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December 10th 2009 print

Tim Wilson

COP 15: Day 3

The Australian government alone has more than one hundred registered delegates.

Today was the first day of actual negotiations at COP15. But with the conference “rocked” by the afternoon leaking of a draft text for a potential Copenhagen agreement on The Guardian website yesterday negotiators are reporting slow progress.

The leaked text was prepared by developed countries is simply a consolidation of the negotiating positions of most developed countries – an agreement that nominates a peak date for emissions and brings in developing countries into the fold by requiring all countries to enter into a register of their emissions reduction policies. But the cardinal sin broken by the text’s proponents is that it will both bind developing countries to commit to capping their emissions, and set a date for their decline.

Not all developing countries were unhappy. The small island states bloc actually argued for a new, tougher international treaty because the Kyoto Protocol was not tough enough.

It’s clear from the statements of the governments of China and India that the leaked text is completely unacceptable, and they have reiterated their earlier commitment to walk out of the conference if they are presented with a fait accompli agreement from developed countries. As the Conference continues a walkout appears more and more likely. If flexibility isn’t adopted by developed countries toward the obligations on developing countries it is likely they will start decrying eco-imperialism and a lot of people will have emitted a lot of carbon by flying a long way for nothing.

Negotiators are also reporting that developing countries have sought negotiations to revolve around earlier negotiating texts that contained absurd and mutually exclusive proposals to cut emissions and provide the governance infrastructure to deliver them.

The behaviour of the UNFCCC Secretariat is also coming under scrutiny. The job of a multilateral institution Secretariat is to facilitate meetings, help country members and promote the decisions of the Conference of Parties. But in the lead up to, and during, the Conference the Secretariat has either directly engaged in activism, or has sponsored others pushing for a deep green agreement at Copenhagen.

In the opening ceremony the Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer, took the near unprecedented position of outlining the deal he wanted done. By comparison at last week’s World Trade Organisation the Director-General, Pascal Lamy, stated that a conclusion to the Doha Round was desirable, but that what was in it depended on the attitude of member states. This sort of behaviour from the top of the Secretariat down has opened the Secretariat to criticism that it is going well beyond its mandate and its neutrality in negotiations is being questioned.

But the Secretariat did assist in transparency at Copenhagen today by releasing a copy of the delegates listing. The three volumes listing the 33,000 registered delegates exposes the circus that the Conference has become. The Australian government alone has more than one hundred registered delegates.

Traditionally government delegates dominate these conferences with business and non-government observers, plus the media, hanging on. But at Copenhagen non-government delegates outnumber Party delegations by nearly two-to-one.

And the number of activists has obviously got the Danish government and Police worried.

Rumours circulated around the conference today that the previous night the Danish Police raided accommodation of conference activists seizing material that could have been used to promote civil disobedience at protests scheduled for the weekend.

And NGOs continued to provide some colour and light to the conference. A group of Africans protested for “climate justice now”, and a side event was scheduled in the evening for the establishment of a new Framework Convention for Mother Earth Rights.

But if you throw yourself into this conference you can quickly lose time, so anything to give you a sense of timing and routine is welcome. And routine is what the “Fossil of the Day Award” provides.

The Award is announced at 6pm every day in the NGO trade stalls section of the conference for the country that is deemed by activists to have done the most to hold back global emissions reduction cuts. It’s a ceremony that is ten years old and is held at every climate change negotiating conference.

On Monday that Award was won by Annex 1 countries under the Kyoto Protocol for having “an overwhelming lack of ambition” to cut emissions, and on Tuesday by Ukraine for setting the lowest emissions reduction target in the developed world – allowing a 75 per cent increase in emissions.

Today it was Russia’s turn for refusing to discuss its Kyoto Protocol obligations. And for the first time in the ten year history of the Awards the “Ray of the Day” Award was given out to Tuvalu for arguing for a binding, international treaty to cut global carbon dioxide emissions.

If the event weren’t such a farce, it’d almost be funny.

Tim Wilson is Director of the Climate and Trade Unit at the Institute of Public Affairs and is blogging from Copenhagen at www.sustainabledev.org

See the previous reports:

COP15: Opening Ceremony

COP15: Day 2