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Copenhagen report: Day 2

08 December 2009

The Copenhagen climate talks moved up a gear today with the first substantive meetings of the two core negotiating groups.

In the Convention track negotiation - which is supposed to agree new climate commitments and actions for all countries - the group's chair laid out his proposal for how to structure talks over the coming week.

Specific 'drafting groups' have been established and began work on producing final (or near final) legal texts on all the core issues. They have been tasked with completing their work by Saturday (a working day for negotiators). Negotiators need to bridge gaps on issues such as 'Shared Vision' (i.e. the long-term global climate goal); deeper mitigation commitments by developed countries; the nature and ambition of mitigation action by developed countries; the monitoring reporting and verification of various commitments and actions; and the legal form of the final outcome from the Convention negotiating process (i.e. is it a new protocol, a set of decisions, or a combination?). As expected, the groups will meet "informally" - UN climate-speak for closed-door negotiations.

The Kyoto Protocol negotiations - seeking agreement on new emission cuts for developed countries beyond 2012 - also agreed their working arrangements. Informal groups have begun work drafting a range of decisions, or amendments to the Protocol. Priority negotiating time has been given to the group discussing emission reduction targets. It needs to agree on: aggregate and individual emission cuts; clarify rules on how these cuts can be achieved; determine a legally binding base year and length of commitment period (eg 5 or 8 years); and determine how to turn existing pledges into quantified reduction commitments.

Other groups in the Kyoto track will tackle issues relating to rules for land-use and forestry, methodological issues (eg new gases, metrics etc), and reform of the so-called flexibility mechanisms (e.g. the Clean Development Mechanism). In common with the Convention negotiations, officials will hold all these talks in closed sessions. Underlining the gap that still exists between countries, a representative of the small island states group said that current developed country pledges were "far, far short" of the level demanded by science. A 45% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020 was necessary - current offers amounted to just 13-19%.

With negotiations now moving behind closed doors the climate rumour mill is likely to move into overdrive. Revelations today of a 'secret' text prepared by developed countries to 'kill Kyoto', is probably indicative of things to come over coming week. For the more seasoned negotiators, however, such things are part and parcel of the process.

Outside of the formal negotiating process a vast range of official side-event activities continues to keep the large (and growing) number of observers occupied.

The CDM Executive Board held a Q&A session, which was dominated by discussion over the transparency of one of its methodologies used for wind farms in China. It also admitted to being behind in approving CDM projects. This was not helped by the fact that its secretariat is currently 35% understaffed.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and its sister UN body the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) hosted a joint event to lay out the action they were taking to tackle emissions. Both sectors are likely to feature prominently in negotiations, not least because of their potential to provide new sources of climate financing, either through levies or emissions trading.

In short, another busy day in Copenhagen.

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