Author: Nyla Sarwar

Activist sign in front of President's office in Finland (Image by: Greenpeace Finland)

Activist sign in front of President's office in Finland (Image by: Greenpeace Finland)

The high level segment of the 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15) opened this morning, with over 110 heads of State arriving at the Bella Centre – adding political pressure to finalise an agreement in the remaining 3 days of the conference.

Australian Minister for Climate Change & Water, Penny Wong, made a statement on behalf of the Umbrella Group (UG), which represents non-EU developed countries including Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the US. She reaffirmed the UG’s strong position on formulating an agreement, which aims to reduce temperature increases to 2C and stabilise atmospheric carbon to 450ppm.

A previous statement by the Swedish PM, which currently holds the EU presidency, offered a similarly positive and encouraging statement on behalf of the European Union, with the EU committing to its higher proposal for a 30% emissions reduction by 2020.

Perhaps a more controversial statement was made by Ethiopian PM, Meles Zenawi, who presented a detailed proposal for long term financing on behalf of the African nations – though he suggested that it wasn’t fully supported by all African nations.

Zenawi proposed the establishment of a start up fund of $10bn per annum to be used for urgent adaptation and mitigation, including forestry; with the opportunity to scale up funding in coming years.  He added that the fund should be managed by a Board of Trustees, representing the recipient and donating countries, with the aim of launching the fund by mid-2010 and quick allocation thereafter.

The proposal suggested that funding should start in 2013, reaching up to $50bn per annum by 2015 and $100bn per annum by 2020, with 50% of the money being assigned to adaptation in vulnerable regions, such as Africa.

Maybe the most controversial aspect of the proposal was Zenawi’s suggestion that Africa’s share of the fund be managed by the African Development Bank. However, several African nations, including Senegal, have declared their unease at such proposals.

Negotiations have continued through the night to finalise decisions and draft text agreeable by all parties to be signed by the Heads of State on Friday. Despite ministerial consultations and ongoing technical negotiations, significant contention still surrounds levels of financing, its governance and delivery mechanisms, and the need to raise the aspirations of pledges made by developed countries which simply aren’t enough to address limit temperature increases to a 2C warming.

The African nations have become split over the proposals in the text over the last few days, and negotiations have continued to breakdown with the same major roadblocks that had hampered negotiations in Bangkok and Barcelona. An interesting development has been an emerging consensus between the least developed countries (LDCs) that global average temperature increases should be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius (as opposed to 2C enshrined in the convention), with atmospheric carbon levels not exceeding 350ppm – previous targets have aimed to stabilise at 450ppm as current levels already stand at ~380ppm. This increased ambition might well require CO2 already emitted to the atmosphere to be extracted using sequestration technologies.

With increasing pressure building to reach agreement as time runs out, and Ministers and Heads of State arriving, efforts to present a text which might see consensus is looking bleak. However, rumors suggest that the Danes plan to distribute further new texts today with the hope of reaching an agreement, without getting bogged down in the wording of previous texts. There is hope for some final decisions on the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA from today’s ongoing negotiations – which no doubt will continue into the night.

A lot of work is still outstanding with only 3 days to go, and you could argue that getting consensus from over 190 countries with different capabilities and political agenda is impossible…but when there is so much at stake…miracles can happen!

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