Posts Tagged COP15

What becomes of the broken Hartwell? Gareth Renowden May 13

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Calls for a radical re-framing of policies to deal with climate change are intuitively attractive — after all, current national and international policies don’t seem to be doing much to curb rising emissions. The latest effort comes from a group of developed world academics brought together by London School of Economics professor Gwyn Prins, and takes the form of The Hartwell Paper [PDF] — a document based on discussions held in February at the English country house of the same name. It suggests ditching Kyoto and all its structures, and instead tackling climate change with policies that approach the problem more obliquely. The authors claim:

…it is not possible to have a ‘climate policy’ that has emissions reductions as the all encompassing goal. However, there are many other reasons why the decarbonisation of the global economy is highly desirable. Therefore, the Paper advocates a radical reframing — an inverting — of approach: accepting that decarbonisation will only be achieved successfully as a benefit contingent upon other goals which are politically attractive and relentlessly pragmatic.

Sounds reasonable enough at first reading, but my suspicions were roused when I read beyond the executive summary.

Prins et al derive the need for their new approach from what they describe as two watersheds that were crossed in late 2009: the failure of COP15 in Copenhagen to deliver on its promise of a global deal to follow Kyoto, and what they call “an accelerated erosion of public trust [in climate science] following the posting [...] of more than a 1,000 emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit” last November. Copenhagen clearly did not live up to expectations, and the UN-mediated policy process may well have lost impetus, but the authors go on to assert that the CRU email theft, and the subsequent press furore and investigations means that “the legitimacy of the institutions of climate policy and science are no longer assured”. That, it seems to me, is a very long bow to draw. To see the Hartwell take on the emails applauded by Steve McIntyre and that they approvingly reference Andrew (Bishop Hill) Montford’s book The Hockey Stick Illusion suggests to me that the authors are coming at the issue with their own set of preconceptions — a framing they want to impose on the issue. A look at the author list (Roger Pielke Jr, Nordhaus and Shellenburger from the US think tank The Breakthrough Institute, amongst others) hardly dispels that notion…

When they consider the underlying science, they are at pains to misrepresent what’s going on:

Climate change was brought to the attention of policy-makers by scientists. From the outset, these scientists also brought their preferred solutions to the table in US Congressional hearings and other policy forums, all bundled. The proposition that ‘science’ somehow dictated particular policy responses, encouraged — indeed instructed — those who found those particular strategies unattractive to argue about the science. So, a distinctive characteristic of the climate change debate has been of scientists claiming with the authority of their position that their results dictated particular policies; of policy makers claiming that their preferred choices were dictated by science, and both acting as if ‘science’ and ‘policy’ were simply and rigidly linked as if it were a matter of escaping from the path of an oncoming tornado.

If “the science” has been unhelpful, then this misrepresentation of the message is even more so. The basic message from “the science” is clear enough. There’s too much carbon in the atmosphere, and adding more is going to make life very uncomfortable — all life, not just human beings — in the not too far distant future. Did scientists really bundle this message with “particular policy responses”? Only if reducing carbon emissions can be considered a policy response — but that’s the very response Prins et al seems to want to dance around. Decarbonisation they can countenance, but not now, not quantified. They want to ignore the quantification of the size of the problem we face because it might be inconvenient:

We share the common view that it would be prudent to accelerate the historical trend of reducing the carbon intensity of our economies, which has been a by-product of innovation since the late eighteenth century. However, we do not recommend doing so by processes that injure economic growth, which we think — and the history of climate policy demonstrates — is politically impossible with informed democratic consent.

What if political impossibility is confronting the harsh impact of physical reality? The Hartwell Paper assumes that we have the luxury of time, that we can step away from the progress made over the last 20 years , and somehow recast international policy according to a wishlist of interventions that might (if we’re lucky) set us on the right path. They imply that we need not face reality now, that we should take the Capability Brown approach to a country house, up a winding path that yields carefully framed glimpses of our goal, rather than march straight towards a target defined by our understanding of physical reality.

There is some good analysis of The Hartwell Paper at the Economist (with nice Eno reference), and by Richard Black at the BBC. Both writers suggest that whatever the merit of the Paper’s recommendations, the authors cannot ignore where we are now. We may not want to start from where we are, but we have no choice. In a wider perspective, the Paper is arguing for a bottom up approach to carbon reductions, looking for the low hanging fruit — efficiencies, black carbon reduction — while the Kyoto approach is top-down, starting (with luck) from an informed appreciation of what we would do well to avoid. It seems obvious to me that we need both approaches, at a national as well as international level. Setting a 40% target for emissions reduction by 2020 is just as valid as mandating the use of low energy lightbulbs, or encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles.

Prins, Pielke Jr et al prefer to ignore what we really know about the climate system and the one-way nature of the changes we’re imposing on it (who can put a species back after it’s gone, or reconstruct a coal seam?), adopting instead a high-minded but ultimately wishy-washy stew of policies that look a lot more like sticking plasters than a remedy. And, being a cynic, I can’t resist asking the cui bono question… who might benefit most from the policy mix they propose? I leave the answer as an exercise for the reader.

[Jimmy Ruffin]

A positive view of Copenhagen Bryan Walker Dec 29

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coplogoI wrote a column early in December trying to discern reasons for hope even in the face of the likelihood that Copenhagen was not going to produce a legally binding agreement. In the event it not only did not produce a legal agreement, but endorsed an Accord quite different from the kind of document we were expecting.  I’ve asked myself since whether the measure of cautious hope I  expressed in advance was foolishly optimistic.  Certainly some commentators have suggested so. But not all. Joseph Romm’s Climate Progress website has been upbeat about the Accord.  And today he has drawn attention to an article in the Huffington Post by David Doniger, policy director of the US Natural Resources Defence Council’s climate centre.  Doniger hails the Accord as a gridlock breakthrough on three counts:

First, it provides for real cuts in heat-trapping carbon pollution by all of the world’s big emitters.  Second, it establishes a transparent framework for evaluating countries’ performance against their commitments.  And third, it will start an unprecedented flow of resources to help poor and vulnerable nations cope with climate impacts, protect their forests, and adopt clean energy technologies. 

