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?