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Copenhagen report: Day 4

10 December 2009

Four days into the climate conference in Copenhagen and the negotiating fog continues to obscure the outlines of a possible new global deal. While the first new draft texts began to emerge from a limited number of working groups, talks in the Kyoto Protocol's supreme body were suspended. Negotiators expressed disappointment at the overall pace of work - but also optimism that progress is being made in certain areas.

Wednesday's divisive debate about the need or not for a new climate protocol remerged today in a related discussion on amendments to the existing Kyoto Protocol. Once again,  the small island states - supported by African and Latin American partners - split from their larger developing country allies to request the establishment of a formal negotiating group which would consider their proposed amendments to Kyoto. At the heart of this request is a desire to obtain clarity on the 'legal form' of an outcome from Copenhagen. With strong opposition to the proposal from other developing countries, but support from some developed countries, the president of the meeting was unable to find consensus and subsequently suspended the session. 

It is unclear how this development will impact on concluding the work progam that negotiators set themselves for the first week. One senior developed-country negotiator noted that good progress was being made in a number of the nearly 30 working groups that have been established. Others were more pessimistic. In the important 'shared vision group tasked with agreeing an overarching long-term, cooperative goal for countries an official despaired that the text had actually increased in length. 

The picture in other closed-door groups appears to be mixed. Discussions on technology transfer and development have apparently progressed well, although the potentially explosive issue of intellectual property has yet to be discussed in detail. Negotiations on finance have not progressed far, but there is growing consensus around the establishment of 'fast start funding. Sums of US$10 billion per annum between 2010 and 2013 have been mentioned

With ministers now beginning to arrive, and an informal mini-ministerial planned for the weekend, the intensity of negotiations is likely to pick up.  While negotiator and observers alike would have hoped for less disruption this week, the arrival of these decision-makers could provide the political impetus that many believe has so far been missing.

The fog may finally be lifting.

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