In The Field

Barcelona climate: Big heads of state

barcelona.leaders.2.JPG I arrived at the conference this morning only to encounter global leaders with unusually large heads pulling funny money out of one box labelled “aid” and putting it into another labelled “climate change.” It was a short stunt by Oxfam – and just one of many put on by various activist groups each day – intended to raise awareness of the danger that rich countries will simply reduce development aid as they increase funding for adaptation and mitigation. Developing countries have made this a central part of their platform going into Copenhagen – any climate financing must be in addition to existing development aid.

Things are rolling along at the conference. Two days left, and nobody is panicking yet. I haven’t heard of any all-night meetings, although short days at these conferences tend to start with business meetings at breakfast and run straight through late dinner meetings, which basically translates into 12- to 14-hour days. It’s easy to say that they aren’t getting enough done, but one certainly cannot claim that they aren’t spending a lot of time on the effort.

So I just bumped into Ned Helme, who heads the Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington, and he seemed newly optimistic about the way things are going. He says things appear to be headed toward a political agreement in Copenhagen, which would then be followed up with a binding legal agreement next year. And although he was initially sceptical, the idea has grown on him after talking to the negotiating teams in here in Barcelona. A broad agreement on the core principles from on high would free up the technical negotiators to work out the details that are currently bogging things down, Helme says, namely the ongoing architectural dispute over what to do with the Kyoto Protocol (see the first post below).

One of the other ideas floating around is to just pause the negotiations without producing an agreement and then hold another meeting in the first half of next year, but many here say there will be too much pressure on politicians for them to leave Copenhagen without producing anything. A political statement that spells out the basic commitments on financing, REDD and perhaps even emissions targets – likely requiring a range to allow some flexibility for the United States, which is unlikely to have worked out its domestic policy – would allow everybody to claim success while leaving the details for later. That’s one theory, anyway.

Now it’s time for lunch. It’s a good time to try and catch delegations between meetings. More later, including an update on Brazil and developing country commitments promised yesterday.


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