COP17 Durban Climate Conference November 30
1st December 2011,
Green Climate Fund under informal consultations | Africa Group briefing | EU responds to criticism | Brazil forest vote deferred
9:42am GMT, 30 Nov update from Adam GrovesOne of the key issues today will be the Green Climate Fund, which is being developed to help poor countries adapt to the worst impacts of climate change. Over the last seven months, a 'Transitional Committee' has grappled with creating a detailed design for the Fund. It's due to report back this afternoon at 3pm and campaigners are expecting trouble from a number of countries (the USA and Saudi Arabia chief among them).
Jake Schmidt, of the National Resources Defense Council, gave us an update on this issue just now, which you can watch below - and we'll look to follow up on our live webcast once the report is out.
10:21am GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill Gunyonjust completed very impressive press briefing from the Africa Group spokesperson from Mali. On being questioned about what compromises Africa might be prepared to make in the negotiations, he said:
We've seen leadership from the developed world on democracy, on terror, but the biggest threat for Africa now is climate change and we can't compromise on that
On being asked why Africa is insisting on a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol when so few countries are willing to participate, he explained that no amount of fiddling with legal structures will solve the problem on its own. The existing architecture will suffice.
we have an ambition gap (for emissions reduction) and we have finance gap. We don't want to have a legal gap as well.
I'm very embarrassed that I missed the name of the single contributor to this Africa briefing. I'll try to sort that out now and report more of the very frank and open exchange.
10:38am GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill Gunyonnope, I've failed to identify Mr Mali of the Africa Group press briefing so that's what I'll have to call him, with many apologies. He's new!
Just quickly to record what we heard about the core focus areas of attention in negotiations for the Africa group, as agreed at a meeting of ministers held in Mali a month ago:
the mitigation gap which requires a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol
the finance gap which requires fulfilment of the fast start finance commitments and satisfactory launch and seeding of the Green Climate Fund with new additional public finance from contributing countries. The Africa Group want this fund to be a unique fund in the galaxy of international aid vehicles, offering direct access and not offering direct support for western private corporations.
the legal architecture for a new legally binding agreement under the UN Convention
No Plan B or Plan C compromises are on offer.
11:16am GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill GunyonIf it's true that the behaviour of the European Union is the swingometer for the climate talks, then what we just heard from Hans Verolme of the National Wildlife Foundation is worrying. He was on the panel of a Climate Action Network press briefing.
Hans explained that the EU had seemed to be taking a leadership role in its roadmap idea for sustaining the Kyoto Protocol in return for commitments from everyone else to sign up to a long term agreement.
suddenly this week statements have become more nuanced, talking about moving beyond the Kyoto Protocol. They could just be playing hardball for negotiating reasons or there is a shift. We've asked Brussels what is going on.
The CAN panel (representing a global network of NGOs) attribute this shift to the behind-the-scenes influence of lobbyists acting for big corporations.
I wonder if it might be something rather more prosaic - such as Angela Merkel waking up to the existence of this Durban event. Germany is not in the mood for any European initiative unless it has to do with saving the Euro currency. Not even Greenpeace can manage that.
11:23am GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill GunyonHere's a self-explanatory message from the UN climate secretariat which is just about to start a press conference. Do you have a question? It looks as though Christiana Figueres is there and also conference president minister Nkoana-Mashabane.
Webcast viewers can send a question for the UNFCCC Executive Secretary via Twitter, one question will be selected and brought to the press conference at the end of the event. You can address a question to @CFigueres, via Twitter
11:48am GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill GunyonWell, there was a question from Twitter for the briefing by UN conference secretariat - the first time this has happened in Durban. Maybe our OneClimate appeal made the difference.
The question was about Canada. In reply, Christiana Figueres explained:
we have not received any further notification from Canada of actions not already known.
What Christiana means is that Canada's decision not to participate in a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has been known for at least a year. Rumours that it will also give notice to quit from the first commitment period remain unconfirmed.
One other small point from the session. In answering a question about the possible collapse of the Kyoto Protocol, the president of the conference, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, mentioned the possibility that the Clean Development Mechanism could continue separately.
This is the controversial instrument of the Protocol which allows rich countries and their companies to purchase carbon credits to offset commitments on emissions. I'm a bit surprised that the president conceded the possibility of its decoupling at this early stage of proceedings.
