While delegates continue with meetings this week to develop a negotiating text for Copenhagen in December, the attitudes and voices heard outside of the plenary sessions can be perhaps even more revealing about the progress being made at Bonn. Courtesy of daily coverage compiled by IISD Reporting services, we are granted a peak at the wizards from outside of the curtain as they walk within the corridors at Bonn…


Enjoying a needed break

Enjoying a needed break

With over 4,300 registered participants for the Bonn meeting, the corridors were congested on the first day of the meeting. Many participants characterized the meeting as a significant step in the lead up to Copenhagen. “We have Chairs’ draft negotiating texts on the table under both AWGs and we also have the six-month rule to consider, so it should be an interesting meeting,” commented one participant.

Many expressed cautious optimism about what they felt had been constructive plenary discussions under the AWG-LCA. Although there were some diverging views over the contents of the Chair’s negotiating text, most delegates were happy that agreement had been reached to discuss it further in informal plenary sessions. Some developed country delegates said, however, that they would have preferred to dedicate more attention to the legal framework, pointing out that only one hour of informals is currently allocated for what they felt was an important topic.

The AWG-KP’s opening plenary was delayed by more than an hour while parties consulted informally over mandate issues and the structure and number of possible contact groups. The result – three different contact groups on Annex I further commitments considering the same two texts, was, as one delegate put it, “an arrangement that everyone can live with but no one is happy about.”

While the SBSTA and SBI continued their opening plenaries, the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA kicked into a higher gear with the commencement of contact groups and an informal plenary. Under the AWG-KP, some participants characterized the day’s deliberations as “useful but not too exciting.” Delegates spent the afternoon contact groups in largely procedural discussions on how to structure their work for the remainder of the meeting. While the “other issues” group agreed to prioritize LULUCF discussions in Bonn, the “numbers group” planned to proceed iteratively between aggregate and individual commitments. “It was a good start,” said one AWG-KP delegate, “though I’m still not sure how the ‘numbers group’ is going to move forward – we’re still looking at some pretty fundamental disagreements.”

Meanwhile, informal consultations on how to proceed with the agenda and the financial mechanism under the SBI continued throughout the day, “almost reaching agreement but just coming up short,” according to one delegate.

After its initial informal plenary session, AWG-LCA delegates were left with some food for thought regarding how to address issues and proceed after the first reading of the negotiating text. Some concerned-looking observers were heard wondering whether they would be sitting inside or outside the negotiating room when the second reading of the negotiating text begins. However, no one appeared particularly perturbed over the confirmation that the November meeting would be held in Barcelona.

On Wednesday, the corridors were filled with busy delegates who spilled out quickly after meetings, rushing to coordination groups spread throughout the Maritim Hotel. Parties had plenty to coordinate on as contact groups and informals proliferated. One delegate emerging from the “question and answer” informal in the AWG-KP emission reductions group stopped long enough to say that the informals were “elucidating.” He explained, “I don’t know if we agree any more, but at least we understand each other better.”

A number of delegates seemed to be feeling the pressure, and some voiced frustration about duplicating discussions across bodies. “Why are we still talking about adaptation in SBI when we talked about it all morning in the AWG-LCA,” sighed one delegate. “It’s time to put some of these agenda items to bed if we’re going to have the time we need in Copenhagen.”

Many delegates appeared a bit hesitant to offer opinions about progress made or lack thereof, saying that it was still too early in the game. Some were looking forward with anticipation to the AWG-LCA informals on legal form scheduled for Thursday.

The “forest club” made its first appearance today as the REDD and LULUCF discussions got underway. “What are they talking about” one bewildered observer was overheard whispering in the back of the REDD contact group. “These people speak their own language,” his colleague whispered back. Perhaps one African delegate was right in Tuesday’s AWG-KP plenary when he welcomed a specialized spin-off group on LULUCF, saying “generally speaking, those negotiators are a different breed.”


