Trying to Salvage a Deal in Cancún: Eleventh Hour Negotiating Text Released

The document desk at Moon Palace

Updated 7:25pm

The UN climate change negotiations in Cancún were originally supposed to be over at 6pm CST. Instead of heading to the beach, bars, or nightclubs, delegates were treated with a new negotiating document at 5pm and the promise of all-night talks in an effort to finish the two-week session with a “positive outcome.”

This document is being poured over right now by delegates in advance of another stock-taking meeting at 11pm. What happens at that point is anyone’s guess.

But here are some highlights from my quick, first read of the document:

  • On the vision for long-term action, the document keeps the Copenhagen Accord goal of a 2° limit on global warming but also calls for a review beginning in 2013 and concluding in 2015 to see if the science calls for a safer goal of 1.5°.
  • Gas emissions should peak “as soon as possible.”  There is no specific date listed, but it calls for working “towards identifying a time frame for global peaking.”  Most economists argue the sooner we peak, the cheaper the adaptation costs.
  • On mitigation for developed countries, it asks developed countries to communicate their emissions goals to the Secretariat and leaves to the future the precise mechanisms for identifying how they will do this (e.g. the role of offsets, land use, etc…).
  • Significantly, the mitigation section makes no mention of Kyoto and has no specific numeric targets or a deadline for developed country mitigation actions!   The first emission is less problematic because of advances on the Kyoto track of negotiations while the latter makes the document extremely weak.  You really need to have SOME target if you are going to reach the 2 degree goal!
  • On mitigation for developing countries, the document calls for them to take “appropriate mitigation actions…aimed at achieving a deviation in emissions relative to ‘business as usual’ emissions in 2020.”  Like the developed countries, they will communicate their actions to the secretariat.  The implications of some of the language is hard to decipher, but in this section the document explicitly uses the worlds “voluntarily inform.”
  • On monitoring and verification (a big concern of the US): goes for domestic verification “in accordance to guidelines to be developed under the Convention”–whatever that means.  This is clearly an attempt to bridge the US and China dispute on monitoring and verification.  The latter sees international monitoring and verification as an infringement on its sovereignty.   Will it work?
  • On fast-start finance: it “notes” the Copenhagen accord commitment of $30 billion through 2012 and “invites” donor countries to submit information about their spending.
  • Decides to establish a Green Climate Fund with a board comprising 24 members with equal developing and developed country.  It “invites” the World Bank to be the fund’s interim trustee.  representation.
  • The AWG-LCA will continue to discuss legal options

I am sure there is more that I am missing, but on first glance it looks like this is a document meant to operationalize the Copenhagen Accord.  It keeps the 2 degree ambition, but fails to recognize that there is a gap in the Copenhagen commitments achieving that goal.  It asks all countries to reduce emissions or emissions growth, but has no strong mechanisms to insure countries keep their word.  And it doesn’t resolve the controversy over the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

Parties are scheduled to debate this text at around 11pm.  It should be a long night.

Update: The absence of the Kyoto language may be less of an issue, since Richard Klein tells me there has been an agreement on the other negotiating track to have a second commitment period for the protocol.  Everything is still tentative since both of these texts will still be debated later this evening.