What was it like being an observer for one day at the UN?

by Angela Valenzuela.


What was it like being an observer for a day in the last preparatory meeting for Paris COP21?

Here there is a poem that I wrote after the last ADP session (Ad-hoc working group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action):

The conviction for life
and the breeze of change
brought me to Bonn,
to observe how love is lost,
in the fast steps of this reunion.

Diplomacy is about to rip off its eyes,
with its smiles that retain bites,
with its war of words,
diplomacy fractures its hands.

Do I let my future in fractured hands?

Read more…

The way here and the way forward: negotiating a new climate agreement

by nathan thanki

At the end of an unseasonably warm week in Bonn, the sun set on yet another round of UNFCCC (climate change) negotiations. The session, quieter than the end of year COP (Conference of the Parties) jamboree, has only dealt with one negotiating track—the “ADP.” The ADP, or Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (there’s a reason we use acronyms), is a negotiating process established in 2011 in Durban that is supposed to come to a close before COP21 in 2015, which you should note happens to be in Paris. What exactly the ADP is meant to come to a close with is still a matter of debate among countries and observers. The exact language in the decision (1/CP.17) which mandated these talks is a feat of creative ambiguity: the ADP is meant to conclude with “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.”  The term “applicable to all” has been subject to much debate, too.

In short, the ADP negotiations have not gone well to date.

Read more…

US submits views on future climate agreement

by nathan thanki

Since the Durban round of UN climate talks in 2011, governments have been struggling towards an eventual global agreement to address climate change (ideally, some say they’re just negotiating the establishment of more markets). The negotiation process, named the “ADP” (the D stands for Durban) is mandated to conclude in Paris in December 2015 with some kind of outcome. The exact language is a feat of amazing creative ambiguity: the ADP is meant to conclude with “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.”

Todd Stern of the USA

So far the negotiations have not gone well, with fundamental ideological differences being masked over by procedural fights. The most recent meeting in Warsaw didn’t result in any great progress, mostly making vague references to prior vague commitments. The Warsaw outcome mentions for the first time “nationally determined contributions” to reducing GHG emissions, reflecting a step away from a global budget approach (whereby we say that the supposedly “safe” temperature increase of 2 degrees could only be achieved if we emit X amount of carbon, and the game is to then decide who can emit what share) to a “pledge and review” approach (Whereby countries “pledge” to do what is “nationally appropriate” given their circumstances).

Read more…

USA scores own goal by moving the goal posts

by nathan thanki

There was quite a stink created this week when US Special Envoy for Climate Change (the big-shot who shows up late to the UN climate talks and gets interrupted by his constituents for not truly speaking for them) made a "remark" to his old College, Dartmouth. There was widespread condemnation of the apparent u-turn on US climate policy, which had previously agreed (in 2009, 2010, 2011) to a target of keeping global temperatures below 2 degrees celsius. After all, more than 100 countries and large swathes of civil society actually call for 1.5 degrees celsius as a limit to the amount of warming. But today Mr. Stern has downplayed those concerns, saying that the US is not renaging on anything and that the "flexibility" he called for is about breaking stalemates rather than undermining this principle.

At the risk of boring everyone, including myself, let's take a look at Mr Stern's speech, available here, and read for ourselves. Comments in blue italics are mine.

Read more…

Has US given up on keeping warming below 2 degrees?

As we are now only 3 weeks away from crucial climate change negotiations in Bangkok (which will set the stage for this years 18th Conference of the Parties, in Doha), US Special Envoy on climate change – Todd Stern – has dropped a bit of a bomb during a speech at Dartmouth. Rather than stick to what the science demands, and limit global warming to 2 degrees celcius, Mr Stern is advocating for a DIY-style pledge and review system. Rather than honouring what had been agreed 20 years ago in the Climate Convention, and fleshed out in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Mr Stern wants to treat China and India like first world nations. As Bob Marley said, "in this bright future, you can't forget your past." So let us not forget where the historical responsibility for climate change lays. 

The following is a cross post from the always excellent RTCC blog and the original can be seen here



"US says two degree guarantee should be dropped by global climate change deal"

by RTCC Staff

The 2°C guarantee should be dropped from the global climate change deal to allow for more flexibility and avoid deadlock, US Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern has said.

Speaking at Dartmouth College he said removing the 2°C specification from the agreement would allow countries to get on with actions to limit climate change now while leaving it open for further ambition at a later date.

“It is more important to start now with a regime that can get us going in the right direction and that is built in a way maximally conducive to raising ambition, spurring innovation and building political will,” he said adding that insisting on an agreement that would guarantee the 2°C limit would only lead to deadlock.

The 2°C target, which all countries signed up to at the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, follows from the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looking at the impacts of climate change which surpasses this limit.

In Durban last December, countries signed up to the UNFCCC, agreed to put together aglobal climate agreement by the end of 2015 to be effective in 2020.

The next meeting, taking place in Doha, Qatar this December will continue these talks.

A ‘flexible’ agreement should begin with countries submitting their own targets to the UNFCCC, said Stern, with an opportunity for public consultation after six months to help drive ambition further.

He said a ‘highly prescriptive’ climate agreement would be hard to agree to for all countries who could see this as a hindrance to growth and development, but that a new deal should be flexible enough to allow for modification as technological advancements make emissions reductions easier in the future.

“The key to making headway in this early conceptual phase of the new agreement is to be open to new ideas that can work in the real world and to keep our eyes on the prize of reducing emissions rather than insisting on old orthodoxies,” he said.

He told the crowd that the negotiations were at an ‘interesting juncture’ following the results in Durban – which saw all countries agree to be part of a future deal setting out climate change targets.

It would be impossible to set out a new legal target which didn’t include the developing world, alongside the developed world, he told the audience, adding that securing Senate support in the US is difficult enough but would be impossible if the likes of China were not included in the global agreement.

“You can not build a system that treats China like Chad, when China is the world’s second largest economy, largest emitter, second largest historic emitter, [and] will be twice the size of the US in emissions in a few years,” he said.