Jukka Uosukainen (Finland) and Zaheer Fakir (South Africa) stop for a quick chat before a session

Jukka Uosukainen (Finland) and Zaheer Fakir (South Africa) stop for a quick chat before a session

The atmosphere at the Maritim Hotel was lively and busy as ever on Thursday. The meeting room hosting the lunchtime technical briefing organized by the AWG-LCA Chair was standing room only. During the event, delegates from Brazil, Bolivia, China and India made presentations on historical responsibility as a guide to future action on climate change. Lively discussions followed, continuing later in the corridors and even in some negotiations, including the AWG-KP contact group on Annex I emission reductions. One observer commented that notions of historical responsibility reflect “deeply held beliefs” for some developing countries who are unlikely to “be pushed around” on the issue. Some developed country delegates, however, were heard wondering when current responsibilities would be discussed.

Some conceded that they could use a refresher course on the Convention as so many of the discussions are now centered on what is written in it – whether historical responsibility is included, and whether and how the various proposals under the AWG-LCA relate to the Convention’s provisions. “I’m glad that someone announced in yesterday’s plenary that they have some extra copies of the Convention text – the Secretariat may soon be running out of the coveted booklets.”

Later in the day, a number of delegates met in an informal group under the AWG-LCA to discuss the legal form of the outcome. Some emerging from the room afterwards seemed perplexed: “For non-lawyers, it was certainty a crash course in international law.” Others, however, were excited: “This was it! We have been postponing these discussions, but now the options are finally on the table, countries are speaking frankly about the options they prefer, and we’re starting to address some real issues,” commented one seasoned negotiator. “I wish I was following some of those issues,” commented one envious delegate, languishing in largely routine discussions under the SBs all day.

After yet another busy day, some delegates were starting to feel fatigued, including many that had attended 3-hour AWG-LCA plenary sessions every morning for five days. “It’s true that we’re finally getting into substance, and that we’ve managed to go through two very important chapters, but still, things are moving slowly,” one delegate commented, continuing: “But we had better brace ourselves for an intense second week if our aim is still to get through a second reading at this session in Bonn.”

Most delegates did not seem surprised that the second round of informal consultations on the legal form of the AWG-LCA’s outcome continued to elicit intractable positions. However, an announcement by a developing country that it was planning to present a fifth protocol proposal aimed at reflecting a broad range of views set the corridors buzzing, and caused quite a ruckus among some developing country delegations. “Where did that come from?” exclaimed one negotiator emerging from a coordination meeting. “I guess the proponents are trying to ensure that a comprehensive legally binding outcome in Copenhagen is not precluded,” said one seasoned negotiator.

Some AWG-KP delegates were in a relatively positive mood, feeling that at least some progress was being made. Others, however, felt that despite more substance being added to the discussions, positions remained polarized. Some were wondering how the new paper, expected on Saturday, calculating a collective emission reduction range based on Annex I parties’ unilateral pledges, would affect the mood. “At least it will be useful to finally see what the numbers look like when the various base years and assumptions are translated into the same language,” opined one delegate after the morning’s meeting on emission reductions.

AWG-KP negotiators in the “other issues” group were also looking to the future. Some hoped that they would start talking substance and narrowing options, after several days of running through the text and ensuring the inclusion of all proposals. “It wasn’t the exciting part, but it had to be done,” one delegate noted, adding, “If you lay a shoddy foundation, the house might crack later.”

Attempts were also made to take some battles outside the negotiating rooms, as well as build bridges between some traditional divides.

Rain and a heavy workload kept delegates inside on Saturday as the first week of negotiations drew to a close. Reflections on the progress made ran the gamut from excitement to frustration.

As mitigation discussions got going in the AWG-LCA in the afternoon, the plenary room filled with observers and senior delegates. “Even though we’re not negotiating yet, I can’t help but be a little excited,” one long-time observer noted. “We’re seeing history – the stone that will become the sculpture is right here in this room.” Some developing country delegates were less sanguine, with one stressing that although all the pillars of the Bali Action Plan are important, discussions on adaptation, finance and technology are still lagging far behind mitigation.

