The final week of climate negotiations in Barcelona have now ended. The last meeting before the main event in Copenhagen next month served to emphasize the lingering stalemate between rich and poor nations, and the equally unmoving impasse between political factions in the United States.
On Tuesday, delegations from 50 African nations boycotted the climate talks in Barcelona, insisting that developed nations must make stronger commitments for short-term emissions reduction targets – specifically in the neighborhood of 40% of 1990 levels by 2020 (in contrast, the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House last summer, when referenced to 1990 levels, targets only about a 7% reduction in emissions). In Washington, Republicans in the Energy and Public Works Committee (EPW) staged their own boycott, failing to show for a markup session of the Kerry-Boxer climate and energy bill. The reason, they claimed, was because the bill needs more cost analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Democrats countered, saying it was simply a stalling tactic, and that there is already extensive analysis in place. The ranking Republican on the EPW committee is Senator James Inhofe, who is nothing if not a vociferous climate change denier. The ability for the United States to break through their political logjam will directly influence how negotiations play out at the COP15 climate conference next month.
Talks resumed in Barcelona onWednesday, but key issues of mitigation targets and financing remain largely unchanged on Friday from where they started on Monday; the Democrats in the EPW Committee passed the Kerry-Boxer climate bill out of committee on an 11-1 without the Republicans present. Thus the stage is set, for better or worse, and there is but one stop left on the Road to Copenhagen. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer delivers his closing press briefing in the following video (see also Ben Jervey’s analysis from earlier this week.)