Doniger writes warmly of Obama’s personal involvement in forging the agreement and rescuing the conference from collapse. Brazil’s President Lula commented that it was unlike the kind of discussions that Heads of State normally have, and reminded him of his days as a trade union negotiator. I have read some accounts of the events which suggest that Obama showed little concern for climate change and was revealed as just another political leader manoeuvering to preserve the perceived interests of his own country ahead of those of the global community. It would be deeply disappointing if that were the case. Earlier this year I read both of Obama’s books, Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope, as well as the collection of his election policies and speeches in Change We Can Believe In, and felt they represented an authentic and decent commitment to human welfare. I have written positively on Hot Topic several times about his unequivocal statements on climate change and the measures his administration has already begun to take to address it. ’The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all.’ I certainly don’t want to hastily credit the possibility that this has all been shown up as nothing more than hot air.

Back to Doniger, who addresses some of the concerns he has seen expressed about the Accord. First is the argument that the Accord isn’t enough to keep us under 2 degrees. He concedes that the agreement is not in itself ambitious enough to achieve that, but points out that Obama was quite candid that it is only a first step. Doniger thinks a significant one:

The real goal going into Copenhagen was to get the U.S., China, and the other fast-growing developing countries to take their first steps to curb their emissions.  That goal was achieved.  And that was no mean feat.

A second expressed concern is that emission cuts aren’t specified. In reply Doniger points to the open enrollment period through to the end of January which allows countries to record their emission reduction commitments. He considers that a year ago the targets and policy announcements on offer today from big developing countries would have been unthinkable. The Accord creates a dynamic situation, with the potential for a virtuous circle of countries reinforcing their commitments over time in response to similar moves by others.

In reply to the objection that the commitments aren’t legally binding, Doniger replies that the Accord sidestepped ’legally binding’ in favour of action commitments from both the big developing countries and the U.S.  Otherwise there was unlikely to have been an agreement. And there are other ways of getting there:

If countries can be bound by a web of interests and economic forces to make and follow through on commitments, that will mean more than any legalistic formulation of their duties. 

In response to the objection that the Accord threatens the future of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Doniger points to the limitations of the Conference of the Parties in requiring consensus of all 193 countries — a requirement which finally resulted in the Conference agreeing to ’take note’ of the Accord rather than adopt it, because of the continuing opposition of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and the Sudan. 

Doniger expects the government of the new Accord is likely to depend in part on the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate. Gareth noted in his Copenhagen post that the mix of this organisation covers just about all the necessary bases.  This doesn’t mean the UNFCCC will necessarily have no function, as Doniger sees it, but it will need to find ways of working which do not leave it open to rogue obstructionists and it will need to embrace the new agreement wholeheartedly.

Finally Doniger addresses the claim that the Accord won’t move the Senate.  It will:

[It] delivers the two principal things that swing Senators have demanded from the international process:  meaningful commitments to reducing the emissions of key developing countries, and a transparent framework for evaluating their performance against those commitments.    

Political disappointments are not hard to find in the issue of climate change. I’m willing to hope that the kind of analysis of the Accord that Doniger and others offer proves to have some substance.

After Copenhagen: new world disorder Gareth Renowden Dec 23

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coplogoIt’s a bit like reading the runes — trawling through reactions to the events of the last couple of weeks, trying to work out what the Copenhagen Accord means. I don’t mean a parsing of the words, though translating the language of diplomacy is never trivial, but what the various parties to the Accord, and the rest of the world, think it means — and crucially, what that implies for future action to reduce emissions.

For background, read this excellent BBC analysis of Copenhagen, and Joe Romm’s interesting take at Climate Progress (which refers to Bill McKibben’s reactions at Grist, plus there’s a more considered McKibben article at e360), but the article that really helped to crystallise my thoughts is Mark Lynas’ insider’s account of the final phases of negotiations:

To those who would blame Obama and rich countries in general, know this: it was China’s representative who insisted that industrialised country targets, previously agreed as an 80% cut by 2050, be taken out of the deal. “Why can’t we even mention our own targets?” demanded a furious Angela Merkel. Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was annoyed enough to bang his microphone. Brazil’s representative too pointed out the illogicality of China’s position. Why should rich countries not announce even this unilateral cut? The Chinese delegate said no, and I watched, aghast, as Merkel threw up her hands in despair and conceded the point. Now we know why — because China bet, correctly, that Obama would get the blame for the Copenhagen accord’s lack of ambition.

Lynas’ key point is that China holds the real power in any negotiation. As the new superpower on the block, it is beginning to flex its geopolitical muscle. As the world’s biggest emitter, it knows that no solution is possible without it. The US administration knows if that if China is not part of an emissions deal, the chances of passing domestic legislation to cut emissions are small. Everybody needs China, and China knows it.

At the same time, the UNFCC process relies on building consensus. Every country has a say, every country can delay, demur, or derail proceedings. If national interests don’t align, only the weakest of deals can be done. Copenhagen Accords, in other words. That leads to the essence of Joe Romm’s argument: if the big emitters act together outside the UN process, the problem is well on the way to being solved.

Obama launched the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate back in March (a follow-on from a Bush initiative designed, ironically, to delay action), and it includes all the key players: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. That mix covers just about all the necessary bases: the rich developed nations, the rapidly growing developing countries, and Brazil and Indonesia, where deforestation is a huge issue. China’s position would not necessarily alter simply because of the change of venue, but the process of deal-making might be easier.

One small feature is missing: the rest of the world, the 170 or so countries not invited to the table. That includes Burkina Faso, Tuvalu — and New Zealand. The poorest nations, and particularly those most likely to feel the impacts of climate change, will have to rely on what amounts to goodwill. $100bn a year in 2020 is on the table, but would that still be the case if the MEF were to a deal in their own interests? For New Zealand, which has always relied on and advocated a multilateral approach to global issues, any influence we currently have would vanish. Lke the rest of the world, we would have to like it or lump it.

That’s why much official reaction to Copenhagen has centred on the need to follow it up with binding commitments to emissions reductions, to sign a better deal in Mexico at the end of 2010. Unsurprisingly, the UN wants the UNFCC process to continue — and I would guess that the vast majority of the UN’s membership agrees. But realpolitik is king, big economies wield the power, and a political structure that evolved to manage a balance of power during the cold war years of the 50s and 60s is beginning to look irrelevant when confronted with this global tragedy of the commons.

