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December 12th 2009 print

Tim Wilson

COP15: Day 5

To make themselves feel important most delegates at international negotiating conferences always talk in acronyms, but at Copenhagen they’re in overdrive.

Day five of the Copenhagen climate change conference has finally delivered some modest negotiating progress through the release of summary reports for the Chairs of the LCA and KP tracks. To make themselves feel important most delegates at international negotiating conferences always talk in acronyms, but at Copenhagen they’re in overdrive.

KP means the first track to establish a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol for cutting emissions when the first commitment period expires in 2012.

LCA means the second track of long-term cooperative action to establish a new agreement that brings all countries to the table on emissions reduction, the establishment of adaptation funds, the transfer of technology and issues around deforestation and forest degradation.

And then there’s discussions about the inclusion of CCS in the CDM, the current progress of SBSTA and whether IP is still in the EGTT. And don’t get me started on the role of JIs in ITC! And how could I forget GEF?

If you don’t know what I am talking about I’m sure the ICC can explain it to you, and if you cannot find them just go to WWF, FOE or an observer organisation from UNEP, UNCTAD or the WTO.

And that’s only scratching the surface.

Anyway, the LCA and KP Chair’s texts were confidentially circulated to country delegations early this morning, so green groups got copies, had read them and were telling negotiators what they don’t like about them over morning tea. But to give faith that confidential does mean something it took me until after lunch to get my copy.

And the texts so far say more about what hasn’t been achieved, than what has.

Any subject area of substance remains bracketed which means no one has agreed to it, or the text doesn’t include proposals and instead refers the issue to a newly formed reference group or subcommittee to ensure debate about that one issue doesn’t cause further deadlocks.

So on day five not much has been achieved outside of process and cutting out the really bad ideas, but at least it is now in writing.

One of the most entertaining aspects of these conferences is how delegates walk around busying themselves and pretending they understand what is actually going on. Or worse, carrying a folder and telling negotiators what they think should be going on.

Each area of negotiations is highly specialised and requires an incredible amount of background knowledge to understand. But that doesn’t stop NGO representatives demanding to know the progress of discussions on bunker fuels and making sure they collect the latest copy of the daily programme of events tome.

I’m the first to admit I know what’s happening in the expert group on technology transfer, that’s EGTT, and broadly the comings and goings in the main LCA track, but I’d be lying if I said I understood the full complexities of REDD.

The total number of registered observers now exceeds the total capacity of the Conference Centre, excluding government delegates and the media, so starting the second week observer entry will be rationed which means Greenpeace will have two hundred protestors admitted entry.

That should be a welcome development, but unfortunately for ordinary Copenhagians it means twenty thousand people are about to be forced onto the streets to go to bars all day and drink legitimately tax deductible beer before they protest.

Though the rationing shouldn’t be too much of a problem by next Thursday because from then on the focus is on the plenary session and the rhetoric-laden speeches delivered by heads of governments and States will be broadcast on the web.

Apparently the CPH Crowne Plaza has also been booked for the single observer delegates in attendance who can’t web stream the proceedings because they didn’t bring a laptop. If you don’t know what CPH means it is actually how someone referred to Copenhagen earlier today.

But seriously, in addition to most delegates having their own, the conference centre has two big rooms of about two hundred laptops each permanently available for delegates to check what GEF means on the UNFCCC website to avoid the total humiliation of confessing that they don’t know and putting their friend in the impossible position of confessing the same.

And then there are the hundreds of computer terminals with webcams and Skype so observers can acronym their friends back home to boredom.

That last sentence may appear a bit cynical, but on my count I’ve used twenty different acronyms in this post alone. TGIF. Oops, better make that twenty one.

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 Tim Wilson’s previous reports:

COP15: Opening Ceremony

COP15: Day 2

COP15: Day 3

COP15: Day 4