09 June 2009

Punch and Judy on the Climate: Bonn negotiations

Oh yes you did! Oh no you didn´t!

The regular Punch and Judy show that is the UN climate talks is currently underway in Bonn. As ever, everyone is talking up the need for emissions reductions made by someone else – with the industrialised nations seeking out every opportunity to avoid their historical responsibility for tackling a problem that they were overwhelmingly responsible for causing in the first place.

This debate is currently being played out in a working group on the Kyoto Protocol, the existing global climate treaty. The aim is to reach new targets for emissions reductions by industrialised countries (called “annex 1” countries in the jargon) but few commitments are on the table. Broadly speaking, there is a split between developing countries, which want the industrialised nations to commit to deep cuts in carbon emissions domestically, and developed countries which want to discuss the issue within a broader framework for “offsets”.

These discussions are currently in some trouble – with developed countries leading moves to “kill” the Kyoto Protocol. The US and others hope that this will revert the discussion to one in which the developed/developing world divide will be weakened, forcing the latter to take on further commitments. These are likely to take the form of voluntary “nationally appropriate mitigation plans” (NAMAs) and a variety of “sectoral” approaches. The language comes from the Bali Action Plan, but the developed countries are pushing an interpretation that stresses market-based approaches – for example, allowing NAMAs to generate carbon credits that can be sold back to developed countries as a means for them to avoid meeting their commitments at home.

Another key trend is the move towards more secretive and selective negotiations. As noted in a previous post, there are numerous meetings to shape a global climate agreement that are happening outside the UN framework. These are being accompanied by move towards a WTO-style Green Room process. This means that powerful countries will hand pick negotiators for particular aspects of the treaty, with a view to locking in their favoured outcome. With Ministers and Heads of State, rather than professional climate negotiators, sitting around the table – a bad (and somewhat absurd) deal would be a likely result.

That´s not the way to do it!

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