It’s Wednesday, December 7th. For the second time within the past week, a new comprehensive text on Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) has been released. This time 138 pages vs. the 131 pages of the LCA text released this past Saturday. For comparison, the charter document of the UNFCCC was only 22 pages while the Kyoto protocol text was only 21 pages. The beauty of these texts lies in their simplicity. Yet, it also represents much of their weaknesses. The Ad Hoc Working Group (AWG) on LCA was created during the 2007 Bali Action Plan in order to bring parties not part of the Kyoto protocol into the process, mainly the US. It is being negotiated alongside Kyoto, but its future is still a bit uncertain.
So why is the text so long? As every country attempts to include their desires for the text, the chairs add paragraph after paragraph. In the subsequent larger plenary sessions on the LCA text, several party delegates, notably Japan, mention the need for a concise text. The discussions, however, do not seem to be supporting these wishes.
It is difficult to know what will happen. As the high-level segment has begun, top government officials are digging their heals to make deals. This difficulties are compounded by a text that is 100+ pages.
Late last night at 8pm, we began further discussions on Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), the issue I have been following. As we drag on well past 9pm, many of the delegates requesting to speak had not done so yet. Bolivia and the African Group want compliance mechanisms for developed parties, others do not. Several other issues of the text still need to be addressed.
This morning, the chairs present an updated LCA text. The hope is that it has incorporated enough of the suggestions of the parties, leaving room for final negotiations by top officials. Several, however, have suggested leaving the LCA text tabled, and continuing to work solely on Kyoto. During the opening of the High-level segment, Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, said, “Keeping Kyoto alive until we have something better is too important for the credibility of the whole process to be sacrificed for the tactical advantages at the negotiating table.”
The Kyoto protocol is the only internationally binding agreement that mandates cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This agreement happened in 1997, but took another 8 years to be ratified. The first commitment period began in 2008, ending in 2012. If we were to come up with agreement now, how long would it take commitments to take effect?
John Prescott, a former British Labour Minister and lead architect of the Kyoto Protocol suggests suspending its 2012 expiration for further negotiations.
We need movement and as many others have suggested, the air here in the conference center is different. Whether it will support the right cards for a future with Kyoto, a supplementary LCA, or either is to be seen.