09 December, 2010

Almost stalled in the right direction

Sergio Abranches

Climate talks in Cancun were almost stopping, although in the right direction until Thursday evening. In the corridors, negotiators walking hastily from one room to another were saying they were close to remove some of the major stumbling blocks keeping the talks from advancing faster.

Like in the last hours of Copenhagen, press briefings were canceled one after the other. First was Christiana Figueres’, justification: “they are in important consultations”. Todd Stern’s was next: “no break on the negotiations, we’ll have to reschedule.” But an hour earlier, Stern was calmly talking to journalists at the lobby. He said to a U.S. correspondent that he was expecting things to move forward in the evening. Positive signs and reassuring statements can be heard everywhere. But negotiators have no concrete results to show.

I am sure negotiators are sincere when they say they are optimistic or cautiously so. They are working hard to get the best result possible from Cancun. But no one is yet prepared to make any concessions. The best result possible will be the maximum progress within the limits set by each one of the parties. This means the minimum result possible from the standpoint of climate science.

I was a bit shocked to see the major NGOs showing they’ve adapted to compromise solutions on their joint press briefing today. They are arguing for some progress, rather than demanding negotiators to deliver a full package now. They are becoming content with piecemeal progress, when only a whole and coherent package deal will do. Compromise and satisficing (less than good) solutions are tricks of the diplomatic trade. I didn’t expect them to be tools in the NGO’s backpack. With everybody compromising, pressure is at a low here in Cancun.

There is a slim chance that a game breaker would suddenly emerge out of 10 days of intense informal negotiations with no results to show on the way. But chances are higher that they’ll move a few steps forward in the right direction, although failing to deliver a comprehensive deal. The British environment secretary Chris Huhne is even less optimistic. He said that the talks are delicately balanced between a positive outcome and a “car crash”.

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