14 December, 2009

Split, block, and go

Climate talks have stalled today, after African delegations decided to walk out of all working groups this morning. After a long and nervous day of informal talks, South Africa apparently persuaded the African delegations not to take any extreme action before at least one more day of formal and informal negotiations.

Sergio Abranches

After the walk out of African delegations from all discussions and the interruption of the negotiations at group level, President Connie Hedegaard was forced to temporarily suspend the plenary of COP15. She created an informal consultation group, with representatives from the three groups: developed countries, developing countries, and least developed countries.

The “African” walk out was induced by an unresolved procedural objection. They argued that the negotiations lacked transparency. The complaint was actually prompted by rumors that developed countries were conducting side negotiations around a text to be submitted only to heads of state. COP15 president Connie Hedegaard tried to assure them she wasn’t conducting any side negotiation, to no avail.

An issue of trust has developed since the leakage of a document attributed to the Danish Prime Minister, as a means to save face if the gridlock remained unresolved in Copenhagen.

The walk out by the “Africans” has crystallized a split within G77 everybody was already expecting to happen. That this heterogeneous conglomerate of 130 countries would not hold on a serious multilayered, multi-issue vital negotiation as this one was obvious enough. How the split would emerge was unpredictable. It came about when the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) started meeting on their own to negotiate a strategy at the political level of COP15, that began today. The “Africans” blockage followed suit.

There were rumors that the “Africans” would massively walk out for good of the summit tomorrow, if they were not satisfied with today’s developments. South Africa has apparently persuaded them to wait one more day of negotiations.

So far, after talks resumed informally. Everything will now depend on whether they make enough progress to yield raw material for an effective new plenary tomorrow.

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