Dispatch from the Bonn meeting

The following dispatch is from Radoslav Dimitrov, a professor at the University of Western Ontario.

Dear friends and colleagues,

Regards from Bonn, Germany. This is a brief update on this week’s informal round of climate negotiations ending today. Attached is the electronic copy of a presentation the EU made yesterday.

This meeting is part of a long series of intense international talks on the next climate agreement. The successor to the Kyoto Protocol is supposed to be completed at a major conference in Copenhagen this December. Only two more rounds remain before that: Bangkok in October and Barcelona in November.

Progress is very slow and the talks are far behind schedule. None of the delegates I talk to here thinks that they will manage to produce a package in Copenhagen. One telling fact: the meeting this week did not produce an official report. Some developments this week:

* They started the week with a new negotiating text on long-term cooperative action (LCA). We call it here “The Brick” due to its size: about 120 single-spaced pages with 2100+ brackets. The text does not identify which country is behind which proposal, and they spent time arguing on whether it should, for the sake of transparency.

* New Zealand revealed its position on emissions cuts and announced readiness to achieve 10 to 20 percent emissions reductions below 1990 levels by 2020 – only provided there is an international agreement with strong commitments from other industrialized countries and effective rules on LULUCF (read, forestry and agriculture).

* On the legal form: Brazil, China and other developing countries are against a new legally binding treaty and say the Copenhagen conference should produce only a  ‘decision’ by the Conference of Parties. Most likely, this is just a temporary negotiating tactic

* Signs of growing acceptance of sectoral approaches to emission cuts, including cross-national sectoral trading of emissions. Japan, Europe and the US push for these, and while developing countries used to be adamant against it, this week India asked specific questions about how these would work (a clear sign they are ready to consider accepting the idea).

* Major disagreements on the baseline year for emission cuts (what year’s emission levels should emission cuts be measured by). This is very important  and failure to agree would undermine the entire agreement. The IPCC report stresses 25-40 percent cuts by 2020 – compared to 1990 levels. Most developing countries want to stay with the 1990 baseline (used in the Kyoto Protocol). Canada and Japan want “multiple baseline years” That is, every country decides for themselves. This poses considerable problems for the ‘comparability of efforts’  by developed countries and may prevent overall agreement on emission cuts.

The EU supports 25-40 cuts – but they want 2005, 2007, or something current as the baseline. (The EU already adopted 2005 in their new energy and climate policy package this summer. An internal source tells me there were major disagreements about this within the EU, too).

* Some progress on technology: they reduced the draft text, although little substantive change in positions.

* The forests-climate connection and REDD (reduced emissions from deforestation): Developing countries see REDD as a potential source of considerable income (Western money for preserving forests and helping the climate). But – they want REDD projects to be separate and additional to developed country mitigation.

Papua New Guinea who is very active on REDD wants a three-phased approach to REDD including a REDD Fund to be created by rich countries, and market access to carbon markets. This morning they again called for a distinct REDD financial architecture in a Copenhagen agreement. Norway supports them; Norway is active on forestry and gave 1 billion US dollars to Brazil alone for forest protection over five years.

Expect further updates from Bangkok,  Barcelona and Copenhagen later this year. I hope everyone is having a good summer!

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