COP17 outcome expected today

2011-12-10 09:55

Climate talks at COP17 in Durban resumed this morning after a night of drama that delivered no result. The talks were forced into extra time and sources close to COP president Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said an outcome could only be expected late this afternoon.

While progress was made last night with a new draft negotiating text released round about midnight, the nations at the talks remained at loggerheads. The action was happening at a set of ministerial indabas designed to resolve sticking points.

The conference of 194 countries seeks to find a solution to prevent dangerous climate change, by putting a binding treaty in place. This will force nations to cap their emissions, but could affect their economies negatively.

The sticking points at the conference remained how much responsibility major developing economies such as China and India should take on, while also including a reluctant US in the deal and compelling the rich nations to do more to curb their emissions with clear timeframes.

Tim Gore, Oxfam climate change policy advisor, said the talks were at a “crossroad” and that a lot still rested on the US and China.

“If it succeeds it’ll be of because of China, if it fails it’ll be the US,” he said.

At the same time India was also seen as taking a hardline position, because it feared being locked into a treaty that would close down its economy and was taking major heat at the conference and in the indabas.

Canada, widely viewed as the pariah of the COP for opposing the Kyoto Protocol, launched a scathing attack on India yesterday, accusing it of being a dealbreaker.

This morning, Indian environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan said: “I was astonished and disturbed by the comments of my colleague from Canada who was pointing at us as to why we are against the roadmap,” she said. “Countries that had signed and ratified it are walking away without even a polite goodbye. And yet, pointing at others.”

A lot rests on the shoulders of Nkoana-Mashabane as drafter of the negotiating text. The text is the key in this late stage of the negotiations. The text sets about the plans and conditions for a possible Durban deal, and the two main texts produced on Friday were the main talking point all day.

An informed source with access to the indaba said the pressure was on Nkoana-Mashabane to get the texts right and the talks going. The first text on Friday failed dismally, and much rested on the second text that came out at midnight.

“If that fails, this conference will be a flopCOP,” the source said. And if that happens fingers will be pointed at Nkoana-Mashabane.

The drama started on Thursday. After negotiations went on through the night, Nkoana-Mashabane produced the first negotiating text of the day with the weight of opinion of 26 countries behind it on Friday morning.

But the text was rejected almost immediately, because of its low level of ambitions it set. The US and China liked the text, but many of the 26 countries did a U-turn after viewing the text.

The Aosis group, the small island states that risk disappearing in the sea due to sea-level rise, blew its top over the first draft text.

The European Union also rejected it saying it was not doing enough and ministers left the meeting fuming. The Africa group said the text killed the Kyoto Protocol.

In the next round of the indaba after six on Friday, the Aosis group produced their ace in the hole, a document that called for a treaty with ambitious goals to be concluded by next year. It was this document that influenced the second text that was released round about midnight.

The new text mentioned a “legal instrument applicable to all parties”, which met favour with the critical parties, but still excluded the clear timeframes the European Union was looking for. Ministers would reconvene this morning to discuss the latest text, but early indication was that it might not be the final text and that some tweaks were still needed.

Negotiations continue.

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