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When an agenda is not just an agenda PDF Print
Written by Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter   
Monday, 11 April 2011 00:00

But determining the one-page agenda came only in the eleventh hour of the talks, after three days of fighting between rich and poor countries that some said threatened to undermine the negotiations altogether.


Wrapping up the week's discussions, U.S. Deputy Envoy Jonathan Pershing said he felt the atmosphere of the talks ended on a "less rosy" note than it began on. In the coming year, he said, U.S. officials hope to work past ideological arguments and focus on the actual work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, monitoring mitigation progress and establishing a fund to help vulnerable nations avoid the worst impacts of global warming.


"The environment cannot afford for us to delay and wrangle," Pershing said. When negotiators meet again in Bonn, Germany, this June, he said, "I hope we'll get back to work on substance."


It might not be that easy. Developing nations insisted that the goal for Durban should be ensuring that industrialized nations commit to new and stronger targets for a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which begins in 2012. Many developing nation negotiators said they were frustrated that the future of Kyoto was not resolved last year and have no interest in working on other issues until Kyoto is enshrined for the future.


"We need a strong political commitment out of this meeting that the Kyoto Protocol will continue. We see no point in going off into spinoff groups to discuss technical issues without this commitment," said the lead negotiator for the African nation of Gambia, which this year is representing the small island developing states at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.


But that is a nonstarter for many developed nations, which dislike Kyoto because it only requires industrialized countries to cut emissions. Japan already has announced it will not submit targets for a second commitment period, and several others insist they want to see a new agreement that also requires cuts from China and other major emerging economies. This year, they are pushing to put meat on the bones of the Cancun agreements devised in December and sidestep sticky political questions.


The United States is not a party to Kyoto. But Obama administration officials have made clear the United States will never join Kyoto and will only consider a binding agreement that imposes equal legal obligations on all major emitting nations.


"It looks on the surface like it's petty bickering over a one-page agenda and something that would be pretty simple to solve," Remi Moncel, an associate at the World Resources Institute, said of the agenda fight. "The reality is that underneath it's a reflection of deeper political disagreements."


In the final hours, countries did emerge with an agenda that calls for discussions on all of those items. Moncel called it "modest but real progress after Cancun" and noted what he described as an intriguing parallel with the eleventh-hour congressional agreement that narrowly averted a government shutdown. "When the clock ticks down, people move to a compromise," he said.


Resolving the Kyoto question is a tricky one, as developing nations are loath to just get rid of the world's only climate change treaty in exchange for what would presumably be a voluntary list of national mitigation pledges. But few are taking bets on how the dispute might get resolved.


In the meantime, the so-called technical issues -- particularly the creation of the Green Climate Fund -- do demand attention, activists say. The transition board to that fund, created last year to manage a significant portion of a $100 billion annual mobilization pledge from industrialized nations -- will meet April 28-29 in Bonn, Germany.


Civil society groups from around the world have sent a lengthy set of recommendations to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change calling for nonprofit groups to have a seat at the table when funds are disbursed to help vulnerable countries cope with climate impacts and shift to lower-carbon economies. It also proposes environmental and social safeguards for government bodies to adhere to, like ensuring that indigenous communities are not forced off their land and compliance with labor standards.


"What this document shows is how many critical issues there are, and how civil society has strong experience and a lot to add to this process," said Ilana Solomon, a policy analyst with ActionAid International.


source : http://www.eenews.net

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