Here’s the big question. We have an urgent need to cut emissions, to stabilise and then reduce the atmospheric greenhouse gas load. The numbers are clear enough, the danger is pressing. Events in Copenhagen suggest that we lack the global political apparatus to deliver those emissions reductions in the timescale required, so should we look around for something else that can do the job? Ends or means? The balance between the two is what will emerge over the next year.

Two things will influence the direction the world takes: the perception at international level of the seriousness of the climate problem, and the position adopted by China. My feeling is that until there are severe and undeniable impacts, the collective will for action — especially in the absence of strong leadership — will remain weak. Unless and until the Chinese show signs of taking strong action within some sort of international framework, significant emissions reductions look like pie in the sky. And we’re looking like char siu.

Copenhagen: no FAB deal Gareth Renowden Dec 21

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Barry Coates’ last blog from the Danish capital looks at what was actually achieved and where we go from here, and includes his final analysis of the conference. The full set of Barry’s updates are posted at Oxfam’s web site and also at Pacific Scoop.

Day 13 — Saturday 19th December

Looking back, looking forward

This is the way the summit ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. 119 world leaders came, they saw and they certainly didn’t conquer. They were captured by their limited vision, their vested interests and the lack of trust between them that has it roots in long standing divisions, including a denial of historical responsibility on the part of the major developed countries.

There was some serious damage done to reputations. The United Nations processes were deeply flawed, countries like New Zealand have been exposed as self-interested blockers and President Obama doesn’t walk on water. Some leaders came out with credit. The vulnerable countries, particularly the Pacific, negotiated hard and fought for 1.5°C to be included in the Copenhagen Accord — they succeeded but their efforts to have a clear aim for a legally binding treaty through this process was stripped out late last night. President Lula from Brazil assumed the mantle of world statesman with a powerful speech and an offer to help other developing countries. Thousands of civil society activists were able to build public support and attention across the world.

But to little avail. The final agreement was empty of content and extremely weak on the level of ambition. We came into the Summit calling for a Fair, Ambitious and Binding deal. We lost the Fair early on when Annex 1 countries could not agree to a financing package beyond the next three years. It was closely followed by the Ambition — leaders could not even commit to a global goal of keeping global temperature rise below 2°C. Then in the wee hours of this morning, the Binding was stripped out in a very untransparent way.

Next steps are for emissions reduction offers to be tabled by 31st January 2010. As explained below, that is a dangerous development, given the lack of political will to decent offers from Annex 1 countries. Then there will be a two week negotiating session in Bonn Germany from 31 May to 11 June 2010, followed by the next annual UN Climate Change Conference (CoP 16) towards the end of 2010 in Mexico City. None of that gives us much confidence that they will be able to muster the political will or bridge the political divides that are needed to provide the political mandates that are essential for a FAB deal.

Because their job is not done, nor is ours. We need to build a far more powerful campaign for the future. We must ensure that the politicians who caused this problem are held to account for this missed opportunity.

I am in a hotel with Oxfam colleagues from around the world, all having worked so hard but feeling pretty empty after this empty outcome. We are off to a bar to cheer ourselves up and to ask some of the tough questions about where to from here. And I will do so with partners in the Global Campaign for Climate Action (the TckTckTck campaign). Anything is on the table for re-thinking. Except wavering in our determination to secure this FAB deal. Anything else is unthinkable to ourselves, our kids, our planet and for billions of vulnerable people.

Since waking up this morning, I have been working with colleagues to prepare the following analysis. I hope you find it useful. But now I’m signing off from this blog and will take a few days off, to recover my health and my sleep. Happy Xmas to you all and thanks for reading these posts.

What the Copenhagen Decisions mean

December 19, 2009: There is extreme urgency. The scale of the crisis means that emissions need to peak within five years. People are already suffering unnecessarily from a lack of protection and support. We have just lost a year. The hope of millions of people has been frustrated and potentially a base of political support has been lost.

Status of Decisions:

AWG-LCA: Document UNFCCC/CP/2009/L6

The document setting out the conclusions of the work of the AWG-LCA was agreed. Tuvalu and Barbados sought to ensure the process would lead to a binding protocol.

CoP Decision:

’CoP takes note of the Copenhagen Accord 18 Dec 2009.’ It is not agreed, only noted. Because there was not consensus on the Accord, it was agreed the Parties supporting it would be listed.

The Reasons for the Impasse

There were two interrelated issues that were to blame for the turmoil during the summit, although it should be recognised that the roots of this failure extend back at least to the initiation of the Bali Action Plan.

1. The Process

There were a small number of countries that came to this Summit without the intention of negotiating in good faith. They were generally countries that have massive vested interests in fossil fuels, or that exclusively focus on their short-term competitiveness. These countries often undermined the negotiations dynamic.

Many countries were left out of the ‘friends of the Chair’ process and withheld their agreement. While there was an attempt to include negotiating groups, the selection of participants was not open and transparent. The problem was also that the Danish Presidency grossly mismanaged the process. It was most unfortunate that Heads of State found themselves effectively negotiating from the podium, rehearsing their national positions rather than proposing breakthroughs which had not been achieved in the preparatory meetings.

The usual brinkmanship was relied on to deliver an agreement after hours of late night working. This forced an agreement under conditions of tiredness, stress and bilateral influence (which opens up the potential for bullying and favours, reinforcing the positions of the larger and more powerful countries).

The breakdown of this process may signal that the days of stitching up deals in small selective groups and then expecting all countries to sign up are over. There must be questions over the style used for consensus building and decision making.

Climate change negotiations are starting to look eerily like trade negotiations, including the dominance of commercial self-interest in the position. We need processes which move us away from competitive negotiations, where countries try to minimise their concessions, to collaborative actions informed by the science, for example, conducting problem-solving sessions in mixed groups rather than blocks. It is clear that the UNFCCC negotiating process would need substantial reform to handle the complexity of this issue.

While the security challenges of such a meeting are huge, it is inexcusable that the forward planning did not take account of needing civil society and other observers to be present for transparency and legitimacy.

2. The Substance

The Annex 1 countries didn’t come to Copenhagen with sufficient offers and then didn’t improve them. Even the offer on long term finance was full of caveats and loopholes. The rich countries did not make offers that were based, even loosely, on sound science. We were told there would be final offers made during the last hours. These were never tabled.

