You won’t hear about it on CNN, MSNBC or the front page of the New York Times.
It won’t make your teeth whiter, your breasts larger, grow hair to cover your bald spot or get you laid Monday night.
Bono, Bjork and Sting are unlikely to jet in for the photo ops, and Obama is not scheduled to make a surprise appearance so BWD can post some eye candy.
And the title, UNFCCC Intercessional Meetings AWG-KP14 & AWG-LCA12, aka, United Nations Climate Change Conference 4-9 October 2010 Tianjin, China, is unlikely to cause Young Republicans to masturbate compulsively, so Christine O'Donnell is safe to take the week off and attend a Church Picnic or whatever it is she does when she’s hiding from the press.
But if, like me, you think this summer was a mind-fuck of an environmental disaster for the world, join me after the flip and let’s talk about talking, because COP16/CMP6 is so last year and there are only 57 shopping days remaining until COP16 starts Nov 29, and the clock is still ticking on 350ppm.
That was the fun part. Now let’s talk business. Welcome to wonkville.
Anyone with at least half a brain, half a heart and access to a TV or the Internet had an opportunity this summer to look into the future of our planet and a sobering sight it was:
fires burning across Russia, torrential rain and landslides in China and then flooding of Biblical proportions in Pakistan that displaced 10’s of millions of people leaving them homeless and struggling for survival as one third of the country went under water.
*** Update ****
As TerryBr noted in this comment, it is dangerous to draw conclusions from single weather events relating them to general trends since various factors can come into play. I would therefore like to strikethrough and withdraw my statement suggesting the severe weather in Russia, China and Pakistan this year can be directly attributable to AGW; more correctly it might be.. While I believe this is at least partly the result of AWG I do not have proof and therefore should not have stated this. Thanks to Terry for the constructive criticism. Point taken.
On the other hand, the 2 effects I note below are results of AWG so I will let that stand.
*** EOM ***
And to those of us who track the progress of Atmospheric Global Warming, a distressing amount of scientific evidence was produced that proves conclusively what we are begging to be heard on, that the rate of AGW is accelerating. I could list and link a multitude of evidence but 2 predictions for the immediate future stand-out: the Permanent Arctic Ice Cap will soon melt over summer months and 2012 is forecast to be hotter than 2010 (which established an historic global high record). Do we really need more to get off our asses and act?
One thing should be clear: this is a global crisis that needs a global response and cooperation just to mitigate the effects. To be sure, we need to take direct and personal action, but that alone is not going to solve the problems; coordinated action by Governments and NGOs. At the center, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is now tasked to negotiate a global agreement to combat AWG to replace the first phase regulatory framework of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, which expires in 2012.
If we roll back the process to 2009, the meetings to produce such an agreement include:
COP-15 Copenhagen, Denmark 2009 (last December)
COP-16 Cancún, Mexico Nov-Dec 2010
COP-17 South Africa Nov-Dec 2011 (the absolute deadline to produce an agreement)
However much attention COP meetings attract, they are only the main negotiation sessions, and as COP-15 demonstrated, can become a political pressure cooker and 3 Ring Circus that is counter-productive. To make these meetings a success, various Intercessional Meetings are conducted between them to negotiate, frame issues and draft proposals, and to set the agendas for the COP meetings.
While these sessions do not attract much attention from the press and public, they are essential preparatory steps that can make or break the COP sessions as Copenhagen so vividly demonstrated (and it was, essentially a failure of the preparatory process that ultimately led to the fiasco of COP-15).
Following COP-15, sessions in Bonn over the summer restarted the negotiation process, and while the Bonn talks produced no breakthroughs, they did identify many of the key failings of the COP-15 draft and pulled the substance of disagreements into sharp focus, a step in the right direction.
The purpose of Tianjin is to summarize the key issues, draft proposals and set the agenda for Cancún. While it is a foregone conclusion no definitive agreement will be reached in Cancún (more on that later), it will be an important step in negotiating a working draft to make a final agreement in 2011 or 2012, so the work in Tianjin is essential to ensure the chaos of COP15 is not repeated.
