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COP17 Daily: Wednesday December 7

08 December 2011
COP17 Daily: Wednesday December 7

All week Damian Ryan, Senior Policy Manager, The Climate Group is providing a daily round-up of the news from the second week of COP17 in Durban, as well as analysis and live tweeting.

Wednesday, December 7.

COP17 moved into its final stage today, as ministers joined their officials for the final and traditionally most intensive three days of the annual two week conference. 

As promised on Tuesday, the chair of the main ‘Convention’ track negotiation released his updated ‘amalgamated’ text, containing all the draft decisions from the 14 different negotiating sub-groups previously established by Parties. Despite earlier pleas from negotiators themselves for a slimmer text, Parties had managed to actually increase the updated document by seven pages.

The chair walked delegates through the document in detail, explaining where he saw progress and highlighted issues he believed needed ministerial input.   Contentious issues for ministerial attention included the usual suspects, such as mitigation commitments and actions, monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) rules, and new market mechanisms.

Encouragingly, the chair did state that good progress had been made on most of the new Cancun institutions or processes, including the Adaptation Committee, the technology mechanism, finance, and capacity building.

Predictability, all parties that took the floor to comment on the updated text found faults of various kinds. But as with Tuesday’s interventions, none sought to undermine the new document outright.  

The strongest criticism was expressed by Saudi Arabia, supported by a Venezuela and Bolivia. The issue here was the lack of any text on the issue of ‘Response Measures’ – UNFCCC short hand for how to deal with concerns of oil producers worried by the impacted on export revenues as a result of other countries’ climate actions.   

This has long been Saudi Arabia’s pet issue. But few countries have sympathy for what in reality is a longer-term  – and hence manageable –  problem for most OPEC members.

Sustained high oil prices over the past few years and the impact this has had on other country economies has further eroded support for dealing with this issue. With countries unable to even move beyond a facilitators draft note, the chair, rightly, could not add in any text on the issue.  Expect a spanner in the works in due course from Saudi Arabia et al as a result.

At lunch time, many observers gathered for another high profile event with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, this time on climate finance.   This meeting brought together the key authors of last year’s Advisory Group on Finance (AGF) Report, including the Prime Ministers of Norway and Ethiopia.

The AGF report, released immediately prior to Cancun, had set out how developed countries could actually ‘mobilise’ the $100 billion per annum by 2020, which had originally been pledge in Copenhagen.

The key AGF messages had not changed, but bore repeating, particular the need for a $25 per tonne price on carbon as a principle means for generating finance.  It was noted that such a price would provide the incentive for accelerated emission reduction and clean technologies development.

The Norwegian PM also made a strong argument for the importance of the private sector in mobilising much of the necessary climate finance. He noted that with the financial crisis developed country treasuries simply did not have the funds or the political support for large increases in public financing.

In the main plenary room, the day was filled with the steady procession of ministerial statements. This necessary set piece of political backslapping, haranguing and self-promotion was largely the haunt of press-ganged junior officials and unwitting first time observers.

No doubt many fine words were spoken, but for the most part the real action was elsewhere, as the COP President continued her ‘Indaba’ process with ministers on the core political issues across both ‘Convention’ and ‘Protocol’ tracks.

For UN-summit junkies the day concluded with a briefing from UN and senior Brazilian officials on the upcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit in June. Billed as a seminal moment for re-injecting political momentum back into global sustainable development, the conference is expected to attract at least 50,000 delegates.

With just 27,000 hotel rooms in the city and an agenda that could cover everything from poverty elimination through to agriculture and sustainable urbanisation (not to mention climate change), Rio may well rival climate COPs for both chaos and complexity.

Further reading

Damian Ryan, Senior Policy Manager, The Climate Group, is writing news and analysis throughout COP17, and providing a more in-depth post-COP Briefing after the events. Keep up to date from daily round-ups on our website and by following him on Twitter during COP17.

Our international policy teams are have also commented on key regional positions in the lead-up to Durban; read about AustraliaChina,EuropeIndia and the US.

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