Some developing countries came with proposals and concessions (eg. China on MRV, Brazil on financial contribution for developing countries and MRV, South Africa offer on emissions reductions). An analysis of Annex 1 offers compared to major developing countries offers on a consistent basis of below BAU (Business as Usual) is likely to show that at least some major developing countries are more ambitious than average Annex 1 levels (particularly when omissions and loopholes offered to Annex 1 countries such as on surplus AAUs, LULUCF accounting rules and bunker fuels are taken into account).

The loss of full agreement, that would have included international MRV for China, means that we potentially lose an important step that could help unlock the negotiations. Also at risk from the lack of full agreement is the agreement to the starter funding for adaptation and the goal on long term finance (even if not a commitment).

On the other side, the lack of full agreement means some of the unhelpful parts of the Accord are not locked in, such as a systematic lowering of ambition and a lack of clear commitment even to 2°C. The process for agreeing mid-term targets, without a criteria for burden sharing and a top down process to test the adequacy of targets, is of serious concern. Continuing the current pledge and review approach undermines equitable burden sharing and a level of ambition based on science. Current emissions reductions pledges by Annex 1 countries are outweighed by the loopholes. On current pledges, we are headed for a 3.9°C temperature rise.

On the positive side, there is at least a consolidation into a Chair’s text for AWG-KP and AWG-LCA which has helped unblock the large accumulation of previous texts that Parties refused to take off the table.

The Politics:

The agreement with China is a step forward in terms of gaining political capital for the Obama Administration’s position in the US; however, a full agreement to the Copenhagen Accord would have been more helpful. Unfortunately, the adversarial atmosphere in Copenhagen might be used to provide opponents of climate change and multilateralism with ammunition. More broadly, the lack of clear success might mean that some Heads of State would be wary of coming to the next Summit on climate change.

We face major challenges in calling for Parties to get back to negotiations given the likelihood that there will be a widespread perception that this would fail again. The lack of trust is even deeper than it was before Copenhagen (it should be observed this is not unique to the UNFCCC process — the Doha trade negotiations process isn’t much better). Moving forward, we will be challenged to say what has changed in the underlying political conditions where 116 Heads of State have failed.

Copenhagen closes: too little, too late Gareth Renowden Dec 20

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coplogoThe Copenhagen climate conference finally wrapped up in the wee small hours of Sunday morning NZ time (3:26pm Saturday in Denmark), with delegates agreeing to “take note of” a “Copenhagen Accord” [PDF here]. The agreement sets no legally binding targets, establishes no follow-on framework for Kyoto, only “recognises” the need to stay under 2ºC, and that parties “should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible”. On the plus side, the accord does provide for assistance to developing countries of US$30 billion over 2010-12, and commits to a “goal” of US$100 billion a year by 2020. The meeting ended after an all night plenary session in which a group of developing countries including Bolivia, Cuba, Sudan and Venezuela blocked progress because of the lack of binding targets for the developed world.

Although late drafts of an agreement included references to 80% cuts by 2050 for developed countries, this disappeared from the final text. All the Accord requires is that developed countries “commit to implement individually or jointly the quantified economy- wide emissions targets for 2020″, with these targets to be appended to the agreement by the end of January 2010. Developing countries can do the same, for their preferred emissions targets. This will all be reviewed by 2015, and in a nod to the small island nations, the review will consider strengthening the goal to a 1.5ºC limit.

The final deal was stitched together by the US and China, in a meeting with India, Brazil and South Africa, and effectively imposed on the rest of the world. Here’s how BBC environment correspondent Richard Black describes it:

Ministers and scientists and campaigners who dedicated huge swathes of the last year to making a tough deal happen watched aghast as Chinese and US leaders and their entourages flew in, took over the agenda and emerged with what was basically their own private deal, with leaders announcing it live on television before others realised it had happened.

As you’d expect, leaders from EU countries and the developing world that really don’t like this deal have been assuming rictus grins and telling us it’s a “good first step”.

New Zealand’s climate change ambassador Adrian Macey was equally unimpressed, describing the process as “appalling” in the Herald this morning. Sudan’s environment minister said the weak deal would commit Africa to a holocaust, and Ian Fry, spokesman for Tuvalu said it would spell the end of his country. More reaction at the BBC report & analysis, Telegraph, Guardian (editorial), New York Times, and Stuff.

My take? Copenhagen was always going to end with a deal of some sort, because too many leaders had too much mana invested in the process for there to be an overt collapse. However, the deal that’s been done — essentially a private affair between the US and China, imposed on the rest of the world and accepted only because something is better than nothing — delivers little in the way of concrete progress. Unless the momentum that built up before COP15 began can be maintained through the next year, and targets agreed and implemented in some sort of credible fashion, then the prospects for emissions peaking early enough to give the world a chance of staying under 2ºC will be essentially zero.

What are we left with? I suspect this process will bumble on for years, with many fine words and minimal action. One report suggested that China’s real position was that it would prioritise economic growth until climate impacts grew too severe, then go for rapid adaptation. If that’s true, then we’re all toast. Nothing really transformative will be attempted until the effects of warming are so severe that the world will be plunged into a wartime response to the issue. That’s when the climate commitment — the 30 years of warming in the pipeline — will really bite. I fear that the only interesting questions now are how soon, and how bad will it be?

Behind the scenes in Copenhagen: historic COP out Gareth Renowden Dec 19

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Oxfam NZ’s executive director Barry Coates provides perspective on the final day of negotiations in Copenhagen. With the dust still to settle, his analysis is about as thorough as you’re likely to find. The full set of Barry’s updates are posted at Oxfam’s web site and also at Pacific Scoop.

Day 12 – Friday 18th December

Historic opportunity, historic moment, historic CoP out

This saga is unfolding as I write. A few hours ago we thought the deal was done and put out an (almost) final press release. Then the apparent agreement between President Obama, Wen Jiabao, the EU, India, South Africa and a few other big countries started to unravel.

First the EU said they were unhappy about it (which may just have been spin doctoring to cover their embarrassment over a massively weak deal), then Sudan (chair of G77 — the group of developing countries) said they had not been consulted and would not accept the deal, and then AOSIS — the group of small island states — said they would be submitting a new draft agreement. As it has been for most of the past two weeks, the process is in chaos.

