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“Leaked Text” Shows Movement in Climate Talks – Heavy Lifting Remains

Thomas Schueneman | Friday December 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Copenhagen - the whole world is watchingThe talk in the halls of the Bella Center this afternoon revolved around the so-called “leaked text” of  papers presented in plenary sessions by the chairs of both working groups (AWG-KP and AWG-LCA) that broadly outline the current “state of play” in COP15 negotiations, as UNFCCC executive secretary Yvo de Boer characterized it at today’s press briefing.

The specific text of the document was, at last check, still not “cleared for the press,” but the “word on the street” is for a 50 percent cut in global emissions by 2050 (no surprise there), and an aggregate emissions reduction of 25 percent from developed countries by 2020 (all targets referenced to 1990 levels). The 2020 mid-term target implies steeper cuts from developed nations than what has thus far been offered. (Update: draft texts are now available for the AWG-LCA andAWG-KP)

The texts also speaks to an extension – or second commitment period – of the Kyoto Protocol. The idea of a “single track,” essentially scrapping Kyoto, is not an option, as an “overwhelming majority” of nations want a “two track” process that keeps Kyoto and includes an additional track for nations not obligated by Kyoto (the US principal among them). What is missing is “clarity” (a word de Boer loves to use) on financing that is an issue that continues to “hold the process” back.

Nonetheless, there is a general willingness among nations to work with the texts, de Boer said, and will serve as a starting point when informal talks begin with ministers over the weekend, led by Connie Hedegaard, Minister for the UN Climate Conference.

It is unlikely, however, that the current state of progress in negotiations will please many here in the streets of Copenhagen, with at least 40 demonstrators detained today, heralding the start of many marches and demonstrations planned over the weekend.

The feeling of frustration was echoed this morning as I spoke with Nelson Muffah, Senior Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator for Christian Aid. Muffah made clear he felt negotiations were “not on track” and currently will lead to a 4 degree Celsius rise in global temperature – far from the 2 degree rise generally considered the “safe” level to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

What delegations need to do now is begin to focus on the “big picture,” de Boer said. A shared vision of common goals. Eloquent words that belie the difficulty with which such a vision can be achieved.

The heavy lifting begins tomorrow, and by this time next week, we’ll know if all the excitement and hype that swirls around me (and I admit I’m a bit caught up in it myself) will mean real progress, or – you’ll pardon the obvious pun – a lot of hot air.

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