Outside of the plenary, forest discussions continued. While delegates seemed upbeat after the REDD informals on Friday, some were less pleased with Saturday’s deliberations, with one characterizing parts as “rehashing Poznán.” On the whole though, delegates seemed confident that the Co-Chairs would help find a way forward, as many were quick to praise their “remarkably balanced” text on such sensitive issues. Some AWG-KP delegates also gathered over coffee to chat about LULUCF issues. A number of delegates felt the discussions on some issues were “productive,” and had helped to clarify proposals such as the bar approach. “Of course, the hallways are the hallways,” one delegate noted as he finished his espresso, adding “we’ll see what happens when the full group sits down together on Tuesday.”

The week’s intensive schedule took its toll on many delegates. As the plenary hall emptied after the AWG-LCA plenary at the end of the day, some prepared for the NGO party while others struggled to summon the energy to debrief the week’s events with their delegations.

As the second week of the meeting began, many delegates were thinking about the organization of work for the remaining days of “Bonn 2”, “Bonn 3” and beyond. While the AWG-LCA completed the first reading of text related to the first three mitigation paragraphs in the BAP, some grew increasingly skeptical of the prospect of finishing the second reading of the draft negotiating text at Bonn 2 – “I don’t think we’ll finish it here, but what happens if we aren’t even able to finish it during Bonn 3?” wondered one seasoned negotiator. Despite not completing comprehensive discussions of the mitigation text during the first reading, some delegates were glad the second reading of the adaptation chapter would begin on Tuesday. “It’s progress, but until everybody’s words are on paper it’s hard to see where this thing is headed,” one delegate observed.

Indeed, getting those words on paper to meet the deadline for submitting text set by the AWG-LCA Chair for Monday evening was a key activity after-hours at the Maritim: nearly every small meeting room was filled with delegates working into the evening to prepare their textual proposals.

Under the AWG-KP, a long contact group session convened to discuss Annex I further emission reductions, with several hours of further informal discussions on the topic scheduled for Tuesday. Some characterized the atmosphere during Monday’s discussions as “quite congenial,” and parties could be seen looking relaxed and exchanging friendly banter afterwards. “But obviously, there are still no concrete numbers on the table from all parties,” one noted. Some developed country delegates also worried that the flexibility mechanisms were not being given enough attention, while others lamented what they felt was a too narrow mandate for the legal matters group.

Informal consultations were also taking place on the upcoming sessions of the AWG-LCA and other bodies, including the Copenhagen meeting itself. The side-event on COP 15, organized by Denmark during lunchtime, was well-attended.


Sergio Zelaya Bonilla (UNCCD) and Hanna Hoffmann (UNFCCC) offering a smile for the camera

Sergio Zelaya Bonilla (UNCCD) and Hanna Hoffmann (UNFCCC) offering a smile for the camera

Many delegates spent the bulk of the day in various informal consultations and contact groups, attempting to finish the SB agenda items before the closing plenaries scheduled for Wednesday. While some groups reached agreement on how to conclude their work earlier in the day, other issues required longer consideration. Discussions on issues such as REDD and non-Annex I national communications stretched into the evening. The REDD discussions culminated later in heavily bracketed draft decision text. With so many delegates happy about the first draft of the text, some expressed frustration about the “explosion of brackets at the eleventh hour.”

Informal consultations also continued under the AWG-KP throughout the day. Some delegates emerging from the negotiations introduced a new term into the corridors’ discussions: “esKPees” – which they explained refers to parties that are considering leaving the Kyoto Protocol. “I’m concerned,” sighed a seasoned developing country negotiator, “but we will be continuing discussions under the assumption that the Protocol will survive.” Many were predicting, however, that several long hours of discussions would be needed to bring AWG-KP 8 to a conclusion. “One of the major questions is how to proceed with the texts,” commented one.

