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As the the final scheduled day of roller-coaster negotiations at COP17 in Durban neared deadline Friday with growing support for the EU proposal but no deal in sight, observers seeking a deal but skeptical of reaching one found one slim ray of hope when it was decided to continue negotiations overnight and into Saturday with the goal of producing a final draft by Sunday.

As news media retired for the night hard on reporting that China, supported by some African nations had rejected the draft then circulating because, as Su Wei put it:

"The G77 could not take this [proposal] as the basis for discussion. This is killing the Kyoto protocol. They want to finish the Kyoto protocol."

... and echoed by Seyni Nato who also expressed fears Kyoto was on the ropes stating:

"We are not happy with the [negotiating] text  .... This is only a first draft. We are in for a very long night."

Indeed, the fun was just beginning as the EU Chief Negotiator Connie Hedegaard, proved once again how well practiced she is at the art of relentlessly bludgeoning peers, setting her sights on China, the US and the G77 stalwarts lead by India for an overnight pajama party.

Surprises were many and recounted over the fold.

Will your faithful correspondent eat his words and live in shame for expressing doubts and reservations?  I would gladly be proven wrong and do so if a framework agreement is signed, but feel safe in stating this still could go either way and with no lack of diversionary sideshows as tempers flare and the clock runs down:

A fake negotiating text has been circulated at the UN climate talks in Durban in what some delegates believe to be a deliberate attempt to derail the process, which is already in danger of failure because time is fast running out to clinch a deal.

:: SNIP ::

In what could have been a bizarre mistake, or else a ploy to sabotage the talks, the fake text was sent to delegates with a note that it had been drawn up by Mexico, the EU, the US and the Basic countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China. It was dismissed by several of the countries named, who said it was different to their position on key details.

In particular, the text said work on a new climate agreement should start in the first half of 2012, when in fact the countries named want the new phase to begin immediately, and it said a new legal instrument should be adopted with effect from 2020, whereas the EU wants a text saying "no later than 2020".

It also leaves out any new interpretation of the "common but differentiated responsibilities" (the principle by which developing countries were not expected to undertake legally binding cuts in carbon emissions), and gives a wrong date for reassessing the ambition of emissions-cutting commitments.

If the text was a forgery, it was a poor one: it was headed with the wrong date (Friday 10 December, instead of Saturday 10 December) and was printed in the wrong typeface (Arial, instead of Times New Roman) for an official document.

I swear, it was not me. It's well known I despise Times Roman and have banned my staff from using it but it's equally well-known my Mac defaults are set to Helvetica and Sim Hei NOT Arial. Please, no trollish remarks. Really.

So .... minus the now obligatory COP time-waster, what did get done and why am I preparing to grovel?

The impossible trick, as I noted in my linked remark, was to:

(a) Craft, if possible, suitable statements applying accountability and obligations on all nations or at least "developing nations" (read: China, India, Brazil) to get the US on-board if possible, and to positively trigger an unconditional continuance of Kyoto commitments by the EU, Norway and Switzerland (no other Annex 1 nations are offering) to lock in the G77.

At least the first (US support) seems to have been accomplished by tweaking the statement from "legally binding" (objectionable to the US that prefers flexibility for itself and iron chains for China) to read:

"legal instrument applicable to all parties"

BRAVO!

(b) Convince China, African G77 members and hopefully India that Kyoto and it's binding obligations on developed nations will not be abandoned even for the lack of an agreement clearly obligating all Annex 1 nations to do so (Canada, Russia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have so far refused).

This, to, is rumored to be making progress with reassurances from the EU, Norway and Switzerland ... :

China and India were not agreeing to the text, but also not strenuously opposing it, according to several participants.

... but I personally caution anyone from concluding confidence has been restored until China signals it's agreement (quite possibly without India this time) which I predict would come very late in the game if at all.

So then, this thing is about to wrap-up?

Hardly. In fact, while negotiators may be making progress on an framework agreement (and positioning themselves to take credit for any good that comes out of it if that is the case) several other principle agreements that were expected to be the main areas of progress are, instead, bogged-down in political infighting, particularly the (highly complex) LCA strand of negotiation and most particularly finalization of the Green Climate Fund which is being held political hostage by the USA which is essentially demanding the fund be administered by the IMF (where it has dominant influence) against the objection objections of recipient nations that have too many bad experiences with that body and would prefer a new, neutral body be established.

Lastly, and the reason I feel it is really to early to call this a done deal, is the total lack of ambition in committing to improvements in carbon reductions, particularly by wealthy Annex 1 nations that have historically benefited economically but actually pledged less than non-Annex 1 developing nations raising objections by G77 nations (particularly China, India) and Island Nations immediately threatened by rising oceans, not to mention environmentalists:

WWF: "As things stand now the text is very weak, and offers no credible process to crank up efforts to cut emissions. In these last few hours, progressive players must fight to raise ambition - but based on current texts, we would be heading for disastrous levels of warming of 4C,"

Oxfam: "Whatever the outcome, it is clear that an agreement struck here will not, on its own, ensure the level of action necessary to stay below two degrees warming. Governments must come together around the most ambitious package possible today to keep the door open on efforts to really get to grips with the climate crisis."

John Lanchberry of the RSPB on Redd finance - the plan to reduce deforestation: "It's weak on substance and kicks further discussion about where the money for Redd [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation] will come from into next year. However, it links finance firmly to the biodiversity, social and governance safeguards agreed in Cancún last year, which is excellent"

Christian Aid: "The latest draft texts are so dangerously inadequate that we could be closing the door to a 2-degree limit on warming. On the Kyoto side, although there is one welcome paragraph saying there will be a second commitment period, it's cancelled out by the rest of the document. It's currently so weak that without amendments, it's Kyoto in name only.

On the LCA side, the United States is blocking agreement on two absolutely essential elements of a deal: the Green Climate Fund and the emissions cuts which it needs to undertake that are so urgently needed. Without these, the talks are likely to miscarry. At the moment, the United States and its umbrella allies are blocking the rest of the world from protecting people in poor countries from climate catastrophe … I am pleading with negotiators to use the few remaining hours of these talks to secure a better deal for people across the world."

But I think this: regardless of the lack of more ambitious goal setting, getting an agreement on basic principles and a negotiating framework is the most important task now to bait the hook and if that can be accomplished COP17 will be successful beyond my expectations.

And I will be happy to eat my words.

Other News: Higgs boson hunters scent their elusive quarry at the LHC.  Hell Yes!

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