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Syndicated: It’s Still Friday at COP17 (liveblogging the next last day)

In November and December 2011, I attended the United Nations climate change conference (COP17) in Durban, South Africa.  I will be periodically syndicating my blog posts from other websites here on the Solution.  I’m doing this for two reasons.  First, I want an archive of my work here, on my site, under my name.  Second, as I will discuss in a forthcoming post, climate change is an animal rights issue.  I hope that Solution readers will be interested, therefore, in my commentary on the climate talks.

The last day of COP17, Friday 9 December 2011, stretched well on into the night – and then into the Saturday, and then into the Saturday night.  It finally finished a little after 0600 on the morning of Sunday 11 December 2011.  Fellow youth delegate Rachel Dobric and I live-blogged the extended last Friday of the conference.  The below is part two of that liveblog, reposted with Rachel’s permission, unedited.  Part one is here.

Negotiations are running well over time here in Durban.  We will keep you up to date as best we can.  For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter.  The rumour here is that negotiations may continue to tomorrow (which will be the third day of Friday 9 December 2011, as far as COP17 is concerned) – but apparently the ICC is booked until Wednesday.  Rumours and speculation abound.

Latest is first.  If you don’t like what you read, email, tweet, or otherwise contact your MP.

0600, ICC: It’s over.  There is a deal.  It’s not a great one by any means, but it is.  The conference has ended – 30 hours late.

0240, ICC, upstairs: COP-17 President has asked plenary to adjourn for ten minutes.  She’s recommended that the countries yet to be satisfied with the text ‘huddle’ to discuss it in greater depth.

Yes, ‘huddle’. Ten minutes of huddling.

0225, ICC, upstairs: Time for a small mental health break, perhaps. It seems the NGO-types are into second phase sleeping. (That is to say that after their first round of naps and coffee and revitalisation, they’re back in the rut of being tired.)

Though, I’m pretty sure that a lot of the people sleeping out here are negotiators.

0200: The Phillipines just said:

The youth in this conference have been instrumental in pushing us to do our work … with a lever long enough, you can move the world!

In the same speech, he referred to helping Africa and the “I ❤ KP” t-shirts.  We can’t really hope to influence the talks, but at least we have influenced some of the delegates.  Also a reminder that “we are all one world” and a call for equity.

0144, ICC, inside: President reminds delegates that this is informal plenary, with formal plenary to follow.  Debate developing between developing states.  Several suggestions here that G77+China are breaking up over climate policy.  Interesting times here on our third day of Friday.

0118, ICC, inside: EU calls for a binding agreement by 2018, to a resounding response: “International problems require international legislation.”   Columbia too demands a stronger text.  Switzerland too: “We can reach an agreement in line with our abilities and our responsibilities … we would like to see something tangible.” India echoes Venezuela’s refusal to be intimidated. Further:

The centrepiece of the climate change debate is and has to be equity. And the equity of burden sharing cannot be shifted cannot be shifted.

1259, Sunday, ICC, upstairs: The informal plenary session of the COP and CMP started at 1259.  Opening remarks underway now.  Around me, observers and reporters have fallen asleep, dropping their heads onto their laptops.  Behind me, Greenpeace has just finished a tactical meeting over (non-vegan, non-shared) curry.  I’m tired and hungry and just downed a double-espresso.

Around the water-cooler, the word seems to be that a failure is better than a deal at this point.  The texts on the table are in a bad state.  We have a five or eight year second commitment period under Kyoto, with a gap thrown in, and nice shiny new loopholes.  Paired with it is a new mandate for the LCA track, which aims for a legal framework to be implemented by 2020.  The 2015 deal sought by CAN is out the window.  The 2012 deal proposed by AOSIS is a memory.  Even a legally binding agreement by 2020 is blocked by some developed states – despite recognition that we must drastically and quickly cut emissions to reach our mitigation goal of only two degrees of warming.

1145, ICC, upstairs: Small victories, but huge losses. Yes, Venezuela spoke. And inspired us all with her courage. She was standing on her chair. And banging the desk with her country’s nameplate.

The Chair was speechless, for all of a moment. But the LCA has gone through to the COP.

This is hardly right.

1139, ICC, upstairs: Venezuela has taken everyone’s attention. The Chair had tried to close the session and move on to the COP, but Venezuela spoke over him and wouldn’t let him finish without her final word.

I asked for the floor…a long time ago. I will ask you to please ignore me after I have finished my statement.

She insists her delegation had received threats in the corridors from other negotiators if they refused to accept this weak text – threats that they wouldn’t allow a CP2 through if Venezuela blocked the LCA.

There are giggles from the NGOs watching the Chair’s face on the LCD screens behind me. Giggles because he’s utterly speechless.

