Disagreements and distrust over chairmanship of the Durban Platform

~by Graham Reeder

Last night was an exciting night in the Bonn plenary hall, it was a chance to see the real UN circus at play. There will be two co-chairs for the new Durban Platform on Enhanced Action (ADP), one from a developing country and one from a developed country. The WEOG (Western Europe and Others: all of western Europe, Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Turkey) nominated Mr Harald Dovland of Norway as the developed country chair, there have been no other nominations. The developing country chairmanship is a little bit trickier though. The Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) have nominated Mr. Kishan Kumarsingh of Trinidad and Tobago, an AOSIS member who has chaired a number of meetings in the past including the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice. The Asia-Pacific group, however, have proposed Mr Jayant Moreshwar Mauskar of India to chair, the lead Indian negotiator and was the Chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). It is clear that there has been major competition between countries on who should be the developing country chair.

The selection of an Indian chair would be a significant move, given that India has been a major player in the ADP negotiations and have been strongly pushing for the centrality of equity to these negotiations. Having an AOSIS member chair could be very different however, and is more in line with EU wishes given the strong influence that they maintain inside some elements of AOSIS. The Asia-Pacific group is taking a strong stance on this issue because it includes many mid-range developing economies that are very concerned about being punished for trying to develop under the new ADP. The chair position is important because chair’s, although expected to be impartial, have a tremendous amount of power in shaping how the process moves forward and who’s inputs end up in the final outcome. An Indian chair could shift the balance of power that has tipped in favour of the richest countries since the UNFCCC was high-jacked just before Copenhagen.

Until there is a chair, the COP presidency (South Africa) will chair the meetings, but because the COP president Mrs. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is now back in South Africa, the VP of the COP, Mr. Robert Van Lierop from Suriname, was chairing the meeting. China raised procedural concerns that Lierop’s chairing the decision of chair represents a conflict of interest because he also represents a GRULAC country and called for him to step down. As far as I’ve heard, this kind of move is unprecedented at the UNFCCC, but China is very concerned that he is also conducting the informal consultations on who the chair should be, which would be highly problematic. After two hours of back and forth fighting, Gambia for the Least Developed Countries (LDC) proposed a way forward. The proposal was to have the COP presidency continue to hold consultations about the chair while the meeting itself could continue with it’s work under the presidency’s chairing with the end of next week as a hard deadline for the chair decision. Parties agreed to that decision, and the meeting just resumed with a new representative for the COP presidency (this time from South Africa) chairing the meeting. Hopefully the group can adopt a solid agenda that includes all of the elements of the Durban agreement (mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, capacity building, and finance).

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