Categorized | Climate, COP 15

Some progress in Copenhagen, but many key issues still undecided

COPENHAGEN — Midway through the climate talks, we’re at a good place to take stock of where things stand. Negotiators from around the globe have made progress on a few fronts. Hundreds of pages of negotiating text have been boiled down to focus on the essentials. Countries are making progress on designing strong incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation in developing countries. A package of near-term financing from developed countries to help developing countries slow their emissions and cope with climate change impacts is also coming together.

Yet, many contentious issues will be kicked up to Environment Ministers, who arrived today, and the 110 heads of State expected later next week. Some of the prickliest aspects of the talks include:
1. The level of mid-term action from developed countries to cut emissions. In particularly, many Parties are unsatisfied with the U.S. proposal to cut emissions in the range of 17% below 1990 levels by 2020. Nonetheless, U.S. negotiators have emphasized that without Congressional approval of climate legislation, there is no room to strengthen their pledge.
2. The legal nature of emerging economies’ actions to slow their emissions growth. The current negotiating text would require legally binding actions for developed countries but not for large emitters in the developing world. The U.S. walked away from the Kyoto Protocol because it lacked legally binding commitments from developing countries. Todd Stern, the chief negotiator for the U.S. has described the revised text as a nonstarter for this reason. China, India and other large developing countries are deeply opposed to legally binding commitments. Small island states and countries extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts want legally binding actions for all countries–just one of several fissures within the G77 and China negotiating block in the climate talks.
3. Monitoring, reporting and verifying emissions cuts. The U.S. is calling for strong protocols to verify the emission reductions of all major economies, including those in the developing world. The U.S. has made it clear that the current negotiating text is far too weak in this regard. China on the other hand, weary of providing open access to information about its economy to the international community, is pushing back hard.

Protestors marched from the city center to amass outside the climate talks today demanding that countries deliver a strong agreement in Copenhagen. The live footage streamed into the conference center, including bone-chilling images of riot police clashing with protesters.

Crowds in the conference halls and meeting rooms are nearing the 15,0000 capacity limit. Space will become even tighter next week and some conference attendees will undoubtedly be turned away.