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Yeb Saño: “Watch out for last minute railroading of a weak agreement” at COP20 in Lima

2014-12-12-120539_1130x978_scrotThe usual power politics have kicked in at the UN climate negotiations. Several days of friendly chats at COP20 in Lima saw little progress but no really big arguments. Then on Thursday morning, 11 December 2014, G77 and China asked for a halt to the discussions.

They explained to the co-chairs that they were working on a proposal that would help the negotiations move forward. But, as Nitin Sethi explains in an article for Business Standard, the real reason for stopping the negotiations was a leaked draft decision text that had been inadvertently posted on the UNFCCC website.

The leaked text was a “Draft COP decision proposed by the Co-Chairs” of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). The ADP’s role is to come up with the text to be agreed by governments at COP21 in Paris in a year’s time. The co-chairs of the ADP are Kishan Kumarsingh of Trinidad and Tobago and Artur Runge-Metzger of the European Union.

The leaked draft text is available here (and below).

On Monday, 8 December 2014, the ADP had released a six-page (plus annexes) draft text. Over the next three days of negotiations the text ballooned as countries inserted text that they hoped to see in the final version.

Leaked ADP draft text “heavily loaded” towards rich countries

The Thursday morning leaked text was only seven pages long. The G77 negotiators that Nitin Sethi at the Business Standard spoke to were concerned that the leaked text revealed a bias towards the interests of rich countries. A G77 negotiator told Sethi that,

“[T]he text we now found on the UNFCCC website is taking us back to where we began – heavily loaded in favour of the developed countries.”

Sethi reports that,

Sources in the G77 group said, as soon as they took the first cursory glance at the text they were miffed that despite assurances, secretive texts were being prepared to force decisions in particular directions.

One of the key negotiators from G77 told Sethi that,

“The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities has been almost completely sacrificed in the new proposal we accessed.”

A key issue in Lima is Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). These are the targets that countries set themselves to be included in the Paris agreement.

Sethi describes the INDCs text as a “Trojan horse that fixed the nature and content of the complete 2015 agreement itself”. He quotes another G77 negotiator as saying that,

“They brought in issues like ex-ante review of INDCs which was not part of the mandate for Lima. They broke down differentiation between developed and developing country parties. They killed off any hope of increasing the pre-2020 targets of developed countries and delinked their obligations to deliver finance and technology from the 2015 agreement and developing country actions under it.”

The leaked co-chairs draft text was quickly taken down from the UNFCCC website and negotiations continued on Thursday.

Negotiation deadlock (yet again)

But, as the Guardian noted, with 24 hours to go the Lima climate talks had only agreed one paragraph of the draft text.

Towards 19:00 in Lima, the COP President and Peruvian Minister of the Environment, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, held an informal stocktaking plenary. He said,

“Today it is the last day for all outstanding issues to be resolved. We need to conclude our work in an effective, efficient and timely manner. We do think that we can use time in a very efficient and effective manner, so help us to move this process forward.”

ADP co-chair forgets the leaked draft text

Pulgar-Vidal invited the co-chairs of the ADP to “provide an update on the status of their work”. Here, in full, is Kishan Kumarsingh’s report:

Thank you very much Mr. President, and good evening colleagues. Mr. President, this morning at the first contact group meeting at 10 o’clock we convened to consider, or to continue to consider, the text that was had at the closing of the plenary, or the contact group rather, last night, or early this morning, where we completed the negotiations on all the paragraphs of the draft decision. That text was available to parties to consider when we came back this morning.
On resumption at the contact group, some parties were not in a position to make recommendations on how we go forward, because this is the discussion we wanted to have, from parties, some guidance to the co-chairs we go forward. Parties wanted to consult and to come back with that guidance which we allowed. We then suspended the meeting this morning.
When we convened just before this stock-taking plenary again we opened the floor to parties to get guidance on how we move forward with the text that we had been working on, which incidentally may I add is about 50-plus pages, with many paragraphs of alternative options.
I regret to say, Mr. President, that in that meeting parties were also unable to provide consensus and guidance to the co-chairs on how to proceed with the text. That was at the time that we again suspended the meeting to facilitate attendance of parties at this stock taking.
So in a nutshell, we have not had any progress on how we proceed with the textual negotiations on the text that we completed the reading of last night. Thank you, Mr. President.

COP President forgets the leaked draft text

“We are in a time in which we should take decisions,” COP President, Pulgar-Vidal responded. “We are one day ahead of the closure of this conference and we want to achieve what we have identified as a result of this conference.” He added, “We will not accept to leave Lima with empty hands.”

Pulgar-Vidal talked about the importance of transparency. Presumably the leaked co-chairs’ draft text just slipped his mind under the pressure of the moment. Then he came to his instructions:

So first, I instruct the co-chairs to work under my guidance and coordination to prepare a new text by nine pm tonight. I do think that with that we can move forward with a very reasonable text. And let me assure that I will be with guidance and coordination looking and seeking that the text reflect the positions of all the parties as the only way to show and to maintain the confidence and to show that what you have requested to me, it is reflected in that text. As the only way to have tomorrow a very successful closure of the meeting.
And my second instruction is that by the text we should focus on what we do know are the key issues. We are not here to practice linguistic discussions. It is not a linguistic discussion. It is a substantial discussion. And we do know what are that key topics. We don’t need to focus on that four or five topics, in which we can show that we can advance in the process.
So that is why we need that reasonable text by tonight, but focus and give options but just in the key topics. No in the words. No in the commas. No in the dots or points. But in the substance.
If we have by tonight that text under my guidance and focus on the key points, we can work very effective and a very efficient way. So that is why I request to the ADP, to start the work immediately and to report back on time to be announced.

The co-chairs managed the almost impossible task of condensing a 50-page document into a seven page text, and the draft text appeared only a little late – 22:30 instead of 21:00.

Of course no one will be surprised to learn that the co-chairs’ draft text released late on Thursday evening is almost identical to the co-chairs’ draft text leaked early on Thursday morning.

A few hours ago, Yeb Saño, who headed the Philippines’ negotiating team for three years, but was dropped from the Lima team, gave me my headline:

On the last day of COP20 in Lima we can anticipate plenty diplomatic arm-twisting and, at some point in the early hours of the morning, a hopelessly weak text.

Spot the difference

Here’s the leaked text, with the 22:30 text below that. If it wasn’t such a serious issue, it might be fun to play spot the difference.

Leaked secret Lima draft decision text, morning 11 December 2014

Lima draft decision text released 22:30, 11 December 2014

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