Copenhagen report: Day 9

15 December 2009

Negotiations accelerated into their final phase today with parties agreeing to open the High Level Ministerial session half a day early.  Elsewhere, informal minister-led negotiating groups met to advance discussions on the key deadlock issues, while officials endeavored to complete their more technical work under the Convention and Protocol track negotiations. 


The unusual decision to move quickly into formal ministerial negotiations is perhaps not surprising.  The earlier-than-usual arrival of many ministers, and the clear urgency of the negotiations, has necessitated some radical (for the UN) procedural decisions. 

The creation of the informal minister-led groups is a case in point.  Tasked with tackling five core "crunch issues" including emission targets, long-term financing and developing country mitigation action, these informal groups reflect the COP President's desire to cut through traditional procedures to seal a deal.

At this stage, however, it's not yet certain how exactly all the pieces fit together.  The negotiator-level talks under both the Convention and the Protocol must be concluded today.  Officials are likely to work late into the evening to agree draft decisions and reports, which will represent the final outcomes from both tracks. 

These will be forwarded to the joint high-level meeting of the Convention and Protocol.  Here ministers will continue their efforts through Wednesday and Thursday to resolve the "crunch issues" in order to present a final package to leaders on Friday.  That, at least, is the theory. 

The next 48 hours will be critical to determining whether a deal is on the table.  Indications from press briefings today provide mixed signals.  The EU reiterated its calls for greater ambition from the US and China.  It stated that a single new agreement that built on Kyoto was its preferred outcome, but also expressed willingness to compromise. 

The US set out a range of reasons why its current 17% emission reduction offer for 2020 (from 2005) was comparable to other developed countries.  It also emphasized that the offer was unlikely to change over the coming days as it is dependent on the US' longer domestic legislative process. 

For many observer delegates, however, disagreement over negotiation positions has been the least of their concerns in recent days. With over 35,000+ delegates officially registered, a conference centre capacity of 15,000, and the expected arrival of large head of state entourages, entry into the negotiations for NGOs has been severely restricted from today. Rumors circulating suggest that by Friday, observer numbers could be reduced to less than 1000 for security reasons.

Overall, this was very much a transition day.  Like the handover in a relay race, countries sought to finish one leg, while starting another.  With luck this break from normal procedural practice will give the negotiators that added boost to finish the race in winning style. 



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