Posted by: carbonara | October 23, 2011

UNFCCC delegates manage expectations leading into COP(N-1)


Real decision time will be at COP(N) next year

“Talk of any legally binding instrument would be irresponsible, very irresponsible. To even begin to suggest that the outcome of Durban must be a legally binding instrument would be irresponsible, because it will collapse the system.”  NJ Mxakato-Diseko, South Africa Ambassador-at-large for COP17  (and for once a real quote on lowcarbonara!)

As the days tick down towards this year’s annual gathering of climate change negotiators and ministers, known as the (N-1)th Conference of the Parties (COP(N-1)), many negotiators and bureaucrats have been actively trying to play down expectations of what might be achieved. Although COP(N-2) last year did culminate in agreement on some points, commentators are mixed over the importance of that agreement; some see it as a significant step forward, others are dismissive of its content and see it more as a figurative agreement serving only to keep momentum in the talks towards COP(N-1).  Bureaucrats are keen to remind observers that given the factious and divided discussions that were had at COP(N-2), COP(N-1) cannot be expected to deliver a breakthrough agreement and a legally-binding treaty. However, all are in agreement that this is still achievable but will be more relevant for the agenda of COP(N) that will happen at the end of next year.

“COP(N), next year, is really where our negotiation deadline lies”, said one veteran negotiator who said the same thing last year and continues to wish not to be named. The delegate, of indeterminate age, said that he had been around since COP1 and was confidant of the prospects of agreeing at COP(N), after a bit more negotiating time.  In the meantime, analysis produced after the last pre-COP negotiating session earlier this month suggests that whilst progress may be made on secondary issues such as technology, capacity building, a mechanism for REDD+ and the ability to make the same predictions for COP every year, the crunch issues of finance and countries’ mitigation ambitions were likely to remain deadlocked through to COP(N) next year.

Last minute preparations are now underway for COP(N-1), which will also include other negotiating groups such as the (2n+4)th session of the SBSTA and the (3n-7)th session of the SBI, as well as the 3,232nd instance of the infamous NGO party. Environmental groups, pointing out that climate change is an urgent issue and cannot wait for yet more merry-go-round negotiations, were assured that their concerns would be aired at COP(N) next year if time permits, or maybe at COP(N+1).  As compensation, the world was presented with a pretty new UNFCCC logo which, although escaping from the dated 1990s flavour of its predecessor, does bear a rather striking resemblance to a copyright symbol. Is this subliminal messaging about rich nations’ fears about intellectual property rights and technology transfer?



POSTSCRIPT:   What I hadn’t realised is that there is much better comedy value (quite literally) in the similarity of the logo with that of Comedy Central in the US, as demonstrated by Global Dashboard


  1. Wonder how much did the consultant mooch off of the UNFCCC ? We need results not pretty pictures on the Panel. Misplaced attentions of the UNFCCC secretariat I think.

  2. […] Negotiators at the latest “informal” session of negotiations in the Thai capital – sporting a distinct lack of ties and jackets as well as any noticeable intention to agree on anything – were quick to lament these findings. Said all negotiators from every country, “It’s a terrible state of affairs. We realise how serious the climate change situation is, and how lamentable progress has been in these negotiations. But it’s not my country’s fault – it’s the fault of all the other countries and their unreasonable negotiation positions”. All agree that their own position is perfectly reasonable, and they would be keen to do so much more if it wasn’t for the insufficient pledges of all other countries.  All agree that the important time to discuss this is not now but at the next negotiating session. […]

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