While this might sound pretty routine and boring, Tianjin may prove to be a turning point in negotiations as the loose confederation of undeveloped and developing nations are poised to pressure developed nations to quit stalling and get on with drafting an agreement. It is also expected the Chinese will take a strong position to urge all members to complete an agreement by 2011 and make the most of Cancún to negotiate in substance.
It's notable the US approaches this meeting in a weak bargaining position since Congress failed to deliver a climate bill and US negotiators still have no mandate for negotiation, therefore, I expect them to continue stonewalling as they did throughout the Bonn meetings and it raises the question: Will the US be the Bad Guy and China the Good Guy?
To understand where we stand, I would like to summarize a bit of the history and a few key issues; by no means is this diary intended to be a comprehensive summary, but merely to provide a snapshot.
"COP 101" a Primer on UNFCCC
The Montreal Protocol of Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987) is often seen as the precursor to the COP process. This agreement sought to indentify and regulate or ban from use various classes of ODS, primarily CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) used as refrigerants, industrial solvents and fire extinguishing media. Since these substances were mainly used in developed nations, the number of countries involved was far more limited then the UNFCCC and cooperation from the main protagonists made the Protocol and Process a success.
The Berlin Mandate, produced by COP1 in 1995, established the working framework and international mandate to study and address AGW, including technical committees to report back to the UNFCCC and to initiate annual meetings to establish regulations.
The Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol), produced by COP3 in 1997 established the first phase agreement to reduce Green House Gasses. Although the negotiation process was contentious and dominated by developed countries, it produced some fundamental principles to start regulation and develop technology to reduce global warming. The Kyoto negotiation process was promoted largely by Japan and European nations, but with significant participation by the US (Clinton Administration).
Unfortunately, George Bush refused to sign the Kyoto agreement on the basis that it did not create a "level playing field" between developed and developing nations that would "penalize" developed nations costing them too much. This is very important because it isolated the US from the process, retarded technology growth on Clean Energy (strange given the fact the US was then a leader), and established a doctrine still followed by the Obama Administration, which has adopted virtually the same positions in COP negotiations despite his intentions and actions to the contrary.
COP4, 5, 6 (in two parts) and 7 established various regulations and mechanisms for implementation, and countries which strived to meet their Kyoto targets in earnest primed the pumps in their economies to meet future regulations. However, in retrospect, the limits of Kyoto were too modest to produce any significant effect, and in fact, GHG emissions have accelerated in both developing and developed countries, if not as rapidly as they might have otherwise.
COP8 and 9, produced The Delhi Ministerial Declaration that established a mechanism to chare technology between developed and developing nations, a key concept that remains a contentious issue between undeveloped, developing and developed nations, and a significant wedge issue in COP15.
COP 10 addressed Climate Ethics and produced the Buenos Aires Plan of Action.
COP11 in Montreal was the first Meeting of Parties (MOP1) to the Kyoto Protocol and officially enacted the regulations now in effect. It was significant in its large turnout of more than 10,000 delegates and produced The Montreal Plan of Action.
COP12 in Nairobi was notable for its "Eco tourists" who spent conspicuously more time sightseeing than negotiating but did make progress in the area of establishing principles for aid to undeveloped countries, another significant wedge issue in the COP15 talks that produced failure.
COP13 produced The Bali Action Plan to establish a post 2012 Kyoto framework and was, essentially, the kick-off of the present negotiation process.
COP14 in Poznań, Poland focused again of the principles and details of aid and compensation to undeveloped nations started in COP12 and was the final meeting of the Bush Era and absence of the US from an active role in the process.
COP15 Copenhagen was originally planned to negotiate a phase 2 Kyoto draft agreement and marked a return of the US to the process. However, in the run-up to COP15 it became increasingly clear to close observers such as I that divisions between undeveloped, developing and developed nations that originally emerged in Bali had the potential to undermine the talks, and adding to this was the fact the US was not really prepared to negotiate. In sideline discussions at the UN General Assembly Meeting in October 2009, these divisions became amplified to anyone listening and despite the effort of Ban Ky Moon to promote dialogue, the die was cast when China, India and the Group of 77 agreed to approach COP15 with solidarity to put their issues on the table (unlike Kyoto where they played a largely passive role).