Oh! And there have been more announcements about South African Airways’ extra scheduled flights. Because, you know, that’s super important.

1132, ICC, upstairs: Kiwi Hot Topic blogger Cindy Baxter has just saved me by giving me pizza. Many, many thanks from my stomach to you, Cindy.

Tweets are getting less relevant and less frequent. NGO people are clearly falling asleep.

Japan wants the text to go through.

The Chair has admitted there’s “a great deal of disappointment in this text“, and yet has forwarded it to the COP. They’re already at the stage where they’re starting to make logistical announcements. They’re letting delegates know when their planes will be going tomorrow.

Who needs ambition when you have South African Airways?

2309, ICC, upstairs: Malawi will support the text, simply to see it go through. Malaysia and Thailand declare the text unfair. Malaysia: “We cannot accept the notion that this is a balanced text!” They both refuse to support it.

The USA is speaking now.  Todd Stern (lead negotiator) is congratulating the negotiators on their success, and suggesting that the text go through.  He acknowledges that it’s been “a difficult negotiation“, but considers the United States as making just as much of a compromise in agreeing to this text as the other Parties involved.

…I’d dispute that.

2303, ICC, upstairs: It seems that the EU is willing to let the LCA text go through to the COP for approval, despite its absolute disappointment in the weakness of the text.  If only they’d had such high standards for the KP negotiations and could have supported a five- instead of an eight-year second commitment period.

In the meantime, developing countries feel their voices simply haven’t been heard.  Some are calling for the talks to be suspended until next year, when they feel more work could result in a better outcome.

Papua New Guinea feels the text should be adopted – but only so long as it’s noted that the text is ‘unbalanced and incomplete‘.

It’s a sad reality that such important things are decided on behalf of the world with such compromise, simply because people are tired and want to go home. Someone in YOUNGO has even noticed that one of the Malaysian delegates is sitting with his suitcase, clearly itching to get to the airport.

2250, ICC, upstairs: Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela have all claimed they are ‘not being represented appropriately’. Each has explained why they cannot support the LCA text in its current form. Nicaragua is frustrated that funding sources aren’t outlined, and has stated that if this was a student’s assignment, they’d receive a poor mark for such terrible oversight:

We have to highlight that this is a fund with… no funds. There are no sources of financing.

Venezuela spoke, impassioned, about the flooding its nation is experiencing as a result of climate change. It noted, furious, that any reference to the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ that define Parties’ work under the (FCCC) Convention has been removed.

Bolivia’s insistence that it would rather postpone an agreement than agree to the text in its current form is noble and commendable in the fight for climate justice. But one can’t disagree that after Cancun, this feels a lot like Groundhog Day.

2155, ICC, upstairs: KP was not a happy experience. Parties eventually gave up and allowed the text to be gaveled through.

LCA plenary now well underway. The LCA text is a mess: the Chair admits that entire parts are missing. One paragraph has even been repeated. The reference to 1.5 degrees C somehow disappeared. Parties unhappy with the content of the text, saying it’s lacking anything substantial at all.

The Chair is suggesting that Parties compromise, insisting that it’s better to agree on a weak text than it is to agree on none, and that there’s no time left to strive for anything stronger.

It’s depressing how disorganised this conference is: Saudi Arabia is insisting that they’re finding it difficult to take a position as they only saw the full LCA text for the first time this morning. Bangladesh is so desperate for a deal that they’ve thanked the Chair for his ‘gift‘, even though they note many areas where they have ‘reservations‘…

It’s the Chair’s 22nd year of involvement with this process, and he won’t be returning to the negotiations. Thanking him and acknowledging his efforts is justified, perhaps, but it seems to be taking up more time and more of the delegates’ focus than the actual text at hand.

It’s started pouring with rain. It’s loud and cold enough to be distracting people from their work up here at the computers.

2022, ICC, upstairs: Another ten minute break.  The EU appears to be struggling to find a common position on the Kyoto Protocol.  I haven’t seen the current text yet, but the biggest issue left seems to be the length of the second commitment period – five years or eight?  We, like AOSIS and most of YOUNGO, support five.  However, Russia just made an implicit threat that the text was “a delicate balance”, perhaps suggesting that moving back to a five year commitment period would unbalance things, causing Russia to withdraw its support.

1951, ICC, upstairs: Adrian Macey now allowing a short break for parties to lobby on length of second commitment period and LULUCF issues.  Resuming in 15 minutes.

1945, ICC, upstairs: The plenary session of the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) is underway downstairs now.  Four of us remain in the building: Two in the plenary, two upstairs running Twitter and the blog, while uploading Youtube videos and photos.  There appears to a be a lot of uncertainty even still.  Several parties are proposing changes to the document.  When the plenary started, other parties appeared not to have a copy of the latest text.

