotiator from the Maldives reminded us that “it’s a negotiation and therefore we don’t get everything we want.” There is far more work to be done but within the “Cancun Agreements,” which were referred to as “a new era in international cooperation on climate change,” important (but weak, limited, and non-binding) decisions were made on the establishment of a climate fund, on technology transfer and on REDD. The Kyoto Protocol wasn’t killed but there was no agreement on a second commitment period and there was no set date for a peak in global emissions.

Canada wasn’t a detrimental and obstructive force. Today. Victory? Not so much. But good for Canada for taking a back seat and not actively obstructing negotiations for once… our country is in a sad state of affairs when that is something to celebrate. Canada likely remained silent due in part to pressure from civil society and due in part to its desire to maintain positive trade relations with Mexico. I’ll leave it at this: given our lack of any climate legislation back home, and our lack of leadership in these negotiations, it’s clear we need to get to work domestically if we don’t want another shameful performance in Durban, South Africa next year. [Update: while Canada did not obstruct the process, the Minister of Environment stated that Canada is not planning on following its commitments under Kyoto.]

And this is where it gets interesting. President Espinosa redefined consensus. Bolivia spoke out against and rejected the Long Term Cooperative Action text and the Kyoto Protocol text this evening – on Thursday, Bolivia had proposed a far more ambitious LCA text that wasn’t considered. Bolivia was rejecting the negotiating texts because they strayed too far from Kyoto, were not ambitious enough in emissions reductions, and were not in line with the People’s Agreement of Cochabamba. And while the chair noted the objections and Bolivia stated several times that there was no consensus for the approval of the decisions, both texts were adopted. President Espinosa refused to disregard the will of 193 parties: “the rule of consensus does not mean unanimity. Far less does it mean that one nation can apply a veto.” There have been instances in the past where countries have blocked on an issue but we’re not entirely sure if a party’s explicit and huge objection has ever been overruled to that extent. What does this mean? I’m not entirely sure but once I get some sleep, I’ll expand on the fuzzy ideas in my head – how this could exacerbate divides in the climate movement, how this may set a new precedent in UNFCCC negotiations, how it angers me that the international community isn’t ambitious enough to adopt Bolivia’s ideas.

Ok, time for bed. Have a great morning!

One Response to “Sleep-deprived stocktaking”
  1. Cam Bell says:

    Thanks for the info and thoughts! Im also looking forward to seeing mroe media coverage and trying to interpret bias, but I think you made the right move by writing right after it all happened.

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