17 December, 2009

Any Copenhagen deal will only happen above and beyond the formal tracks of COP15

The climate meeting has become a ceremony of speeches by heads of states and governments. The real political negotiations are happening largely outside the Bella Center, in hotels around Copenhagen.

Sergio Abranches

With NGO’s barred from Bella Center, where COP15 is taking place, the media confined to the Media Center, and talks at the formal negotiating tracks stalled, the Climate Meeting seems to be heading to a gloomy end.

Politics, however, is not really an affair for formal environments. Formal settings are used by politicians for speeches, photos and ceremonial handshaking. Politics is done in hotel or private rooms at the conference center, through the phone and videoconference equipment. A deal is being negotiated above and beyond the formal tracks here in Copenhagen.

Prime minister Gordon Brown spent the day, yesterday, holding a dozen of private meetings with other leaders from developed, emerging and least developed countries, on a last attempt to create the conditions for a deal.

“The task of politics is to remove obstacles,” he would say this morning at the plenary of COP15, recalling his endeavors the day before. In his talks yesterday he found that “the challenges are difficult and testing,” yet there are no unsurmountable obstacles in finance, mitigation actions, or any other major issue to an effective Copenhagen Agreement.

On his carefully drafted speech, Brown outlined the deal he is negotiating together with other leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, and the President of the European Commission, José Manoel Durão Barroso.

Brown’s outline on finance was pretty much the same presented yesterday by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, on behalf of the African Union. It is essentially a commitment by developed countries of US$ 30 billion for a startup fund in the period 2010-2012, to be used to address urgent adaptation and mitigation tasks, and to prepare long-term plans for adaptation and mitigation.

Long-term finance flows should start in 2013 to reach up to US$ 50 billion a year by 2050, and US$ 100 billion a year by 2020.

The Prime Minister has also talked about how he envisions a political deal regarding emissions reductions from developed and emerging countries. He defends a strongly politically binding deal, with numbers and clear guidelines to become a legally biding one within six to 12 months.

This in essence is what is being tirelessly negotiated by Brown, Merkl and Sarkozy, on consultations with US President Barack Obama, President Lula, Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and Spanish Prime Minister José Luiz Zapatero among several other key global leaders.

President Obama sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to participate on what she called on her first press briefing in Copenhagen the “macro”, larger framework of negotiations, beyond “text negotiating.”

The Danish presidency apparently renounced the idea of proposing a document from the Chair. The text was announced yesterday, but never came to fore. The first “Danish document” produced a definite loss of confidence in the relations between developing and developed countries, after it was leaked in the beginning of the meeting. Distrust apparently led Prime Minister Rasmussen, and COP15 Chair, to abandon it altogether. “Text negotiating” will be based on the documents tabled by the Chairs of the Working Groups on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and on the Climate Convention (AWG-LCA).

If top level talks see real progress today, president Obama will arrive tomorrow to “fill in the gaps” and seal the deal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, for instance, the US is committed to the finance scheme outlined by Meles Zenawi and Gordon Brown. Asked how much the US would contribute she answered “we’ll contribute proportionately.” How much only Obama will tell, under the condition there is a deal and it includes adequate “transparency mechanisms” for all Parties.

The pieces are progressively coming to place. Any meaningful Copenhagen Agreement will only happen above and beyond the formal tracks of COP15. If there is an agreement, then the formal and legal details would be worked out within six to 12 months, as Gordon Brown said in his speech at the otherwise largely ceremonial COP plenary.

The Climate Meeting has become a sort of G120 Summit. Real negotiations involve the G8, the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China), leaders representing African nations, and the AOSIS, the Association of Small Islands States.

If this deal from the top is actually sealed, than COP15 will ceremonially embrace it and bring its conclusions back to the formal multilateral tracks where a deal of this kind belongs.

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