The day started as it has ended, with confusion about what was actually happening behind the scenes. The heads of state had met late into the night and we were leaked the draft statement at 2.30am. It was no surprise that leaders had not come with ambitious proposals but the obvious depth of disagreement was a surprise. The result was a very weak proposal that did not even fully agree the goal to maintain global temperature rise at below 2°C.

The much vaunted announcement of US$100 billion for long term funding turns out to be a goal to mobilise funds, not a commitment; to come from carbon markets, not just public financing; potentially a mix of new funds and diversion of existing aid; and without any specifics on the sources of funding. Oxfam has been calling for predictable funding that is raised directly (such as through a levy on airline and maritime fuels), rather than through national Treasuries (which could add to government budgets).

So this deal that is spun in the media as ’an agreement to move forward’ is probably not an agreement, not much movement and it is doubtful that it is even forward.

I seem to have been doing this analysis of drafts for a very long time. There have been six versions and lots of discussions on each one. It is the last night of negotiations and I still haven’t made it to bed before 1am.

I was in the hotel for almost the whole day today, writing and analysing. But I have had a few breaks. One for meeting up with an old friend from Vietnam who works for the UN and one for an interview with TVNZ. The media have been very interested in the messaging from here — it has been great to be able to tell the real story from Copenhagen rather than the version according to the NZ government.

This won’t be the last blog. I am going to bail out tonight and catch up with the final statements in the morning. It’s a final wrap up day tomorrow, but with these negotiations you never know! This may appear to be a pretty disappointing outcome but it should really motivate us to re-double our efforts to get the Ministers back into the process.

Here are the details of what happened and where to from here:

Oxfam analysis of the Copenhagen climate change convention

The empty political statement issued from Copenhagen shows a historic lack of leadership. The key political decisions were not taken at the start of these negotiations and they have still not been taken. This job has not been done.

As a result, the blame game has started. Oxfam considers that the primary cause of failure lies with the rich nations — they have failed to come with proposals that would fulfil their responsibilities, while trying to shift the burden onto developing countries. It is welcome that the US, as one of the biggest polluters, has rejoined the multilateral system. But their proposals must strengthen, not undermine, the commitments from rich countries, which fall far short of averting climate catastrophe.

Poor countries negotiated strongly for a deal that is consistent with the science, and which aimed to protect vulnerable people and planet. The shame of Copenhagen was that rich countries have negotiated primarily on behalf of vested interests and industrial lobbies.

At best, we are now confronted with deadly delay that means unnecessary tragedy for millions of families. The impacts will be felt in every country, and will fall particularly hard on poor people in developing countries.

Just as alarming is that there is no clear and credible way forward to conclude a legally binding agreement soon. Leaders ducked the political decisions that have been lacking since the launch of negotiations two years ago in Bali. There is still no agreement to the fundamentals. This is unacceptable.

Analysis of the outcomes

The negotiations started with ten days of meetings between officials and then the high level segment of three days involving Ministers and Heads of State. The talks got off to a bad start with the leak of a secret draft of an outcome statement that the Danish government, as President of the Conference, was preparing. A selected group of countries was consulted in the drafting process, and the draft was seen to be biased towards the interests of the rich nations. When the Danish Prime Minister subsequently tried to introduce a draft text as a basis for negotiations, developing countries angrily rejected it.

Negotiations continued in the two tracks that were agreed in Bali two years ago — a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and a new Long Term Agreement (LCA). In Copenhagen, negotiators reduced the size of the document, but did little to agree the hundreds of unresolved issues.

There was also clumsy management of the talks over the attempt to combine the two negotiating tracks, strongly resisted by developing countries who saw it as part of an effort by rich nations to evade their commitments to emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol. The talks teetered on the brink of collapse several times, wasting valuable negotiating time.

Then the Climate Change Ministers and 115 Heads of State arrived. The particular role for the high level segment was to come to agreement on the big political decisions that have been blocking negotiations. They failed to do so, primarily because rich countries, having promised to play their trump cards at the eleventh hour, turned up almost empty handed.

Global goal: Leaders could not even agree on a goal to keep global temperature increase well below 2°C – they only referred to the goal and undertook to enhance their action. So far, Annex 1 emissions cuts tabled in negotiations add up to only 13-19% below 1990 by 2020. When adjustments are made for the effect of loopholes on AAU surpluses (hot air), LULUCF accounting and bunker fuels, Annex 1 emissions would actually rise. This puts is on track for global temperature rise of well above 2°C and catastrophic climate change — modelling suggests by as much as 3.9°C.

Finance: The announcement of $100 billion for adaptation and mitigation by 2020 is an important step forward — finally specific amounts of funding are being discussed. But there is no clarity on how much will be public finance — reliable and predictable funds that will allow poor countries to plan and invest in adaptation and low carbon development. It seems that rich countries are keen to inflate the total with private finance through market mechanisms. Furthermore, there is no clear commitment that this money would not come from existing aid commitments, effectively diverting future spending away from essential services in poor countries. Finally there is no clarity on the individual commitments rich countries will make. This potentially continues a long line of empty promises by world leaders.

Legally Binding: The commitment to complete the deal is a hollow promise without a clear plan for what a legally binding treaty or treaties will look like, whether all rich nations will be legally bound to reduce their emissions, and how we will get there — and no new commitment period established under Kyoto.

Next steps:

Business-as-usual negotiations are failing to solve the climate crisis. Options on the table are too vague for decision-making, and do not reflect evolving climate science. Technical negotiators are debating issues that need ministerial mandate but too little time is given for ministers’ talks to make progress leading to last-minute late-night decisions. Governments are still focused on securing national interest instead of securing our shared destiny.

The international process must now gear up to a new level of talks. Sustained, intense and focussed engagement must run throughout the year — at the political, scientific, technical and public levels. The key to unlock these issues is political agreement on fundamental milestones. To move forward, negotiators must first agree a global goal, a scientifically credible range for mid-term emissions reductions, and a framework for funding.

1. Heads of State: demonstrate climate leadership – The last two years of competitive negotiations must now be turned into collaborative engagement for a deal in 2010, starting with a new mandate driven by Heads of State.

