15 December, 2009

Deadlock at COP15: maneuvering on the brink

Negotiators have given up talks on the harder issues and decided to transfer the burden of the agreement to the ministers. The climate summit is on the brink of a collapse.

Sergio Abranches

There was a major setback today on the work of the core working groups at COP15. Negotiators failed to reach an agreement on all major issues: measurable, reportable and verifiable actions for reducing emissions by developed countries; nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries; finance; REDD. They decided to transfer decisions to the ministers.

The “technical” phase ends today. Negotiators will very likely work overnight to try to get a working paper upon which the ministers can work and perhaps improve. This phase is led by diplomatic negotiators and senior government officials.

Ministers, the heads of delegation, respond for the “high level segment”, and they need a document as complete as possible to serve as a basis for their political assessment and decision.

It is unlikely ministers will have the time and the technical information necessary to reach an agreement on the texts that apparently could come out of the discussions on the working groups.

It is also unlikely that the heads of state and governments will be satisfied with a text that fails to address all important substantive issues, either transferring them to the political level, or to COP16, on December 2010.

There is a clear demand from COP15 Chair, Connie Hedegaard, and UN top climate official, Yvo de Boer, for a complete draft for the ministers to review. If negotiators fail to produce such a text, the whole summit may collapse.

The stronger argument for an acceptable deal that remains valid is political. It is unlikely that this unprecedented number of heads of state will come to Copenhagen to celebrate a failure or to sign a vague letter of intentions.

There are still some resources the Chair of COP15 can use to get a draft done overnight or during the morning tomorrow. An intervention from the Chair to get a document done is an instrument of last resort, rarely used at a Conference of the Parties.

Connie Hedegaard made a dramatic appeal for action, compromise, commitment and responsibility to get the job done today, at the opening ceremony of COP15’s high level segment.

I must warn you: we can fail, she said. And we cannot afford to fail, she added.

This is not only about the climate. It is also about the world’s confidence on their global leaders.

This call for action may also be interpreted as a warning that she could use the Chair’s prerogatives to get a working document, if the negotiators fail to deliver.

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