12:01pm GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill GunyonWe're looking forward to the press briefing by the US delegation, due to start in about half an hour.
I say "looking forward" because the normally infallible Jonathan Pershing, head of the delegation, did make one or two slightly dumb statements on his first outing on Monday. These have been seized on gleefully by NGOs and other critics of the obstructive US role in these negotiations.
In one comment, Pershing observed that the pledges for emissions reductions already made by developed countries are unlikely to be increased by 2020. For the opening day of the negotiations this was a singularly unhelpful remark and not really the business of the US to make it.
Pershing also said that there are an infinite number of emission reduction paths to meet the target of a two degree temperature rise. This was plain daft. If we're struggling to make the low carbon transition now, when it's just about doable, how can we expect the next generation to do it under emergency conditions?
The role of the South African media has been helpful in toughening up the standard of questions at press conferences. The international media is thin on the ground, to put it mildly, and the South Africans have made a real effort to get to grips with the subject.
Watch out for moves to cut down the time for questions by the formidable lady who acts as Pershing's minder in these sessions.
12:15pm GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill GunyonTop European officials are speaking now to the media about the Green Climate Fund which the conference will discuss this afternoon. They are making it clear that they support the draft instrument for the establishment of the fund.
It is a good compromise and it would be counterproductive to hold further discussion on the delicate balance
(as threatened by US and others).
12:34pm GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill GunyonArtur Runge-Metzger of the European Union is trying hard to counter press reports that the EU is backing off any tough actions before 2020.
He's also got a message for the US:
what we expect of the US is that they stick very carefully to their pledges in Cancun and take domestic actions as necessary. More things need to be done
The questions are now getting distracted on the EU aviation tax.
12:44pm GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill GunyonPilita Clark of the Financial Times challenged the EU team with her report yesterday that China is accusing the European Union of "moving the goalposts" (by seeking commitments from all to negotiate a binding treaty)
Artur Runge Metzger said:
if the goalposts have been shifted, it is not by the EU. What we expected from the Bali Action Plan (2007) was progress towards a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol and a new long term agreement under the Convention. We expected this to be legally binding. But this has not happened in Copenhagen, or in Cancun andit won't happen in Durban. The question is who has been shifting the goalposts - certainly not the EU
That's fair enough. The EU would have gone with the Bali flow if it had materialised.
12:48pm GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill GunyonI speculated just now that the US delegation might seek ways to reduce the time for questions in their press briefing which was due to start 15 minutes ago.
Yup, they've done it in decisive fashion by cancelling the press conference altogether. I'll keep a lookout but I think it's a no-show from Pershing today.
3:57pm GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill Gunyonthe Conference is currently debating the report of the Transitional Committee which produced a draft instrument of governance of the new Green Climate Fund.
The US and Venezuela have raised objections and it is uncertain how the Chair will respond. Other submissions continue, all expressing support for the draft and anxious to press on with the real business of getting the fund started and financed.
The fear is that reopening discussions in this main form will reignite differences on which compromises were sorted out before these talks.
4:36pm GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill Gunyon
After the parties' contributions to the debate on the constitution of the Green Climate Fund were complete, the president, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, announced her decision to address the objections from US and Saudi Arabia by conducting open transparent and informal consultations. She will facilitate these personally and bring back recommendations to the full conference.
Ms Mashabane brought down the gavel on her decision but the Philippines spokesperson (on behalf of G77 and China) protested. She requested clarity on what exactly "open transparent and informal" means and when exactly will the outcome be reported. We're now following a whole sequence of speakers arguing this procedural point.
8:44pm GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill GunyonHere's an immensely powerful presentation by Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace, on top form in his native City of Durban.
There's no covering description on YouTube but it looks as though Kumi is summing up an event held in the last couple of days to promote the Greenpeace report "Who's Holding Us Back: How carbon-intensive industry is preventing effective climate change legislation."
Naidoo hammers home the argument that governments are allowing the power of the fossil fuel industry to block the fight against climate change. In the latter part of this clip he discusses the prospects for the climate talks, fearing a repeat of Cancun where the outcome is more about saving the UN process than saving the planet.