2. Ministers: prepare for Sleeping-Bag Ministerials – A set of intense quarterly meetings for both tracks of negotiations must drive to political agreement. Each ministerial should end only when its mandated milestone is reached: for example, to halve the number of brackets in the text, and halve the size of the numeric ranges set out in the remaining brackets.

3. Climate scientists: put facts back at the heart of negotiations – Climate science is evolving rapidly and alarmingly, but negotiations continue on the basis of outdated projections. Updated estimates on emissions trajectories from the IPCC are urgently needed, including a scenario for limiting global temperature rise to 1.5ºC.

4. Negotiators: provide analytical support for decisions – Vague definitions and unclear options in the text are holding up negotiations. Technical experts must clarify definitions and rules (such as on LULUCF accounting) to close loopholes, and detail options on burden sharing criteria and innovative finance mechanisms. LDCs should have access to technical support from a standing team in the UNFCCC. Civil society could contribute to the integrity of the negotiations by providing them with a formal role in submitting proposals.

5. Public support: build the case and widen the base – Over the past two years there has been a massive increase in public understanding of climate change and commitment to action. From the boardrooms of progressive businesses to communities across the developing world there is now a global demand for leaders to conclude a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal. Copenhagen may have been a cop out but Oxfam will continue to work with our partners and allies across the world in an attempt to avert climate catastrophe.

Craziness in Copenhagen Gareth Renowden Dec 18

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coplogoOur second guest blog from a member of the NZ Youth Delegation comes from Louis Chambers — a 20-year-old student studying in Otago. He grew up on a farm in Hawke’s Bay, where he developed a passion about the outdoors. With the rest of the twelve young New Zealanders in Copenhagen, he’s doing his best to ensure that the youth perspective is heard at this critical time.

It is impossible to capture the diversity of the Copenhagen negotiations in one article. There is a city packed full of climate change seminars, events and displays. There are hundreds of businesses, NGO’s and universities offering regular talks and lectures. Even if you make it to the negotiations, they are so formal and detached that the human lives behind climate change are forgotten. The challenge is to stay focussed in the face of masses of information, numerous distractions and a negotiating process which reduces a critical moral issue down to numbers and data.

The first thing to realise is that the term ’Copenhagen negotiations’ is misleading. There is so much more going on other than just negotiations. For example, there have been incredible speeches from the likes of Desmond Tutu and Bill McKibben (the founder of 350). Unfortunately I did not see either of these speakers: I was too busy at the host of other events available. There are events looking at climate change in almost every context, from human rights to business, local government to youth.

If these events and speakers do not capture your imagination, then the negotiations themselves should. The negotiations bring together 192 countries from every corner of the world. When I first sat in the ’plenary session’, the sheer number of countries blew my mind. The discussions took me on a tour of the globe as my geography was tested by the numerous countries awaiting their turn to speak.

However, in the excitement of the negotiations, I realised that what is important is to keep focussed on the reality of climate change. That reality is that behind all awe and the fun, all the men in suits, there are human lives being negotiated. As the International Youth Climate Movement often says: ’Survival is not negotiable’. This realisation symbolises a process which occurs here. We are blown away by the information, the glamour and the opportunity. Yet in the same instant we realise that the magnitude of the challenge faced is incredible.

People power can still drive political change here in Copenhagen
The difficulty I have had in these negotiations is that Governments themselves lose this perspective. They become lost in all the numbers and the data. They also become lost in the world of politics. As different countries try to ’win’ the political game, they forget why we are all here.

Why are we all here? As young people, we have been able to remind Governments that we are here to negotiate our future. Behind all the numbers and all the politics is a stark choice. If we cannot keep global warming below 2 degrees, we are effectively choosing to erase any hope of a safe, not to say prosperous, future.

Of course, even simple goals like keeping warming below 2 degrees are not easy. In order to reach this goal, you do need the economic models and the complex data. You do need politicians who can negotiate.

The problem is that so far in these negotiations politicians seem to have become so immersed in how to reach the goal that they have forgotten why the goal itself is so important. As the New Zealand Youth Delegation, we have been working hard to keep the importance of the goal fresh in their minds. As we run out of time to reach an agreement, you can do this too.

Send a love letter to John Key at We are currently delivering letters from this site in person to John Key. Or join 12.5 million other people from around the world in calling for a fair, ambitious and binding agreement here in Copenhagen — click here.

After all, we are the ones who give leaders the power to lead. Currently, the draft text is confused and complicated. It is no surprise given the complexity of issues here in Copenhagen. However, Kyoto was negotiated at the last minute. With over 110 leaders here in Copenhagen now, we certainly have enough political will to produce the result the world wants and which our future generations need.


Behind the scenes in Copenhagen: 2 Gareth Renowden Dec 16

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As the Copenhagen conference moves into its final phase, heads of state turning up and negotiations seemingly stalled, Oxfam NZ’s executive director Barry Coates provides another insight into what’s going on behind the scenes. Barry’s daily updates are posted at Oxfam’s web site and also at Pacific Scoop.

December 15 — Copenhagen: Looking for a breakthrough

Building a house without the foundations

On one of the last days of the talks, we were looking for a breakthrough. I am sorry if anyone read my blog last night. It was written with waves of sleep washing over and my eyes largely closed. Then I started the day with my own personal breakthrough — I finally got time to do my laundry. I enjoyed my one hour off over the last 9 days and then it was back to work.

We did a press release on the state of the negotiations after receiving the almost final versions of the outcome of two years of negotiations. The line was that the politicians ducked the tough issues two years ago and agreed only a really broad and vague mandate. It is little surprise that the negotiators have flailed around trying to agree a deal. It is like trying to build a house but without having prepared the foundations.

Framework for finance

The main issue that Oxfam has been focusing on is the right kind of framework for finance. Most attention goes on the amount of money needed, but some of the really important elements are in the framework. This includes additionality — whether governments will just take money from the aid budget and re-badge it as climate finance; also how the funds will be spent — whether through the World Bank and its sidekick, the Global Environment Facility, or as Oxfam is pressing for, through the new Adaptation Fund that has balanced governance, transparency and sound accountability.

