Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Mixed responses to PNG’s call for voting at the Cancun climate change negotiations

By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico

30 November, Cancun, Mexico - Even though voting is an available option under Article 42 of the Draft Rules of Procedure for the Conference of the Parties (COP), it has never been used in the proceedings of the COP meetings, which is now in its 16th session.

“Voting in Article 42 remains in bracket and has never been applied, like the other rules of procedure:, said Espen Ronneberg, climate change adviser of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

The draft rules were proposed for adoption at COP 1 in 1995, but a deadlock remained until COP 2 in 1996, when it was agreed that the rules would be applied with the exception of the paragraph relating to procedures for voting by Parties. For 16 years, all of the COP decisions have been by consensus.

The draft rules states that voting will only be considered if Parties have exhausted all means of trying to reach an agreement through consensus.

“At that time, developed countries wanted a double voting system, where on simple issues you would only need a majority of the Parties. However, on what was described as more substantive issues, such as voting on issues like financing, there was a demand that a double majority would be required, based on the Party's financial contribution to the process. This was not accepted by developing countries and was put on hold”, said Ronneberg.

The UNFCCC Secretariat administering the COP processes has been, as Ambassador Colin Beck of the Solomon Islands put it, ‘simply applying the rules of procedure rather than adopting it.’

Ambassador Beck preferred to be cautious on PNG’s call for the activation of Article 42 of the draft rules of procedures.

“Depending on which side of the fence you are, I feel that consensus is still the best way to reach an agreement at the climate change negotiations.

“We did it with the UN Climate Change Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Nairobi Plan of Action and other climate change related agreements. And I am confident that we will, through consensus be able to find common ground here in Cancun”, said Ambassador Beck, who has been one of the Pacific’s leading negotiators on climate change for many years.

Whether it’s the right time to bring it to the COP process, the Solomon Islands diplomat did not want to put a time frame to it except to say that “negotiations here in Cancun need all the Parties to be flexible, with a common goal of achieving an agreement”.

“With climate change, we are dealing with the need for a commitment for global action, which means there must be consensus. I’d commend to Parties the issue of voting can be brought back to COP once a legally binding agreement is in place, said Ambassador Beck.

Not totally ruling out the need to consider the option of voting, the Solomon Islands diplomat said there may be a need for voting, which can work – both in favour and against the interests of small island nations, who don’t have greater number in the negotiations process.

His comments were supported by Ronneberg, who believes that frustration amongst Parties has led to the move to push Article 42 to the fore.

“Whether it’s the right time or not, that will be decided by the Parties, but we have to consider the possibility that it will not always be in our favour for Small Island States to put things to a vote. We may run the risk of being out voted in some cases as well.

“It’s good on one level, but we have also seen that it can be used purely for tactical reasons. That is when we run into this problem, which is frustrating the process.”

In June this year, at one of the negotiating sessions in Bonn, the four countries were able to hold up negotiations despite the overwhelming majority of more than 100 Parties in favour of the Alliance of Small Island States proposal for a technical paper on the social and economic impacts of the mitigation scenarios of a global temperature commitment of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The debate on whether to introduce voting or not has been referred to a consultation convened by the President of COP16, Patricia Espinosa. She is expected to report back to the plenary session later in the week.

“It looks likely that the issue with be ‘held off until the next session,” said Ronneberg.

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