10:35pm GMT, 30 Nov update from Bill GunyonYvo de Boer, predecessor of Christiana Figueres as head of the UN climate secretariat, was fortunate today to escape the indignity of receiving a fossil-of-the-day award.
This tweet was despatched just hours before the crucial conference discussion on the constitution of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Everyone knows that the most sensitive issue for developing countries is the potential for private sector interests of the developed world getting their hands on climate funds, just as they do with development aid.
After leaving the UN, Mr De Boer joined the global business consultancy KPMG.
1:43am GMT update from Bill GunyonImagine you're a Canadian entrepreneur just off the plane to promote your business in Cape Town. In your hotel, you buy a couple of papers to get yourself on the local wavelength.
On one page, you are greeted with a full page advertisement displaying a letter from prominent South Africans:
Canada, you were once considered a leader on global issues like human rights and environmental protection. Today, you're home to polluting tar sands oil, speeding the dangerous effects of climate change
Quickly turning the page, you spot the headline reproduced below. It's an article by the embarrassed Canadian Youth Delegation attending the UN climate talks.
Good luck in your business meetings tomorrow. And when you get home, remind your prime minister that globalisation takes no prisoners.
1:52am GMT update from Bill GunyonThis Occupy stuff isn't all teargas and toilet-cleaning rotas. Yesterday's post from Occupy COP17 features photos of the artwork that goes into the preparation of protest banners and then one of Nnimmo Bassey's poems.
Right at the end, there's a call to join in a World Bank action later today.
2:10am GMT update from Bill GunyonIt's not just the Green Climate Fund that was coshed on the head today by the dreaded UN procedural phrase "informal consultations will be held." This is territory which gets the host country into trouble very easily if trust in the "backroom" process cannot be sustained.
Remember last year how Bolivia's solo objection to the Cancun agreements was unceremoniously shovelled aside by the Mexican presidency determined to save the UN process at all costs? And how we all felt rather bad about it?
It turns out that the Mexicans felt bad too, coming to Durban with a proposal to amend the governing UN Convention:
to allow a “last resort” vote in cases when every effort to reach consensus has failed on issues that carry broad support
Needless to say, Bolivia objected and those consultations will begin.
The other issue is much longer in the tooth. The Russians proposed a review of the list of Annex 1 (rich) and 2 (not so rich) countries that was determined back in 1992. Everyone knows it will have to be updated - but not yet.
2:20am GMT update from Bill GunyonIt's good to see African media outside South Africa covering the Durban climate talks. Here NTV Kenya is concerned rightly about prospects for the future of the Kyoto Protocol. The coverage includes clips from yesterday's Africa Group press briefing given by Seyni Nafo of Mali.
Richard Black of the BBC offers a helpful way of envisaging the confusing political dynamics between the Kyoto Protocol and a new agreement. Which countries want what? All that's needed now is a great BBC graphic to back up his article.
2:42am GMT update from Bill GunyonThe conference discussion about the Green Climate Fund was slated to be yesterday's big story but the outcome was all too predictable and therefore not yet covered by big media.
All credit to the Pakistan representative of the Adopt-a-Negotiator team for posting the most insightful piece I can find so far. Farrukh Zaman achieves this by supplementing the boring plenary proceedings with action from a separate finance group discussion about long term funding.
In the plenary the US and Saudi Arabia carried out their threat to object to the draft instrument for setting up the fund. The ALBA Group of Latin American countries led by Venezuela weighed in with their own grievances.
The President had no option but to offer to "undertake informal consultations." Maite Nkoana-Mashabane stressed that these consultations will be open, transparent and inclusive. There were reservations about what this will mean in practice and how long it's going to take.
A big test here for the South African hosts to prevent the US from holding things up until the final hours next week as a bargaining chip.
2:51am GMT update from Bill GunyonA self-explanatory introduction to a report from Mongabay about that vote on the controversial Brazilian forest code:
The Brazilian Senate's much-anticipated vote over proposed changes to the country's Forest Code will take place Tuesday December 6, rather than today. The delay will give lawmakers more time to understand pending revisions to the code
This vote had been touted as a potential embarrassment to a country whose role could be crucial in the Durban climate talks.
It's odd that the delay is only a week. If the government is in a position to influence the timing, why did they not defer the vote until after Durban is over?
Trying to get a grip on climate politics is bad enough. I can't cope with Brazil as well.