And funding has to be predictable rather than trying to convince Ministers of Finance to vote it through (which they are never going to do) — that means levies on air travel and shipping fuels (which currently get away without being taxed) or taxes on pollution permits. These are the building blocks that can provide funding for vulnerable people to protect their communities and adapt to climate change, as well as support to leverage big emissions reductions in developing countries.

Restrictions and receptions

Today there were restrictions on non-government organisations getting into the convention centre, cutting down numbers by two-thirds to 7000 NGO representatives. It will get much tougher on Thursday — down to 1000. Then by Friday it will be around 300 on current plans. NGOs are complaining vociferously, especially since the UN climate change talks have been one of the forums that have been more open to NGO scrutiny and accountability.

I went to drinks with the New Zealand delegation last night. The highlight was the youth delegation presenting a spinnaker signed by hundreds of young people, accompanied by a great speech. It was carried off powerfully and with great dignity.

In defense of Africa

I talked with the [Press] journalist, David Williams, just as he was leaving the reception. He said he had just done an interview with the Minister for Climate Change Negotiations, Tim Groser, where the Minister had been very condemnatory of developing countries on the dynamics of the negotiations.

When I had met with him earlier in the day, I had said that this was not our experience of the negotiations and the Africa group (and the small island states last week) had insisted that there be a fair process. The real problem lay with the rich nations who had not come with decent negotiating proposals and had tried to evade their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol and their negotiating mandate, the Bali Action Plan. In our press release, we said that the Africa group had pulled the emergency cord on the train that was headed for a wreck, a very different perspective from Tim Groser.

When it came out, the article contained comments against the Africa group that were even more harsh than I had thought. The reaction from the conference centre was sharp. There is real concern that the perception seems to really misunderstand the process and such criticism is unhelpful to achieving the agreement that we all need. The characterisation of the EU and US as calm and constructive while the African countries are the wreckers is a misreading of the situation.

No more excuses; the time is now

As I complete this blog (after midnight again!), the closing plenary sessions are underway. They are running half a day late, and were concluded not with a bang and a celebration, but with a whimper. Little progress has been made over the past two years and the big issues are all shunted off to the Ministers. We have a very long way to go to complete the deal and time is really running out. It is worth pushing hard to secure agreement even if there is not sufficient political will, because tight negotiating parameters will be needed to conclude a treaty early in 2010.

The message we are sending is ‘no more excuses; the time is now’.

Something potty in the state of Denmark Gareth Renowden Dec 15

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“Scrøtum! Where Ã¥re my bøøts?” The Laird was having trouble with the “Danish” accent he was affecting in an attempt to impress the natives. To the wrinkled retainer’s large but withered ears it sounded as though he’d been taking lessons from the Swedish Chef. Monckton’s exquisite English diction was hovering somewhere over the Baltic being mangled by a madman with a chopper. He was in dire need of a vøwel movement.

After the episode with Mycroft, all had been quiet on the climate front for a few weeks. Monckton did some desultory work on his cure for AIDS and shot a few pheasants from the security of the second-hand armoured car he had acquired to protect himself from attacks by birds of prey, but the Laird had recovered all of his normal confidence and poise following a few long phone conversations with his American sponsors. He’d spent most of the last week at Tannochbrae reading Danish history, and had been most struck by tales of the Nazi occupation during World War 2.

The trip to Copenhagen was turning out to be rather more exciting than Scrotum had expected, at least at this early stage. The Laird had been summoned by his American sponsors to perform at another of their climate meetings, and to be a general pain in the neck for the socialist billionaire conspiracy to force humanity back to the Stone Age. The little climate conference had passed quietly enough, with the exception of an elderly scientist who had insisted that the seas weren’t rising, and had taken to throwing salad forks at the audience when questioned by a journalist. He’d chucked the contents of a large bag of wooden implements at a Guardian writer (the Laird offering advice on range and elevation) before the questioners made their excuses and left. Monckton had glided over the incident in the blog provided for him by the Americans : “All was calm, rational scientific discussion among the world’s leading climate experts”, but he couldn’t avoid mentioning a salad fork.

The real fireworks came a day later, as Monckton began an address to a packed meeting. The audience got up and started berating him. The Laird was notably unfazed:

I used the old crowd-control trick of standing behind the Hitler Youth and talking quietly. The microphones were right where I wanted them, so I began reporting on that day’s progress in negotiating the world-government agreement that, if it is passed at Copenhagen, will shut down the economies and democracies of the West without affecting the climate in any measurable way.

The six people left in the room after the rabble left were moved to tears by the Laird’s eloquence, but that had the unfortunate effect of giving him an excess of confidence. Scrotum had seen rather too many of Monckton’s mad moments to be surprised, but when the Laird started accusing everyone in Copenhagen under the age of 25 of being members of the Hitler Youth it was obvious he was heading for trouble.


Scrotum sniffed the air at the back of the hotel. The night was chilly, but a gentle breeze was wafting scents of smørgÃ¥sbord delights, mainly pickled herrings and remoulade sauce. The soft tak tak tak of Danes being polite to each other as they passed in the street renewed the wrinkled retainer’s faith in humanity, and in the giant wicker basket that had arrived that morning from the USA, a very large golden eagle glared balefully at the hand that was about to feed it scraps of liver.

“Aethon, my pretty, you’ll have work to do soon enough” Scrotum murmured. The eagle cocked an ear, and if raptors could smile, there would have been one on its bloodstained beak.


As the UN conference staggered into its second week, the sheer weight of the unscientific evidence being hurled by Monckton and his American allies was beginning to have a visible effect. The Hitler Youth had sandbagged their stand to ward off attacks by the Laird, who had disgraced himself by giving Nazi salutes in their general direction and beating a young bearded lad around the head with a rolled-up copy of the UK Independence Party constitution. Only a swift intervention by the sprightly Fred Singer and his personal security consultant, famed New Zealand kung-fu exponent Bryan “British” Leyland, had prevented serious injury. Greenpeace operatives had foregone their traditional conference attire — polar bear outfits — in favour of suits and ties. Monckton’s sly ruse — walking up to shake hands, only to push warm chewing gum into their fur — was costing them a fortune in cleaning fees.

