Saturday 11 December 2010

Draft decisions adopted, pressure on Durban to produce a legally binding agreement

By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico

11 December, Cancun Mexico - Despite Bolivia's attempt to block the final decisions at the global climate change talks in Cancun, which concluded in the early hours of Saturday, the draft decisions from the two ad hoc working groups - long term co-operative action (LCA) and Kyoto Protocol (KP) were passed on majority voices.

The set of agreement, now dubbed the Cancun Agreement, will now be forwarded to Durban, in the hope that a legally binding agreement will be formalised in 2011.

Mexican President, Felipe Calderon made a brief appearance at the end of the COP plenary to congratulate all the 190 nations that sacrificed some of their national positions to reach a compromised agreement.

Earlier, there were extraordinary scenes at the close of the climate talks as the President of COP16, Patricia Espinosa appealed as a woman from the heart, for good sense to prevail in the last few hours of the negotiations before the closing plenary.

Ms Espinosa received continuous standing ovation from the packed plenary, indicating the willingness of Parties to bring to a conclusion the two weeks of negotiations, despite some of the polarised positions of key Parties during the 12 day climate talks.

When the informal session reconvened at 9.30pm Friday, there was overwhelming support from Parties to endorse the draft text submitted by the chair. But the Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of America (ALBA) countries of Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela rejected the draft saying it did not reflect their positions and urged the chair to reconvene the ad hoc working groups to thrash out the issues of reducing global temperatures and the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

"In its current form, commitments to reducing global temperature will result in an average of 4 degree Celsius, a situation that will impose ‘genocide’ on the human race", said a Bolivian negotiator who made the intervention.

Grenada, speaking on behalf of AOSIS said while the text was not perfect because it does not reflect all the issues of Small Island Developing States, the group supported the draft document as a starting point for the building block for an eventual legally binding agreement that can be realised in Durban in 2011.  AOSIS
thanked Parties for making compromises to reach a positive outcome here in Cancun.

They congratulated the COP President, Ms Espinosa and her team for the transparent and flexible manner in which they’ve guided the negotiations.

A number of speakers, the United States, Australia, South Korea, Switzerland, Lesotho, the European Union and Maldives, all spoke in favour of the text, in the spirit of compromise.

Maldives said the ‘transparent and inclusive’ atmosphere that Mexico conducted the meetings has resulted in the ‘positive and enthusiastic end.’

Australia said the will to put together a compromised text was a ‘significant win to multilateralism.’

By 2am Saturday morning, after almost two hours, both the Long Term Co-operative Action (LCA) and Kyoto Protocol (KP) were adopted, despite interventions from Bolivia. The LCA text, drafted by chairperson, Zimbabwean, Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe was adopted despite an intervention from Bolivia. The chair directed Bolivia that its concerns were noted by the Secretariat.

The adoption of decisions of the two ad hoc working groups were received with loud cheers and applause from the hundreds of delegates and observers that followed the last hours of the negotiations.

United Nations climate chief, Christiana Figueres in a brief statement thanked Ms Sangarwe for her leadership in the LCA ad hoc working group.

“Your leadership has resulted in the crowning glory that we have now witnessed in the whole process. You have been calm in the face of everything – and you have ably led us to the path that we are celebrating tonight, said Figueres.

The conference, which ended early Saturday morning, has seen a lot of technicalities being discussed to take the pledges made at Copenhagen forward, and the Mexican government took a more decentralised process by forming smaller groups to discuss thorny issues and then tabling them in a plenary.

Sticky issues that tested the will of negotiators to compromise were transparency or the International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) and Measurement Reporting and Verification (MRV) , finance, technology transfer, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) plus, and land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). These were mostly the views of the minority, led by the United States.

There were also “strong and divergent positions” on the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol.

Discussion on the critical areas of ICA, anchoring the pledges made at Copenhagen and legal forms were led by the developed countries, with the U.S. making an issue of the technology transfer mechanism being operationalised.

It is critical to anchor the Copenhagen pledges within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol by developed countries and in long-term cooperative action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for developing countries.

The commitment to the setting up of a green fund last year was also an issue of contention, with the U.S. again merely wanting a decision to establish the fund and carrying forward the modalities of funding. Developing countries, however, want a decision at Cancun on this crucial aspect.

NGOs pointed out that the phrase ‘new and additional' (for funding) has been removed from the text under discussion, and in return, timelines have been set for countries to give the money. The $30 billion fast-start finance announced at Copenhagen has been controversial with countries not really coming forward with
funding, and with much of it not being new or additional.

While no one expected a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol to be finalised at Cancun, at least a strong indication or political will to continue the protocol is crucial. It is important that the Copenhagen pledges be formalised under the UNFCCC.

Drama in the final session

By Stanley Simpson, Climate Pasifika Media

10 December, Cancun, Mexico - There was drama at the start of the final session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun.

First – the secretariat had to repeatedly ask the delegates to take their seats before the session – which was already delayed by half an hour - could begin.

COP 16 President Patricia Espinosa then entered the plenary session at the Ceiba and received a 2 minute standing ovation from the packed crowd in attendance.

