Live From Copenhagen: Contested Architecture and Declarations of Time

Political argument has sprouted between China and the United States in the Conference of Parties negotiations.  Yesterday Su Wei, Deputy head of the Chinese delegation suggested that the US’s 17 percent cut from 2005 levels is insufficient as it only amounts to a 1% reduction from 1990 levels.  The already enforce Kyoto Protocol requires Annex 1 countries cutting emissions below the 1990 levels.  Todd Stern, US envoy, fired back that the reduction is in pending legislation, and that China has as of yet to agree a target.   What the conflict underscores is a growing disagreement about the post-2012 future of the Kyoto Protocol.  Countries such as China have much to gain from the current Kyoto architecture in that they are not required to commit to a reduction target, as Annex 1 countries are.  A post 2012 adaptation of the protocol would see some requirements for countries such as China, but the largest share of the burden would still be borne by developed nations.  The US in contrast has been absent from the implementation and development of the Kyoto Protocol.  It would prefer a replacement architecture it can have more control in shaping.   Other developed countries would also like to see a framework which commits developing countries to some form of reduction target.  Flawed as the Kyoto Protocol may be, it has inertia.  Redrawing another framework will require more negotiation, more time and will leave many wondering what was actually achieved in the last ten years.  Time is something the global climate may not have to offer.  Nature does not negotiate.

In a session titled Intergenerational Inquiry on Climate Solutions Mr. Yvo de Boer (center), UNFCCC Executive Director, addressed a room full of youth attendees wearing bright orange ‘How old will you be in 2050?  Don’t Bracket Our Future’ T-shirts.  Many of the negotiators and decision makers at these meetings will not live to 2050.  He suggested that next week 110 heads of states coming to Copenhagen because they care about future generations.  The demonstrations, artistic displays and events that young people are putting on drive home to politicians the seriousness of this issue.  He called on the youth of the convention to keep up the good work.  After an impassioned speech by a young participant urging action from this meeting because we have entrusted it with our future, Mr. de Boer’s response was ‘I think you ought be more careful with your trust; trust is something you earn not something you are given.  This process has to earn my trust.’

With fundamental disagreement over the next architecture, there is much doubt as to how much can be agreed in these meetings and ‘non-paper’ has become an official term.  A non-paper is a document with the majority of text bracketed for further negotiation.   At this point it seems that the program most likely to be agreed at Copenhagen is REDD.  The working text has relatively little disagreement among party delegates.  I will report more after attending a working group on the program tomorrow.

Cheers, Janelle Knox-Hayes.

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