Dead rats and circumcision

By Cindy Baxter 14/12/2014


IMG_3372 - Version 2Saturday afternoon in Lima.

On the good side, the one place selling good coffee is still open (the proper machines, rather than the horrible little Nescafe machines that the locals call ‘no es café.”) And I’ve managed to eke out my stack of kiwi Dark Ghana chocolate, saving the last big block for today.

On the not so good side, there’s rumours of the meeting reconvening from anywhere from 6pm to 9pm this evening. Goodness knows when it will end. Conversation turns to whether this will beat the record of Durban, which ended at 6.30 am on the Sunday morning.

Being a bit of a COP veteran, I left the centre at 8.30 last night, got dinner and a good night’s sleep, coming back for 10 am this morning to see a lot of bleary-eyed people who’d been up all night to witness a complete lack of agreement.A couple of hours later plenary begins. There’s a draft Chair’s text before us, and let’s see what governments really think of it. This is the text on the “ADP” the discussions on the bones of a main agreement to be hammered out over the coming year and finalized in Paris.

It’s a horrible piece of text, a twisted compromise that nobody likes, but some people like it less than others, of course. We waited for the reaction. And there was quite some reaction.

Ian Fry from Tuvalu begins with his analogy: “the text needs a little surgery; we need to don gowns, get scalpels and carefully insert the vital organs needed for the agreement.”

He expresses a concern held by many, that the references to “loss and damage” had been removed, and was now only recognized by the Lima meeting in a reference that had the issue lumped in with adaptation.

There are many reasons why Loss and Damage should be a separate issue – but it’s very clear: you cannot “adapt” to the loss of a life, or a coastline. Loss and damage is a whole new area that needs to attract funding that’s separate to finance going to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change.

Many of the governments who speak say that while they’re not happy with the text, they can live with it, in a spirit of compromise.

New Zealand’s lead negotiator Jo Tyndall adds her charming point: “there are dead rats that have to be swallowed.” New Zealand could accept this draft text, she says.  But this isn’t surprising – we know NZ was one of the countries firmly opposed to the inclusion of loss and damage. And the text is weak, which is presumably why New Zealand. along with other recalcitrant developed countries like the US, Canada, Australia, can live with it.

The main group objecting has been the “Like Minded Developing Countries” a group of big developing countries and Arab states, including China, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, who are insisting on inclusion of the age-old “CBDR” mantra of these countries: the “Common But Differentiated Responsibilities” enshrined in the convention, where they agreed that the rich countries needed to act first.

This hardline attitude has prevailed for 20 years, despite turning a corner in Durban where they agreed that these bigger countries have to bite the bullet and also take action.   Some see them as defending the poor. But a friend of mine sat next to an Indian NGO when India was talking about poverty, who almost exploded with rage: “India doesn’t give a s*** about our poor.”

Then Singapore, another LMDC,  takes the surgery analogy to a place nobody wants to go, talking about how “when circumcision becomes amputation.”

Things fall apart. It turns out that the “agreed text” wasn’t – at least half the world hadn’t been consulted – indeed the only governments the Peruvian Environment Minister HAD talked with were the US, China and some other members of the “Umbrella Group”.

Back they go to the drawing board.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure

At the centre of this text is what governments will do with their  “INDC’s” – the “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” – the action they will all take and put on the table sometime before the Paris agreement next year:  what’s in them, how do they get measured, do they get measured at all?

Before last night, the text had a huge list of bullet points outlining what needs to be in them – a lot of technical points with a list of what a government needs to put forward with its INDC.   It included wording about what a technical review of these INDC’s would entail.

Overnight, that list disappeared. And the review went through an extraordinary transformation. It was replaced with very, very weak text around a review that would conduct a “dialogue” with countries “willing to do so.

Also, and even more worrying, was the disappearance of a fundamental task for that review – that it would calculate the aggregate effect of these INDC’s and compare them against the globally agreed warming limit of 2˚C.

Why should this matter?

The scientists I work with on the Climate Action Tracker have, this last week, looked at how the pledges and policies made by Governments actually add up and measure against the globally agreed limit of 2˚C warming.

They did have some good news on the new pledges by China, the EU and the US, but they also had some problems, both with China, which hasn’t provided enough data so the scientists could calculate the effect of its pledge, and also Australia, who’re notorious in their fudging of numbers and gaming of the Kyoto Protocol rules.

Australia is confident of meeting its (tiny) Kyoto target, despite Tony Abbott’s unraveling of the comprehensive climate legislation introduced by Julia Gillard. NGO’s have been puzzled at Australia’s confident statements about meeting their target – but now we know why: Kyoto rules allow Australia to increase their energy and industry emissions by 47-59 percent above the 1990 baseline – but still meet their target.

So. If all these Governments submit their intended climate actions to the UNFCCC in April, but nobody actually looks at what they add up to, how will we know how good the Paris agreement will be? If the scientists can’t add up these figures, how can anyone else accurately judge the climate action they’re all so desperately trying to avoid anyone scrutinising?

Night is now falling. There’s no sign of anybody agreeing anything right now. I’m off to dinner, while the media lurk around the conference centre, waiting hopefully for an outcome that may or may not be soon, and may or may not be good.

To finish on a lighter note (well, sort of): one mantra of the youth seen at the talks today is that
we’ve been negotiating all their lives.

image

(HT: the fabulous perudeawakening tumblr)

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to this…

more to come …