The U.N. climate negotiations often have the feel of a multi-ring circus – several negotiating bodies, each including virtually all the same parties, wrangle over different issues in different rooms. You have the COP, the CMP, the SBI, the SBSTA, the AWG-KP, the AWG-LCA, not to mention the various contact groups, informals, and informal informals.
So when the talks resume next week in Bonn, Germany, it will be a rare moment. For the first time since the 1997 conference that produced the Kyoto Protocol, parties will be devoting their entire time to a single negotiating body. Its aim: a comprehensive new agreement in 2015 to start in 2020.
As international climate summits go, Doha should be relatively straightforward. Essentially, parties need to wrap up some old business so they can start negotiating in earnest next year toward a 2015 agreement. So why is everything so gummed up?
Two reasons: Expectations die hard. And however modest the formal agenda might be, the rhetorical agenda knows no bounds.
I recently replied to a question on the National Journal blog: “Should international negotiators abandon the top-down multilateral system to confront climate change and find another way?”
You can ready other responses at the National Journal.
Here is my response: True enough, the Doha climate talks will produce no big breakthroughs. Compared to the last three conferences – Copenhagen, Cancún and Durban – Doha is indeed a pretty ho-hum affair.
That is no doubt disappointing to anyone still looking to the U.N. climate negotiations to deliver a quick, decisive response to the challenge of global climate change. In actuality, though, the diplomatic humdrum in Doha marks a long overdue shifting of gears that could, in time, produce a far more practical approach.
A new round of climate talks opened this week in Bonn, Germany, with the ambitious goal of reaching a comprehensive legal agreement “applicable to all Parties” by 2015.
Countries agreed to launch the new round last December in Durban, South Africa, as part of a package deal that also keeps the Kyoto Protocol alive, at least for now. The so-called Durban Platform negotiations offer governments the chance to consider new approaches and—one can hope—commit themselves to meaningful action.
Since the start of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 15 years ago, there’s been tension between two competing models—binding targets-and-timetables vs. voluntary pledge-and-review. And in actuality, parties have now constructed both: the first in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the second in the parallel framework that emerged in Copenhagen in 2009 and was further developed in Cancún and Durban.
Only time will tell whether the Durban climate talks produced an historic breakthrough. It’s possible. What’s clear for now is that the Durban deal keeps the global climate effort intact and moving – however incrementally – in the right direction.
The deal is delicately poised between two eras – the fading age of Kyoto, and a new phase beyond Kyoto, with developed and developing countries presumably on a more equal footing.
Politically, there were four essential ingredients to the deal: Developing countries – and South Africa in particular – were adamant that Kyoto not die on African soil. Europe was adamant that it would only do another round of Kyoto if Durban launched new talks toward a comprehensive binding agreement. The United States (along with Japan, Australia, Canada and Russia) was adamant that any such agreement include major developing countries too. And, for the first time, China, India and other emerging economies appeared to agree.
The result: Europe (and a handful other developed countries) agreed to a “second commitment period” under Kyoto, with their new targets to be put in legal form next year. And parties launched the Durban Platform, aimed at producing a new deal by 2015 to take effect in 2020.