Today we are fighting to limit the runaway Global Warming to a 2 degree Celsius although most of us know that we are set for a hosing of 4 degree Celsius or more.
And since that global warming is not containable nor evenly distributed across the globe — we are all in for major disruptions…
Observing the COP21 climate conference negotiators from Governments and NGOs, from more than a coupe of hundred countries around the world — setting out for another all-nighter, hanging on from delicate threads, and flimsy hopes, as they negotiate the fine points of the future Climate Treaty — gives me a certain sense of sadness for the graceful effort of so many, for the benefit of so few…
And as they are all huddled in small groups at the complex of Bourget in Paris, while embarking on yet another all-night meeting, fueled with tea and toast — third in a row — in order to try to reach a new global climate agreement, we have to contend with the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, telling them they are extremely close to the finishing line… but the Minister has sadly run out of carrots.
These marathon talks have become an exercise in a diplomatic attrition, with Fabius giving countries two hours to look at the latest draft before yet another less formal meeting – known as an “indaba”
“Indaba” is a Zulu word for a closed tribal elders meeting. And all these indabas are the nightly versions of the day time meetings in Le Bourget conference halls. As such they are far more intimate, smaller separate meetings chaired by country Environment Ministers, and usually begin after 11.30pm at night in Paris time.
Naturally one would expect that these all-night sessions would be “inabas of solutions” and negotiators would be given 30 to 45 minutes each to speak all of their concerns in a corner of the room in order to settle any impasse. Multiply the number of negotiators by the 30 to 45 minutes each — and soon enough you can also see how the night is spend and sunrise arrives without any real progress…
These futile night sessions come after negotiators already met all through Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, in separate and inter-connected “indabas” thus allowing all the countries to once again vent their concerns and speak their mind at ease. And most importantly feeling secure that doing so, they will not derail the general meeting.
Negotiators from governments around the world continue to work to iron out their differences over a draft text of the COP21 agreement to stop dangerous global warming. Each “indaba” had seats for about 80 negotiators, with more crowding in at the back. One, chaired by Fabius met until 5am Thursday. Another allnighter chaired by the Peruvian environment minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, met until 8am Friday…
At the very least all these “indabas” made sure every country felt that their views had been heard.
“They spend about 80% of their time repeating their previous positions, maybe 10% outlining new positions and only about 10% of the time compromising,” said a chief negotiator who took part in one of the all night meetings.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, turned up at the Fabius chaired meeting about 2am Wednesday and had what observers described as an “animated” discussion with the US climate change envoy, Todd Stern, at the back of the room for about 20 minutes, possibly about separate informal talks on the issue of “loss and damage” – the idea that the agreement should recognise some countries will suffer irreparable harm from climate change.
The US is insistent any words about loss and damage should not suggest liability or compensation or open any possibility of legal action against US companies.
Australia was represented by officials on Wednesday night. The foreign minister, Julie Bishop, was on call but spent the night hosting a dinner for Australian business and environmental leaders attending the conference.
Apparently the official line is that the Paris climate deal is ‘close to the finish line’ but the talks are set to overrun the deadline that was shot today and will continue for Saturday and Sunday…
The French President, and the Foreign Minister along with the experts from the UN, spent Thursday once again carefully paring back the very many areas of disagreement to further distill the big political issues that it is hoped will form the basis of the final trade-off deal.
A group called Parisagreement.org has analysed this task by counting the numbers of brackets – indicating disagreement. When the Paris meeting began there were 1,609 sets of brackets. In the Wednesday night text there were 361. By Thursday night it was down to 50…
The key issues of dispute have been honed since the talks began 11 days ago and remain as such:
Vulnerable island states and many countries who support the idea of an ambitious agreement are insisting it clearly recognise that climate science requires global warming to eventually be contained below 1.5 degrees. Several ministers told Wednesday night’s indabas that they would not go home with a vague “expression of sympathy” on the issue. While most negotiators are still holding back their final bottom-line position, some – including St Lucia’s environment minister, James Fletcher, are understood to have told the meeting that the inclusion of a 1.5 degree target was his before leaving. The latest draft seeks to resolve this issue, saying countries will “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, recognising that this would significantly reduce risks and impacts of climate change”. This is presented as the final option.
Developing countries are insisting the agreement is clear about the funding they might receive to help reduce emissions and cope with locked-in climate change, with the $100bn a year in public and private finance now promised by 2020 as minimum for post-2020 funding. The latest draft still contains different wording about how ambitious the funding aim should be.
Developed countries including the US and Australia and vulnerable countries are insisting the agreement make it clear that eventually all countries will need to account for and report their emissions in similar ways, with regular reviews of national commitments. Developing countries want to keep the division set up in the 1992 framework climate convention between the requirements of rich and poor nations. This is not yet resolved.
The dispute over loss and damage is also unresolved.
And so is the dispute over the Environmental Court that the undersigned, founded many years back…
Still things progressed and the negotiators at the world climate talks of Paris released the latest “new” draft Friday that drops the most radical ideas — including an international tribunal to punish polluters — but leaves major issues unresolved, such as who should pay to help the most vulnerable nations cope with global warming.
John Kerry US Secretary of State, who had challenged diplomats to reach agreement by Friday’s end of day deadline, promised American funding for low-lying island nations and other countries hit hardest by the rising seas and extreme weather that scientists attribute to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and said: “Our aim can be nothing less than a steady transformation of the global economy.”
The latest “new draft” released by the U.N. climate agency is 29 pages, down from a 43-page version issued Saturday. There are about 100 places where there are decisions still to be made, including multiple options left in brackets, or blank spaces.
“We have never been this close to a climate change agreement,” said Maldives Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim, chairman of an alliance of island nations. “It’s now up to us ministers to show the leadership needed to make hard decisions that put the interests of people and the planet ahead of shortsighted politics.”
Ministers from more than 190 countries are trying to craft the first climate accord asking all nations to reduce or slow their emissions. The previous agreement, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, required only rich countries to do so.
Yet we are all well aware that most man-made emissions come from the burning of oil, coal and gas — fossil fuels that meet upwards of 85% of global energy demand.
Replacing these highly polluting and global warming causing energy resources, with abundant and cheap renewable energy sources like wind, tidal & wave, and solar power — requires big upfront investments and technology, which poor countries say they can’t afford without help.
A previous draft suggested that intellectual property rights to clean technology be removed so that developing countries such as India could get access to it more easily. That was deleted from the latest draft.
The call for an International Tribunal of Climate Justice to punish rich countries that fail to live up to their commitments was also dropped, as were references to emissions from aviation and shipping.
Still the document doesn’t settle the sensitive question of whether advanced developing countries such as China, the oil-rich Arab nations, and Russia, should join industrialized countries in providing financial aid to the poorer ones for the purposes of Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change.
Earlier, Sec-State, John Kerry announced, that the United States will double its contribution to helping vulnerable nations adapt to the effects of climate change, increasing grant money to $860 million from $430 million by 2020.
Even though this money is not apparently clear where will they be found — it was a welcome sign that moved many nations forward from their intractable positions.
As always money talks and bullshit walks…
Still the conference is on the cusp of getting the best possible outcome … but some key political issues remain to be resolved, and as we’ve seen time and again since the Copenhagen failure of the meetings — we best brace ourselves for the inevitable crash landing.