Dispatches from Copenhagen – Wednesday, Two Days Remaining
Simeon Talley, Blue Planet Green Living contributing writer and University of Iowa student, is one of only 10 young people selected by the Iowa United Nations Association to attend COP15 this week. In this, his second report, Talley updates us on the rising tensions at the conference. For background information about Talley’s trip, visit his own blog, The Road to Copenhagen. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
COPENHAGEN — The anxiety and anticipation rising in the conference center are palpable as the fault lines become more distinct and several entities attempt to resurrect negotiations. It’s Wednesday morning in Copenhagen, there are far fewer NGOs, a lot more press, and sightings of presidents and prime ministers scuttling to meetings. It’s difficult to make sense of everything that is taking place at these talks. But one thing is clear, the sense of urgency has heightened, and time is running out for nations to strike a deal.
Countries are divided along fairly typical lines: global north vs. global south, rich vs. poor. The G-77 plus China, the more than 100 countries in the developing world, want advanced developed nations to commit to deeper emissions reductions and more money to finance adaptation and mitigation — essentially a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol.
So far, the only country to commit to emission cuts along the lines of IPCC recommendations is Norway. Of course not the US, but the EU hasn’t either. Developed countries have committed to a numerical amount for “fast track” ($10 billion US for three years) climate financing, but so far have been silent on long-term figures.
The US has shied away from a more ambitious commitment because of domestic political constraints. The EU is willing to commit to a 30% cut from 1990 levels, but only if other developed nations commit to that number as well. On the financing front, the US has balked at the notion that it’ll finance China — which holds $2 trillion in US reserves — to adapt to climate change.
This may seem like a redux of disagreements from three weeks ago, even three months ago, but they have still not been resolved in Copenhagen. Most heads of states are have arrived by now, with anticipation growing for President Obama’s arrival on Friday. Because so much disagreement, the final deal will mostly reflect the commitments each country has put on the table prior to the start of the conference. And it’s most likely that the entire UNFCCC process will continue along a two-track pathway. A Kyoto Protocol (read: not including the US and what poor countries are advocating for) and a Long-Term Cooperative Agreement path (what the US has been pushing for and would push for emerging economies like China to be held to greater emission cuts).
Whatever the final shape the Copenhagen agreement takes, it is absolutely necessary that it include a timeline and a deadline for when a legally binding agreement will be signed. Many outstanding issues still need to be resolved, climate finance being only one of them. But to leave Copenhagen without a deadline for a legally binding agreement would essentially be a failure.
Outside of the conference center, many of the NGOs who are not allowed inside are protesting, leading to a large number of arrests. The UN has cut severely the number of Civil Society participants that can enter the Bella Center, where the conference is taking place. 45,000 people were accredited to attend the conference; the conference center can only accommodate 15,000 people. In the first week and on Monday of this week, no restrictions were placed on attendance; but as heads of states arrive, security has been tightening.
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