Sunday, 17 April 2011

Bangkok Climate Talks: The struggle when it comes to the hard decisions!!


The first official round of 2011 climate negotiations in Bangkok has probably shaped up the atmosphere of the climate diplomacy for the rest of the year. Parties spent the 6-day meeting negotiating the agenda of 2011, and concluded on changing 12 words so that all Parties are satisfied with the outcome. The atmosphere of polarization between the developed and developing countries, that took place in Bangkok, is the exact opposite of what is needed this year. In order to reach a constructive agreement in Durban, CoP17, countries should come together with more positive and responsible intentions.


Achieving momentum in Durban requires countries to come forward with national and sub-national climate modalities and policies that facilitate the adoption of international ones. Developing countries should establish the grounds for cap and trade, or carbon tax schemes. While developed ones should seriously consider achieving their climate fund pledges. Moreover, they should set out the reduction targets that is required to achieve the 2° Celsius goal.

If there is a benefit came out of Cancun talks, it would be the common ground that emerged between the developed and developing countries. Although no details were agreed on, yet at least Cancun's 'focused agreements' have indicated that we might get somewhere at some point in the future, regardless how late we would and surely will be. The ultimate benefit was saving the UN Negotiation Process. Yet, they didn't set a real mandate for saving the climate.

Bangkok talks had brought us back to history, the history of polarisation in Copenhagen Climate Talks, 2009. The developing countries in Bangkok had allied together, under the lead of the BASCI group, demanding the negotiations to get back on the track of Bali Roadmap 2007. This implies the adoption of Kyoto Protocol for a 2nd phase, under which only developed countries will cut their emissions. Furthermore, they were determinant to have more details on the Climate Green Fund and the post-2012 reduction pledges of the rich nations.

Such move was interpreted by the developed and rich nations as renegotiating the Cancun Climate Agreements. This is partially true. Earlier in Cancun CoP16, many Annex-1 nations (Japan, Russia, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Turkey) refused to sign any extension to Kyoto Protocol. Their fundamental problem is that it doesn’t include the major emitters, namely: the US, and China. This position didn’t and will not change.

“Renegotiating Cancun Agreements” cannot be rightly taken as the ultimate labelling to the developing countries stance. Unlike what the mainstream media indicated, their position can be interpreted into two separate points:

1-    With regards to a second phase of Kyoto, the developing countries need to realise that no beneficial climate action can be done without having them on board. In order to take an efficient action, all emitters need to reduce their emissions. Otherwise, if agreed on a second phase, the efforts of the rich nations will be useless because of the emissions leakage, and wasteful because of the high costs. Therefore, an international collective action is a fundamental condition to combat the climate crisis, yet this is not sufficient. It should be associated with differentiated reduction targets and distributional costs and benefits. The developed countries should take on rigid targets while supporting the developing ones in achieving their sensible targets, and this takes us to the 2nd point.

2-    With regards to setting the reduction targets and details around the climate finance, the developing countries were actually following up with the agenda of Cancun. Setting these details is ought to happen this year, if any post-Kyoto agreement is to take place. Developed and rich nations are expected to put forward the required targets, and accelerate the adoption of the climate fund. So far, they collectively failed to raise the needed fast-track fund for the first year, in a time we are approaching the middle of the second year.

The two points are complementary. Both sides need to present positive proposals. Developed nations should sort out the climate fund modalities and define the sources according to the recommendations of the High-Level Advisory Group, as well as setting their post-2012 targets. While the developing ones should set their future development plans with low-carbon growth put into considerations.

The unfortunate event of Japan’s earthquake will shift its stance in the negotiations. It is not in the Japanese interest to raise the price of carbon emissions in a time they will highly rely on fossil fuels energy, more than before. Their large dependence on nuclear power has proved to be unsustainable, and with the need to deal with Fukushima crisis, it is not feasible anymore, at least on the short term.

The UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres, stated that this dispute might result in a gap period between Kyoto Protocol and a successor agreement. She will be facing a real challenge this year. There is no room left for “Building Blocks” or “Focused” Agreements. The week in Bangkok has ended with slight changes in the negotiation’s agenda, on which all Parties have agreed to work towards a comprehensive and balanced outcome at the UN Climate Conference in Durban in order to achieve the implementation of Cancun Agreements as well as issues that were not resolved at Cancun, but which are part of the Bali Roadmap 2007.

Perhaps, Bangkok talks have reflected the real atmosphere of decisive-oriented negotiations. When it comes to the hard decisions to be taken, developed and developing countries are taking polarised stances. The different sorts of free-riding tendencies by all Parties will cool down the negotiations and heat up the climate. The next round of talks in Bonn will give a clearer indication of Durban CoP17 constructive outcomes, if any.