Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Major Economies Forum & Green Climate Fund meetings: setbacks in the climate diplomacy

So far, April marked the worst month in climate diplomacy this year. Three meetings took place, all of which have deepened the differences between the climate negotiators. After Bangkok talks (reported earlier in this blog) the negotiators met in the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) in Brussels and met again to discuss the Green Climate Fund in Mexico City.

In the MEF meeting, both the US and the EU climate envoys’ delegates, Todd Stern and Connie Hedegaard respectively, had ruled out the possibility of reaching a decisive climate agreement in Durban later this year. In the same note, Hedegaard asserted that the wide recognition of “the need for legally binding agreement” is a good sign for positive progress in the future.

The MEF conference focused mainly on making progress on the climate agreements agreed upon over the past two years in Copenhagen, Cancun, and Bangkok. However, it didn’t address the issue of emissions’ reduction targets, which was the main struggle in Bangkok talks. The US delegate had stated, quite frankly, that setting these targets is not an immediate necessity. On the other hand, he keeps pressing on the need of including the emerging economies, such as China, in any international agreement; a prerequisite for the Senate to pass any climate-related bill.

The EU delegate has signalled the potential “frameworks” for the climate summit in Durban, saying that reaching an agreement that tackles both the shipping and aviation emissions can be the main focus of this year’s talks. Given the fact that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will launch its aviation regulations next year, this is a typical European move in the climate summits; pushing the talks toward an area that the ETS has already addressed or planning to address in the near horizon, and thus claiming superior position in the climate talks.

In the same spirit, a UN sponsored climate meeting took place in Mexico City to discuss the sources and modalities of the Green Climate Fund. This meeting is the first of the Fund’s Transnational Committee (TC), which, the meeting, was postponed from the original schedule of mid-March. Well, one can assume that such delay came in the sake of finishing some back-office work. However, this is not the case. On the very top of the agenda was the decision on who will lead the Committee. Luckily this was resolved by the end of the first day of the two-day meeting. The second day was filled with closed door meetings. This worried the meeting’s civil observers about the transparency of these talks in the future. Also, there were some controversial proposals about sources for raising the necessary funds, such as the introduction of international levies on aviation’s and shipping’s carbon emissions. These proposals, if agreed upon, will perfectly fit in the ETS plans and the prearranged outcomes of main summit later this year.

The ultimate outcome of the Fund’s TC talks is supposed to be a comprehensive proposal for the fund before Durban meeting. But due to many complexities, the committee planned to meet at least three more times this year. The climate fund plays an important role in shaping and deriving the international agreement forward. However, many delegates of the committee expressed their doubts about real progress happening this year.

Following this summit, Transparency International (TI) has warned in a report against the hugely potential corruption and embezzlements in the proposed green fund schemes. Twenty nations, out of those receiving the funds, have low scores in TI’s Influential Corruption Perception Index. The received funds by these nations are not going to be used in what they are intended for, says TI. In its report “Global Corruption Report: Climate Change” TI pressed the need for tough regulations and monitoring modalities placed on the new carbon pricing mechanisms and financial support. Looking at the best cap and trade practice worldwide, namely the ETS, this should not come at a surprise. The ETS has proved its inefficiency in setting a representative carbon price, and recently it has faced a shut down in January to deal with the cyber-attacks on its database, in addition to many other problems mentioned earlier in this blog.

These meetings are new landmarks in the regressive climate talks. Certainly, they are not building the required pillars for an urgent binding agreement that meets the pace of the changing climate.