No sooner had she sat down when there was commotion at the entrance as some delegates and negotiators tried to enter the jam-packed session – but were stopped by security.

There were loud shouts of “help, help” and a lot of pushing and shoving.

Some delegates outside started banging against the walls.

The Madame President then directed the secretariat to allow the party delegates who were still outside to come in.

By then the Ceiba was filled to the brim – and the session was delayed again for another 20 minutes.

South American countries made the first three interventions.

With the first intervention from Bolivia who declared that they did not accept the draft text. Many in the crowd remarked “it is going to be a long night.”

Peru then spoke next and urged countries to adopt the draft text – to great applause.

It was clear that many were resigned to the compromise – were tired – and were wanting to go home.

Venezuela spoke straight after and raised their concern on the conduct of the security personnel saying they should keep a “cool head.”

On the draft text – they were not happy – and noted that there had been “tears and fury” but the “minutes are fundamental” to achieving a good climate change text.

Venenzuela called on delegates “not to give up” or be in “too much of a hurry” on the text.

South Korea made the first intervention in English – all the previous three had spoken in Spanish – and described the talks as a “roller coaster and full of steep slopes.”

They said they believed countries had risen to the challenges of climate change.

Grenada spoke on behalf of the AOSIS.

They congratulated the Madame President on her transparency and flexibility and welcomed the text although they outlined that it was “not perfect.”

They said they understood the balance needed to come up on the text and the compromises that had to be made.

AOSIS welcomed the proposals on adaptation and provisions for loss and damage.

“We have concerns – but our concerns will wait – given the late hour.”

The AOSIS intervention was well received.

As this report is being written outside the Ceiba – a lot of applause can be heard – signaling a better atmosphere to the talks a year ago in Copenhagen.

48 hours on a bus in Cancun

By a female Pacific reporter at the Climate change talks in Cancun

Final night in Cancun, great to see the back of the bus
If my Mother was here, she would tell me to count my blessings, but I’m finding it hard being in Cancun Mexico at the UN Climate Change meeting, spending most of my time in a bus.  (Sorry, Mother!)

Today is the last day and already I know my lasting memory will not be the long tiring negotiations, warm climate or great Mexican food.

My lasting memory will be the warm seats of the luxury buses that can recline and the small hard shuttle bus seats that cannot really accommodate the legs of a big Pacific woman.

I normally wouldn’t share such thoughts with you, but someone sent me a link called “A view from the bus” by a correspondent from The Economist, it gave me courage because if they can lament the busses, then so can this Pacific Islander.

Over the last two weeks I have perfected the art of being able to fall asleep upon sitting in the bus, while maintaining a strong grip on all your bags and materials!  If that was an Olympic sport, as it does require some skill, then I think I would win a gold medal for my country.  After all, I have had two weeks of intense training.

14 days ago there was an air of optimism as we waited to see how Mexico would unveil its skills in organising an immense conference, everything seemed great as the culture is colourful, its warm and people are super friendly.  But it wasn’t long before we had become frustrated conference delegates that spent every possible moment complaining about the bus.

Our accommodation is literally only 9 kms away from the conference venue, but that doesn’t mean much when you can only get to conference venues on official buses that always, no matter what, take the long way.  So for us a 10 minute ride has somehow turned into a 40 minute experience of angst and fidgeting as everybody is just itching to get through those doors.  There is often a mini stampede to get to the front of the bus aisle just before it pulls up.

Our daily route is so ridiculous we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when it first happened, and I felt a little sorry for the bus driver that had to face the onslaught of complaints as people got off the bus.  But hey, someone has to take it all – and he happened to be the closest.

Every day we want to go to the Moon Palace (Venue one) for the conference, but to get there you have to go to the Cancun Messe (Venue two) to make your way through security before boarding the next bus.

So the first bus is the nice luxury one in which we want to go to the Cancun Messe, but in order to get there, we literally pass by it, then touch the entrance of the Moon Palace and then go backwards to the Cancun Messe.  Once we offload like cattle and go through security we then board the small shuttle, the very one in which my knees push the seat in front of me, to go backwards to our hotel road and then past the Cancun Messe again to get to the Moon Palace.

I’m not lying.

Can you imagine what it’s like for those that stay further away?  My colleagues spend three hours on a bus every day that is one and a half hours to get here and then one and a half hours to go home.  When you do the math, multiply three by each day of negotiations it totals 48 hours of lost time that could be spent at the negotiating table, researching or sleeping.

Then, as the cherry on the icing of the Mexican cake, after 10pm the buses run on the hour and once those doors are shut that’s it.  You are not going anywhere until the next bus comes on the hour, which is a royal pain in the behind when you have to negotiate until 2am in the morning and want to get every bit of sleep you can, but you can’t as you have to wait.  Let me tell you that reading these words of this typical experience in Cancun may make it sound like a minor complaint, but you try having the doors shut in your face knowing that you will be there, on a pavement for another hour before your hour bus ride home at 2.00am in the morning.

It pretty much sucks.