Those following the AWG-LCA, in turn, seemed positively surprised by the early end to the informal plenary in the morning. Some commented that the Secretariat had done such a good job of incorporating proposals that very few people had to intervene to note omissions.

On Wednesday, the corridors and meeting rooms were once again busy with delegates attempting to complete work under the SBs. Throughout the day, informal consultations were held to finalize outstanding items, such as financial issues and arrangements for intergovernmental meetings. Agreement was eventually reached on all issues – if not in substantive terms, then at least concerning the process forward. Delegates seemed reasonably pleased with many of the outcomes, including the agreement to reconstitute the Consultative Group of Experts on Non-Annex I National Communications. However, the evening ended up being long for those following the SBI, as the closing plenary concluded just before 11 pm.

As the SBs gradually wrapped up, all eyes started shifting towards the AWGs. With textual proposals on mitigation and finance due under the AWG-LCA, the Secretariat was anticipating “another all-nighter” to incorporate the proposals in the draft negotiating text in time for the plenary discussions on Thursday.

While the AWG-KP contact group on other issues was able to wrap up its work and submit text to the AWG-KP Chair, informal consultations on emission reductions continued throughout the day with little progress reported. Some anticipated that “the real battle” over the AWG-KP conclusions was to come over the next two days. “I’m not sure whether there will be a collective decision by the parties to circulate text on proposed amendments to the Protocol – or whether we will end up with several parties submitting their individual amendment proposals,” commented one veteran. “Being a great fan of the Protocol myself, I’m worried about its future,” he added.  “We’ll start Thursday with informal consultations on the AWG-KP conclusions – and that’s when the rubber will really hit the road,” commented another seasoned negotiator on things to come.

Even after the conclusion of the SBs, the corridors of the Maritim remained busy on Thursday. Many commented that it was also “a noisy day” – throughout the morning, a loud “climate alarm” blared from NGO activists outside the hotel. Some delegates were amused and others welcomed the protest as a useful reminder of the seriousness of the issues being discussed. However, some of those working closer to the source of the noise were not so understanding: “I felt it was quite effective – if the aim was to prevent us from concentrating on our work,” one delegate half-joked.

Those following the AWG-LCA seemed already willing to reflect on the session’s achievements and the possible way forward. While some seemed puzzled by the brevity of the second week’s AWG-LCA plenary sessions, others praised the immense amount of important work that went into putting together the text, which has now grown to over 200 pages. “What we did was useful – and going through the text in an informal plenary setting, paragraph by paragraph, would not have been helpful,” said one delegate. He seemed optimistic that what might have seemed like a “short-term loss of time” could be made up for at Bonn 3. “Realistically, not much more could have been expected at this session,” another delegate added.

Outside the plenary, one of the main topics discussed in the corridors was how the AWG-KP would move forward. During the day, the form and content of the AWG-KP 8 conclusions were being worked out in a series of informal consultations with the AWG-KP Chair. For some of those emerging from final informal consultations at around 8 pm, the mood was resigned: “We couldn’t agree on a mandate for the Chair to communicate text on possible Protocol amendments, so it looks like all we’ll be asking him to do is to prepare documentation to facilitate discussions next time,” one delegate reported. “It would have been nice to forward jointly a legal text,” said another, “but it’s a negotiation, and I see why others didn’t want to.” Some were surprised that the evening’s informal AWG-KP meeting ended up being so short. One senior delegate however was happy with the early finish, saying he had been worried about having to pull an all-nighter.

Thanks to IISD Reporting Services for the above coverage. Climatico would also like to express it’s condolences to the delegation of Belarus along with the friends and family of Vladimir Tarasenko who passed away suddenly on Saturday. Tarasenko was the Head of the Delegation for Belarus and will be remembered for his valued contribution toward the UNFCCC negotiating process.

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