Dispatches from Copenhagen – Sour and Souring
Simeon Talley, Blue Planet Green Living contributing writer and University of Iowa student, is one of only ten young people selected by the Iowa United Nations Association to attend COP15 this week. Talley arrived in Copenhagen on Sunday. Here is his first report from the historic United Nations Climate Conference. For background information about Talley’s trip, visit his own blog, The Road to Copenhagen. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
COPENHAGEN — The climate change talks taking place in Copenhagen are on life support. One week in to the conference, and with one week to go, progress towards a worthwhile climate change deal has been slow. In order to salvage COP15, negotiators will have to double down in order to reach a deal.
Monday’s major news was a group of African nations walking out on negotiations, then, in dramatic fashion — late in the evening hour — choosing to come back to the negotiating table. The story behind the walkout is that, last week, the Danish government reportedly had met with a group of wealthy nations, including the US, outside of the formal process. The parties agreed to a draft “text” that could eventually become the agreement that the Copenhagen conference produces. Several poor nations were angered by what they perceived as a backdoor deal that favored rich nations. The mood has been sour — and souring— ever since, culminating in today’s walkout.
The walkout by African nations would have made a Copenhagen deal impossible, and it reflects long-held divisions. Organized as the G-77, developing nations want developed nations to commit to 40–45% emissions reductions from 1990 levels by 2020. And if you’ve been following international negotiations at all, you know that developed countries so far have committed to considerably less. The US’s commitment to 17% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 is estimated to be only a 3-4% reduction from 1990 CO2 levels. And hell is more likely to freeze over before a change in US position.
G-77 countries want more ambition by way of emission reductions and adaptation financing. So far, developed countries haven’t budged. The US still hasn’t committed to a specific amount it will pay toward climate financing, funds to help poor countries adapt to the negative effects of climate change. With one week to go and only two days until heads of state start to roll in, negotiators have to find a way to reach consensus in order for the Copenhagen conference to have a positive outcome.
China, as a developing nation, is also a part of the G-77 grouping. But this morning’s report of impasse over verification shows the complexity of China’s status as a poor, developing nation and its continued differences with the US.
In many respects, poorer nations and nations closest to actual climate disaster, such as small-island states, are playing a moral role in negotiations. The country of Tuvalu — a small-island state only two meters above sea level – has repeatedly called on rich nations (read: the US) to do more. The president of Tuvalu made an impassioned plea to conference delegates to agree to a binding deal, which limits the amount of CO2 to the levels the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said is needed. Such a deal is likely out of reach at this point.
An EU Commissioner characterized the atmosphere as “frozen.” And that’s a fairly accurate description of where we stand currently.
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