Common sense tells me that when you are overseas negotiating under tense circumstances until odd hours on such a technical issue, that every bit of emotional or logistical support you can get to help matters immensely.  

I guess someone forgot to tell the organisers of this conference that.

So, despite all the great things about Mexico, the vibrant colours, the warm weather and the really friendly helpful people, all I’m really going to remember from this visit is the bus and how my legs couldn’t fit!

AOSIS wins award

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is pleased to award the inaugural Frederick R. Anderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Addressing Climate Change to the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

For two decades, the 42 member States of AOSIS have served as the moral compass of international climate negotiations, demanding an agreement that reflects the increasing urgency of the climate crisis and the equal and sovereign right of every State to a safe climate. From their earliest work on an ambitious climate treaty to current efforts to strengthen emission reduction targets and emerging initiatives to transform their own energy sectors into drivers of sustainable development, the members of AOSIS have constantly challenged the global community to demonstrate the real leadership climate change demands. Through their collective efforts, the AOSIS members have demonstrated the power of even the smallest States when they stand together and speak with a single voice. In so doing, AOSIS has inspired many other countries and peoples to make themselves better heard by joining their voices together.

CIEL President Carroll Muffett presented AOSIS with the 2010 Frederick R. Anderson Award at a ceremony on December 7, 2010, during the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico.


The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is a coalition of small island and low-lying coastal countries that share similar development challenges and concerns about the environment, especially their vulnerability to the adverse effects of global climate change. It functions primarily as an ad hoc lobby and negotiating voice for small island developing States (SIDS) within the United Nations system.

AOSIS has a membership of 42 States and observers, drawn from all oceans and regions of the world: Africa, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Pacific and South China Sea.

The founders of CIEL assisted in the organization of AOSIS at the Second World Climate Conference in November 1990 and CIEL has been honored to assist AOSIS members many times in the ensuing years, including in the development of the Male’ Declaration on the Human Dimension of Global Climate Change.

About the Award

The Frederick R. Anderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Addressing Climate Change was created in 2010 to commemorate twenty years of service by CIEL’s founding chairman, Frederick R. Anderson. In addition to his long service to CIEL, Mr. Anderson, served as the first President of the Environmental Law Insitute and the Dean of American University’s Washington College of Law. In 2010, he received the American Bar Association’s Award for Excellence in Environmental, Energy and Resources Stewardship. Mr. Anderson is a partner with the law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in Washington, DC.

Youths mark 21,000 deaths with count

By Stanley Simpson, Climate Pasifika Media

Photos courtesy of Luana Bosanquet-Heays
 10 December, Cancun Mexico - Youths from all over the world – who have gathered in Cancun to push for action on climate change– have made a symbolic count from 1 to 21,000 to mark what they say are the 21,000 climate related deaths in 2010.

Holding banners that read ‘1.5 to stay alive’, ’21,000 climate related deaths in 2010’, and ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ youths linked arms and counted outside while country delegations negotiated and pored over the final text inside.

The counting – which is expected to take a few hours to complete - was intermingled with short statements – that allowed them to take a breather.

Photos courtesy of Luana Bosanquet-Heays

Young people from the Pacific involved in the count were Luana from the Cook Islands and Romina from Fiji.

“Right now I am angry – because there is no legally binding agreement so far,” says Romina Datt.

“The leaders are not stepping up to save us.”

“We are really wanting our leaders to take up action because so far there is nothing – they have made no commitments for us – and zero emissions have been cut out – and on the 1.5 degrees it was announced last week that it will be postponed to next year – so we are counting on that.”

Datt and other youth activists expressed disappointment that countries like Japan and the US were opting out of a legally binding agreement.

“The US and other rich countries don’t demand for the ‘best science’ when they allow corporations to drill for oil and conduct mining, yet they are demanding for the best science on climate change in order to take action. We already have the best science,” a youth rep said.

As this story was sent – the count continued with the youths reaching the 6,000 mark.

(Note: the protest could not continue, security had to remove the protestors from the conference grounds as the time they had on their permission form had lapsed)

Fiji calls for climate action at Cancun

By Stanley Simpson, Climate Pasifika Media

Fiji presents the High level statement in Cancun, Mexico

9 December, Cancun Mexico - Fiji’s ambassador to Brussels and the head of Fiji’s delegation to United Nations climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico, Peceli Vocea has delivered the country’s statement to the gathering – calling on world leaders to agree to a legally binding agreement.

Ambassador Vocea says Fiji wants an effective international cooperation mechanism that provides finance for climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as capacity building and technology transfer.

He says the climate change reality was indeed grim for small island developing states – and called on the ‘movers and shakers’ of international politics to take heed of the island’s concerns.

“Madam President, Small Island Developing States like Fiji are paying a high price for the cumulative historical actions of others. Time is almost up for small island states like Fiji. We have been negotiating for too long with too little progress. We are the most vulnerable, and are at the front line.”

Ambassador Vocea says while Fiji was doing all it could to arrest and possibly reverse the negative effects of climate change – this would not be adequate without the support of development partners and the international community.