Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Huge uncertainties about the outcomes of Copenhagen climate negotiations

I'm writing from the venue of COP15 -- the Conference of Parties to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark. The conference is now in its 3rd day and will continue through Dec 18th. I will try to write something each day as long as I'm here.

Uncertainty over the outcome of the conference is palpable. In the days before and first days of the conference itself, many countries and negotiators were warning that agreement on a new convention (to succeed the Kyoto Protocol) is highly unlikely and that another year of negotiations is likely. About a week or two before the conference, the Government of Denmark launched a secret parallel process to work out a deal on the side -- it was exposed by the Guardian newspaper a couple of days ago. It seems that the majority of countries were outraged and saw the process as an attempt by rich countries to again sideline the global majority.

Here at the conference, there seems to be little movement on the big issues as clocks keep on ticking. Carbon Capture and Storage is very devisive -- many countries see it as an easy way to keep on with business as usual and others see it as dangerous, unproven and distracting. Too bad that the Government of Alberta is putting almost all of its climate change eggs in this basket. I'm pleased that one of my interests, Reducing Emissions for Deforestation and forest Degradation, is quietly making good progress: it may end up being the one thing that countries can most easily agree upon. My other pet area -- agriculture -- is getting more attention than ever, but there still aren't concrete ideas of how to bring it into the agreement.

Canada is once again presenting itself as fossilized -- winning Fossil of the Day awards day after day. John Prentice seems to ravel in the role of neigh-sayer. More on this topic another day.

At the same time, ever more Heads of State have indicated that they will be coming to Copenhagen, starting from Dec 15th. This includes President Obama and PM Stephen Harper. Week two of Copenhagen is turning into a summit of heads of state -- they won't be excited about making the trip here without going home without some type of agreement. So we face the very real prospect of heads of state actually negotiating the text of an agreement. This is most unusual, and exciting.

1 comment:

  1. Brent, I'm glad to hear that you have some optimism on some text of some agreement being made. Still, I can't help but recall the Sept/2009 comments made by Mohamed Nasheed, President of the [soon to be submerged] Maldives, when he said that "Once or twice a year we are invited to attend an important climate change event such as this one... On cue, we stand here and tell you just how bad things are. We in the Maldives desperately want to believe that one day our words will have an effect, and so we continue to shout them even though, deep down, we know that you are not really listening." Obama (and Harper)showing up at the END of COP15 pretty much supports Nasheed's observations. It's that "deep down" that speaks volumes about global committments.