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Copenhagen report: Day 10

16 December 2009

Confusion and delay characterized events both in and outside the Copenhagen climate conference today. 

Proceedings were meant to begin with plenary meetings under both the Convention and Protocol in order to adopt outcomes from the respective negotiating tracks.  Officials had worked throughout the night to finalise draft reports.  As expected, however, both sets of texts still lacked agreement on key issues and contained too many options for ministers to realistically consider.

In the morning's Protocol plenary, the COP President proposed holding further informal discussions to identify ways to move forward on the Kyoto negotiations.  Developing countries requested another day of talks to improve the texts.  In contrast the EU stated that the ministerial input was necessary, not more discussion amongst officials.

At this point in the day, two important announcements were made.  Both could prove to have an important influence on the final outcome of the conference, and the latter certainly had an immediate impact. 

The first was to announce that the Danish Prime Minister was to replace Connie Hedegaard as the COP President.  Hedegaard will now assume the position of Special Representative to the PM, allowing her to play a more active, behind-the-scenes role in the negotiations. 

Unfortunately, this positive move by the Danes was countered by what seems to have been a tactical mistake by the COP Presidency.  This was the announcement that a 'President's proposal' on a draft outcome to the conference would shortly be tabled.  This was described as being based on the two 'Chairs' texts released last week (see Day 5 recap).

While many had expected that such a document might be presented at some point, developing countries expressed strong dissatisfaction at what they saw as the undermining of the formal negotiating process.  China stated that parties could not accept a proposal that had been "parachuted" into the negotiations to support "hidden agendas".

The reaction generated by Hedegaard's announcement seemed to quickly influence the wider negotiations.  The Convention plenary scheduled to follow the Protocol meeting was suspended.  Discussion moved behind closed doors as ministers grappled with what one described as a "procedural nightmare". 

Without any other negotiations scheduled, many delegates spent the afternoon listening to formal country statements from a long list of presidents and prime ministers.  Crowd favourites included the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, who called for the end of the "imperial capitalist empire".  The Ethiopian president, in contrast, offered a constructive proposal from the African Group on climate financing, which seems to have caught the attention of some developed countries. 

Outside the convention centre, police stood guard and clashed with protestors eager to disrupt the talks inside.  Fears of security prompted a lock-down for part of the day, stopping many observer delegates entering.  NGO frustration at the lack of access and participation has grown steadily over the past week.

In short, Day 10 of Copenhagen was one that could have been better for many.  Where things go from here will depend crucially on resolving the underlying procedural deadlock.  As a minister noted today, failure over substance would be a tragedy, but failure over process would be farcical.  

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