Unfortunately, the European Group (primarily Demark, UK, Germany) were tone deaf to their surroundings and perhaps a bit blinded by hubris of their assumed leadership, and leaked a draft agreement cooked-up by, and very preferential to Europeans, at the expense of others, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. Blame, recriminations and animosity followed as the talks broke-down, and in some quarters, continue to this day. And contrary to the beliefs of many members of Daily Kos, Mr. Obama did not save the day and, unfortunately, came off looking like the rank amateur he was at the time, with unscheduled meetings and a rather arrogant approach – a hard lesson learned and something I don’t think he will ever repeat. Needless to say, COP15 was a dismal failure – or was it the first step in a better and more inclusibe process?
Bonn Talks over the summer of 2010 were, if anything, a slow-motion repeat of COP15 with little substantial change in the positions of major players, but it was, in my opinion a productive and worthwhile process that has set the stage (hopefully) for more productive discussions in Tianjin, and I surely hope, substantial compromise in Cancún leading to an agreement in South Africa (don’t get your hope too high for Cancún, folks, we’ve got 194 seats at the table). Some important outcomes of Bonn include:
:: A changing of the guard from the embattled Yvo de Boer to the capable Christiana Figueres, who demonstrated both fairness and toughness in dealing with negotiators and the press
:: Numerous technical flaws in the draft regulations were exposed including some very significant ones that would enable developed nations to actually increase emissions at the expense of undeveloped nations.
:: Significant gaps between commitments and achievements were exposed, largely due to the efforts of NGOs consulting to the talks
:: Some progress was made on discussion of more realistic targets to achieve 2C temperature rise although we are far from the cuts required to achieve that, but at least the Emperor’s Clothes came off the ridiculous commitments contained in the closing statement of COP15 (which, incidentally, was not an endorsed UNFCCC memoranda but basically a press release to save face).
:: The G77 split-off from China and India which I think is a good thing since the concerns of undeveloped and developing countries while similar may come into conflict in some important areas such as compensation, which are a contentious issue between the US and China, who need to sit-down and trade some horses to resolve their differences.
:: Some bad actors were revealed by vetoes exercised. Better to expose them on sideline talks than have them disrupt Cancún like some Republicans we know.
:: On the negative side, very few positions changed (although I did not expect that), and, I’m afraid to say, the US team held some disruptive press conferences during the meetings including one where they pronounced Kyoto "a dead issue", which drew some fire from Ms Figueres.
:: Little progress was made rationalizing and simplifying the draft, and this is the unfinished work for Tianjin.
What to Expect in Tianjin
The most essential task in Tianjin is to simplify and clarify the briefs outlining the issues for debate and negotiation in Cancún, to reduce the number of options and to set the negotiation agenda for Cancún. While this may seem simple enough, the fact is that contentious issues remain this can bog-down the work. However, under Ms Figueres’ guidance I do expect (or should I say hope?) more progress will be made than in Bonn.
Iit has been several months and in this time the landscape has significantly changed with the rise in support for the case of undeveloped nations, the realization populous developing nations such as India and China have a legitimate need for short-term relief but also appear to accept their responsibilities to develop clean energy and mass transit at a faster pace, and the emergence of China as a leader in manufacturing opposite a slight decline in the industry in Europe under the stress of the economic crisis.
However, what hasn’t change much is the position of the USA. Although Obama has done his best to spread a meager budget over worthwhile Clean Energy and Transportation Projects (I think I’m inclined to give him more credit than many American environmentalists), the US still has no immediate prospects for climate legislation and because of this, I do NOT expect any substantial changes in the position or the approach of US negotiators (certainly not in Tianjin and probably not in Cancún), which is to say, as I previously stated, that they will continue to tow a line established by George Bush, and now even face increasing pressure from Labor Unions to Clean Energy as a wedge issue on trade.