You can watch the plenary live here.

Some notes pulled from our Twitter feed:

  • Bolivia says “no clarity on QELROS.” Calls for “mandates” not “invites” parties. Objects that some parties not presented QELROS.
  • Bolivia: “We have read the text, and we have some observations and proposals.” At least 24-40% too big a range. No clear answer.
  • Macey: “Clearly, we can’t enter a drafting exercise.” Only edits capable of full consensus to be proposed orally. Looks like a way to go.
  • Papua New Guinea: “We’re still struggling to keep up.” The text is definitely still changing fast. Doesn’t look final – nor close.
  • New Zealand speaking in support of European Union proposal in AWG-KP seeking “similar treatment” for fast-growing forests.
  • Sudden move in AWG-KP from five year period to eight year period? Grenada: “We’d rather like to leave it as it is.” [5 year]

The apparent move from a five year second commitment period to an 8-year commitment period appears to be the one big change.  This looks to be a long way from a resolution.

1855, ICC: Stocktaking now over.  Plenaries for the two working groups soon to commence downstairs.  All the NGOs around are searching for copies of the “Durban outcome” discussed.  Once again, the atmosphere is confused and uncertain.

1852, ICC: Informal stocktaking plenary underway.  President urges negotiators to not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.  Seeks a “compromise package for a very strong Durban outcome“.

We must, here in Durban, let the world know, that we here are the generation that adopted the Kyoto Protocol.  We adopted the Bali Roadmap.  … This multilateral system is fragile, and it will not survive another shock.

1800, ICC, downstairs: David and Rachel bumped into Renee and Roger from the New Zealand delegation. It turns out they’ve been following us on Twitter. Had some productive discussion about the role of NZYD and of the other NGOs here at COP. We focused particularly on how hard it is for us to respond to the negotiations when we can’t be inside the closed rooms where the ‘real‘ things happen. They really stressed how hard they’ve been working, and how much effort the delegation has made to engage with us. Renee noted that the Minister has been facilitating debates, not participating in them, and told us that they’d been trying to push for a more ambitious text.  We appreciate the time they took to speak with us.

We shared a common desire with the negotiators for a decent outcome from Durban, but with so many negotiators already heading home for the night, it’s hard to know how much faith there is (especially from the non-governmental side) that we’ll actually come out of here with a good deal. Or, for that matter, with any deal at all.

1530, ICC, downstairs / the streets of Durban: No informal stocktaking plenary is actually taking place, that we know of. David and Rachel picked up copies of the latest LCA text, and have gone with Vernon Rive (NZ journalist) and Katie from Sierra Student Coalition to escape from the conference centre for a very late lunch of typical Durban curry.

1445, Yellow Wood Room, ICC: YOUNGO is holding a press conference calling for greater and more urgent action from the Parties. Our delegate Tom Williams is facilitating. Interesting questions and discussion from the floor.  Video coming soon.

1412, ICC, upstairs, inside: Word is that the President is holding an informal stocktaking plenary at 1500.  Things may become clearer then.

1405, ICC, upstairs, inside: YOUNGO is holding a press conference at 1430.  NZYD delegate Tom Williams will be facilitating.

In other news, the LCA draft text on capacity building mentions youth…once:

1249, ICC, upstairs: Apparently the Indaba could extend to 5pm. The conference centre is booked out until Wednesday – some of us could be in for the long haul. There are delegates, though, who have already had to leave.

Reports have come out from last night. The BBC spotted David, Rachel and Jonathan working late.

Nothing much going on. Delegates wandering without much sense of purpose – just waiting for some progress, or some news.

1234, ICC, upstairs: We’ve been back at the ICC for a couple of hours now. We slept late, but the conference didn’t resume until 10am or so anyway. No one is really sure when the plenary will resume. Ministers have been meeting for the past few hours to discuss the state of play and to try to come to agreement, but they may go on for hours yet.

We’re sitting with Grapetiser and coffee, and with highlighters and the latest KP and LCA texts. There’s little happening that’s riveting. Many of us are wearing shirts that AVAAZ handed out last night, boldly pleading ‘Don’t Kill Africa – Climate Deal Now’.

Whispers around the conference centre tell us that New Zealand played a significant role last night in shaping the text to a point of ridicule. Apparently pushing Antipodean interests, our negotiators have helped to produce a text which is weak and lacks ambition – and it’s no secret.

There’s talk of organising a youth press conference, and some of our team are involved.

Originally posted by me on the New Zealand Youth Delegation website.  All photographs and intellectual property in this post solely mine unless otherwise stated.

About David Tong

Climate campaigner | Cyclist | Photographer | Vegan | Straight Edge || Views my own


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