“I may be but one man against a global conspiracy” the Laird had told Scrotum while dressing for dinner, “but I will stop the march of this neo-Fascist movement, with its crude denigration of opponents, breaking-up of meetings, taxpayer-funded propaganda at every street corner, and vast, expensive Nuremberg Rallies such as that which is now taking place at the Bella Centre.”

Scrotum blinked impassively.


The highlight of the peer’s Copenhagen trip was to be a public rally outside the Bella Centre. A crack team of German sceptics had converted a minivan into a portable speaking platform. The nondescript van would be parked in the street, the crowd would gather, eagerly looking forward to the free rollmops and Aquavit laid on by the Scaife Foundation, and then at an opportune moment — sun setting, TV crews arrived and filming — the back of the van would crack open like a Kinder egg, and Monckton would emerge on a modified lifting device (a deliberate parody of the moment in Gore’s sci-fi horror movie when the politician is raised up to point to the top of a giant graph). He would ascend into the night sky, his vibrant prose amplified by a powerful Tannoy system, his face lit by the beams from LED headlamp torches sported by the A team of sceptical scientists. Lindzen had been training them for weeks, and their choreographed light show was a Choi to behold.

All was going well. The crowd was gathering, the roll mops had been delivered, and the Laird had taken up his position in the van. After passing Monckton his pith helmet and Kevlar corset — he wouldn’t be seen out of doors without them since that business with the eagle — Scrotum scuttled away to a nearby street where a black van waited. It was the work of mere moments to open the back doors and undo the leather straps on the wicker cage. Aethon blinked in the street lights, and climbed onto Scrotum’s leather gauntlet. The retainer fitted the titanium tips to the eagle’s claws, raised his arm, and with a whispered “be gone, my pretty” sent the great bird flapping into the night sky.


Aethon climbed high above the rooftops of Hans Christian Anderson’s city, and began to circle over the Bella Centre. He let out a piercing screech, but no one in the busy streets below heard. Others did. From all round Copenhagen, birds of prey began their final approach.


Monckton’s great peroration was going mostly to plan. The van had cracked open as it should, but he’d had to deliver a swift kick to one half when it threatened to block his elevation. And who was the idiot who had turned the headlamps green? Lindzen looked unperturbed, but Monckton was sure it was sabotage by the bedwetters. He began to build towards his climax:

Those brave dissidents who have not yet had their meetings broken up by groups of savage goons are more and more openly saying that the nastiness that was National Socialism/Fascism/Communism now stalks the world again, in a new and more terrible form. This time, it is global. This time, leaders of once-democratic nations subscribe to its half-baked, unscientific notions and are themselves increasingly intolerant of anyone who dares to dissent.

The intolerance, of course, stems from the realization on the part of those behind the ’global warming’ scam that it is entirely false. It is always liars who have to shout loudest in the hope of temporarily prevailing over the truth.

James Hansen, a fully-paid-up member of the new regime, has notoriously called for anyone who disagrees with the new superstition to be put on trial for ’high crimes against humanity’. Now, crimes against humanity are punishable by death, as Saddam Hussein discovered. So what Hansen is asking for is the judicial murder of those of his fellow-citizens who disagree with him — one of the unfailing hallmarks of Nazism and Fascism everywhere.

Monckton’s voice cracked with emotion as he forced out the words. He was approaching his closing remarks, and another light, this time from behind lit him up like a fat angel on the top of a leafless Christmas tree. The Laird paused, a little nervous. This wasn’t in the plan. Still, he must keep going.

Aethon’s claws struck him in the middle of his back, and broke through the Kevlar to his skin. Monckton screamed. Two more eagles grasped each shoulder, and a fifth grasped to the top of his helmet. He screamed again. The crowd gasped. Great wings flapped. Monckton’s vain attempts to hold on to his speaking platform were defeated by sparrow hawks lacerating his fingers. He slowly lifted into the starry sky, lit by the quivering beams provided by the cream of shocked (and appalled) sceptical science, his arms flapping ineffectively.

Mycroft turned to Scrotum. “Will they be gentle with him?”

Scrotum smiled. “No.”

Behind the scenes in Copenhagen: Oxfam’s view Gareth Renowden Dec 13

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This is another guest blog, this time from Oxfam NZ’s executive director Barry Coates in Copenhagen who gives us an insight to what’s going on behind the scenes at this huge conference. Regular updates from Barry are posted at Oxfam’s web site and also at Pacific Scoop.

Day 5: Friday 11th December

It is 1 am (again!) and exhaustion is setting in. The last two days have been extremely volatile. After the morning coordination meetings with Oxfam colleagues and the New Zealand delegation, I gave a presentation at a panel on migration and climate change at the Klimaforum venue in the centre of Copenhagen. It was good to see so many committed activists learning, networking and planning campaigns.

There were many people on the panel, including Tim Jones from the World Development Movement (the organisation in the UK that I used to head) and friend Kumi Naidoo formerly of Civicus and the Global Campaign Against Poverty. I talked about the perspectives of many of our Pacific partners and allies who are reluctant to discuss migration because it implies acceptance of the injustice of climate change. It is wrenching that people have to leave their homes, their livelihoods, their land and their culture. We must challenge the assumption that emissions cannot be slashed. Migration must not be seen to be a feasible option that takes the pressure off the rich nations to step up to the challenges of stabilising greenhouse gas emissions at safe levels.

Later in the afternoon I visited with another old friend, Danny Nelson, now with the OneClimate channel. I did an interview with him on the state of the negotiations, then several other journalist briefings and interviews.

The main story today was that the chairs of the negotiating groups prepared drafts of the outcome, far shorter than the huge documents they have been painstakingly working through. This is a welcome process, even if the draft on the negotiating track ‘Long term Cooperative Action’ is painfully vague and empty of content. It is hugely disappointing that two years of negotiations have yielded so little in terms of an outcome. My role was to work through the details of each of the documents, preparing briefing notes for government officials and lobbyists.

And, although it sounds a really policy-wonk-thing to say, I had the pleasure of analysing the draft prepared by the group of small island states (AOSIS). They have continued to be courageous in standing up for their principles in negotiations, despite pressure from the rich nations and large developing countries. In doing so, they have received huge support from NGOs and activists around the world. Their draft for a final agreement is along the lines we have been calling for — fair, ambitious and binding. Perhaps there is yet hope for a strong outcome from this frustrating process. Power to the Pacific!!

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