To be frank, I’m no more optimistic today about the role the UW will play then I was before COP15, from the legal standpoint, Obama doesn’t have a leg to stand on without Congress behind him so I don’t expect miracles this year. As he stated in his Rolling Stone Interview:
"One of my top priorities next year is to have an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our overreliance on fossil fuels. We may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation. But we're going to stay on this because it is good for our economy, it's good for our national security, and, ultimately, it's good for our environment."
So, I urge you to GET OUT THE VOTE because if Republicans seize control of one or both houses, I have no doubt the road to climate regulations will become longer and slower, and that won’t be good for the US, the World or my Daughter.
If there is a take-away message here, it’s VOTE DEM. Again, Obama from Rolling Stone:
"One closing remark that I want to make: It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. There may be complaints about us not having gotten certain things done, not fast enough, making certain legislative compromises. But right now, we've got a choice between a Republican Party that has moved to the right of George Bush and is looking to lock in the same policies that got us into these disasters in the first place, versus an administration that, with some admitted warts, has been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward.
The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible.
Everybody out there has to be thinking about what's at stake in this election and if they want to move forward over the next two years or six years or 10 years on key issues like climate change, key issues like how we restore a sense of equity and optimism to middle-class families who have seen their incomes decline by five percent over the last decade. If we want the kind of country that respects civil rights and civil liberties, we'd better fight in this election. And right now, we are getting outspent eight to one by these 527s that the Roberts court says can spend with impunity without disclosing where their money's coming from. In every single one of these congressional districts, you are seeing these independent organizations outspend political parties and the candidates by, as I said, factors of four to one, five to one, eight to one, 10 to one.
We have to get folks off the sidelines. People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up. Bringing about change is hard — that's what I said during the campaign. It has been hard, and we've got some lumps to show for it. But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place.
If you're serious, now's exactly the time that people have to step up."
Amen. If you care about the future, then you have to care about the environment and you have to act responsible. It’s not my place to tell Americans what to do and how to vote, but if it was, I would underline his words with a Big Black Sharpie and spam this site with the message.
My Personal Comment
In this diary I have tried to set forth the situation objectively so people can get up to date and fill in the gaps of the MSM on environmental reporting, which is spotty at best and highly partisan (pro or con) at worst. Now I would like to add a few personal observations.
As an active environmentalist for more than 20 years in Asia/China, I have found it’s a long hard road. This goals may be as simple and clear as "350ppm" if we need to hag a number on it, but the issues are always complex and colored by politics and economics. We need to stick to it.
During and following COP15, the blame and recriminations flew around with fingers pointing in many directions particularly in the US and British press toward China; all sorts of irresponsible accusations were made for the failure of COP15, but the fault was with the process itself; for most of it’s history, it was dominated by developed nations with poor nations taking subordenate roles and the result was a narrow focus and inbalance that simply won’t work for the world.
Since then, many things have changed. China, accused then of trying to undermine the negotiations to avoid regulation is now accused by some of doing so to dominate the business of clean energy - interesting flip. This is non-sense. China did not build its clean energy industry in a day, and technologically is still behind the industry leaders from Japan, Europe and the USA.
But if developing countries such as India, China and the multitude of smaller nations in Asian and Africa are to develop along a more sustainable path then the wealthy developed countries who have already benefited economically creating a majority of the carbon inventory in the process, then we need help from the developed world or we will go it alone and let the chips fall where they may. Necessity is the mother of invention and good ideas can come from anywhere, and that should never be forgotten.
It’s best if we cooperate and make this a win-win for humanity.
And as the disasters before our eyes demonstrate, much of the world is virtually helpless to deal with the impacts of AGW, are taking the brunt of the problem and depend on us to do something about it.
Look in the eyes of a Pakistani child and tell me this human should suffer so they rest of us can enjoy a convenient life at his/her expense. I don’t believe that’s true. That is not human, that is not civilized.
One World, One Climate. We are in this together.