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Dispatch From Bonn: Success, Failure and Something in Between

3p Contributor | Saturday April 10th, 2010 | 0 Comments

By Joshua Wiese

There’s a trickle of news coming out of yesterday’s opening meetings in the Bonn Climate Change Talks, the first since world leaders gathered in Copenhagen last December. I’m here tracking the US Delegation as part of the Adopt a Negotiator project, so I thought I’d add my reflections to the trickle.

Friday started with delegates being greeted by a giant mountain of glass – 4 tons of recycled broken glass – serving as a poignant reminder of where we left things in Copenhagen. Activists from German Watch, Oxfam, and other groups that fought hard for a fair, ambitious and binding deal last year, held a sign saying “Time to put the pieces back together”.

Expectations for the opening sessions were mixed. Some people expected pure process (…let’s talk about how we’ll talk about this in 2010); others thought countries would air their views on the outcomes of Copenhagen (failure, success, failu-cess… is that a word?); and many thought they’d see fireworks in different country’s statements for or against the Copenhagen Accord, which was one of the few tangible outcomes of last December’s talks (Is it a neocolonial plot to exploit the poor of a Bolivarian Republic? or a real milestone agreement between the world’s largest emitters to stop global warming?).

Shockingly…. everyone’s expectations were met! Today’s opening session of the Bonn Climate Change Talks had a little something for everybody.

It was was boring at times – when negotiators actually dug in to some of the important procedural details in need of resolution. They’re getting closer to agreement on how many meetings they’ll need over the course of the year, and the framework for discussion during those meetings.

It was was filled with judgments about COP15. 

Failure: since the UNFCCC works by consensus and consensus on the agreed objectives for COP15 were not met – it was a failure.

Success: many parties agreed to the Copenhagen Accord, unlocking vital short-term finance for adaptation and mitigation; agreeing to a shared goal to limit global warming to 2 degrees; and unprecedented voluntary reduction targets that could get us as close as 80% of the way toward that less-than-2-degree goal, if they’re honored.

Something between Failure & Success, or maybe both at once: parties agreed to extend negotiations on their two working tracks, and will continue toward the outcomes they had hoped to achieve in Copenhagen. So technically, they moved the goal-posts instead of losing the game. Also, with all that the Accord may have achieved, it’s not binding, not sufficient to meet what science demands, and not getting a great reception in Bonn.

Lastly, Friday had a few fireworks, or at least posturing on the future role of the Copenhagen Accord.  Venezuela inferred that the Copenhagen Accord was nothing more than a neocolonial plot to further oppress the poorest countries of the world. The US, on the other hand, called the Accord a “milestone” and “amazing”, pointing out all the areas that the Accord managed to break new and important ground on.  Everyone else fell somewhere in between. Ok, maybe not fireworks, but it’s only day one.

Countries dispersed and took stock. With only 2 days of meetings left, Saturday will require additional progress on answering some of the procedural questions holding up progress in negotiations this year. We’ll find out how much of the posturing on the Accord has teeth. There are already reports in the press that the US will withhold fast-start funding (a key element of the Copenhagen Accord) to countries that don’t formally “associate” with it. This would leave out some of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, who also happen to be the Accords biggest detractors.

Smoke from the ashes of Copenhagen is beginning to clear, and this weekend is helping us see just how far or how close we are to a global solution to address the climate crisis.

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Joshua Robert Wiese comes from San Francisco. He coordinates the Adopt a Negotiator project, and is tracking the US Delegation in Bonn in April. Josh studied anthropology and the environment at university in Minnesota; and has since spent his professional life trying to understand where sustainability and security best meet life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


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