Warsaw Conference: Any real progress?

warsaw cop

The Warsaw conference this year once again battle lines drawn between the climate-vulnerable countries and the blocking high-emitters.

Japan announced that their emission reduction pledge would now be an increase, while Australia continued to block, based on domestic dis-interest.  Countries failed to agree on a roadmap to scale up climate finance.

Structural inequalities and geopolitical power dynamics continued to pose a blockage to a fair climate treaty.  But was there any progress?

A corporate COP: A dangerous sign?

This was the first climate change conference to be sponsored by companies.  Was this a decision to ‘save money’ or a deliberate attempt by the Polish hosts to undermine the process?

NGOs heavily criticised the decision of the Polish hosts to hold a Coal Summit in parallel with the conference.  As well as being an awful decision on the ‘PR’ front, the decision shows how little commitment Poland has on climate change. One only wonders why they were chosen to host the conference in the first place.

Poland itself subsidises coal producers with public funds, showing that they choose to commit public funds to fossil fuels, but not for climate action.

The infiltration by fossil fuel lobbyists also led to a prominent stall for the petroleum industry at the front of the exhibition centre. Was this a deliberate attempt to undermine ambition?

Meanwhile research from LSE shows that we need to leave two-thirds of fossil fuels in the ground to have ANY chance of keeping the warming to the level of 2 degrees.

Parallel meetings: A tactic to limit participation

The issue of ‘parallel meetings’ came up in the finance talks. As negotiations went on through the night, developing-countries delegates argued that Green Climate Fund discussions should not run in parallel to Long-Term Finance.  It seems to be a deliberate tactic to limit participation by developing countries.

Developing-countries delegates explained many of them had only a few delegates, and also had to deal with loss and damage.  There were only one or two delegates from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) participating in the finance discussions.

The United States deliberately tried to call for both the finance meetings (GCF and LTF) to run in parallel together.  Why?  Other countries were angry.  The EU took a compromise position, and eventually the talks were held at separate times.

Finance negotiations and the UNFCCC budget

Once again, small island states brought up the issue of the scarcity of funding for participation in UNFCCC negotiations.

However, the issue of the UNFCCC budget was side-lined from the conference. It emerged only quickly at the end, before the final text was adopted.

Fortunately, there is an invitation for the United Nations General Assembly to consider meeting the conference expenses from a regular budget.

This would be a good idea, reducing the opportunity for the climate conference to be taken over by anti-climate interests.

Lack of transparency: a growing issue

Transparency of finance for climate change was on the agenda.  Developing countries highlighted concerns that Fast Start Finance has not been transparent.

A side event by the Overseas Development Institute highlighted a lack of transparency in the finance commitments by developed countries.  Only a few organisations are able to try to track what is going on.

However, the irony is that the finance meetings themselves were also non-transparent.  Most of the important meetings went on behind closed doors so that the high-GHG-emitting blockers can represent their agenda but hide from media and NGO criticism.  Knowledge is power.

Developing countries highlighted the fact that “transparency of decision-making is very important” and that the Adaptation Fund has the highest transparency.  The Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) is mandated to review finance.  Philippines, representing G77, highlighted the importance of tracking the transparency of finance “support provided and received”.

Ultimately, countries will only have trust and confidence in the process if there is transparency about what is going on and vulnerable developing countries get support to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.   This will be a key for an effective global climate treaty in 2015.

With little progress being made at Warsaw,  responsibility for action now rests on the Climate Summit being organised by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon next year.

In the final hours of negotiations – a bit more about what’s at stake for Kiribati

Waiting waiting …

Today we are sat with David, the lawyer from the Kiritbati delegation watching the presidential addresses. Each head of state gets up on stage and delivers some carefully chosen words. Endlessly they take the stage and talk about cooperation and fighting climate change together. And while they talk the real negotiating hasn’t even started. We are still waiting for what’s called the chair’s draft text. This is a text for the agreement to be signed up to by all the countries. It is written by the chairs and then negotiated on. Once the text is produced countries will add and subtract sentences words and commas from it. They’ll add and remove brackets. They’ll bargain with each other about what stays in the text and how it’s phrased. This process is complicated and time consuming. It needs to start now.

stand up

Monday was the hardest day of the whole conference so far for us. We spent the day careering around from one place to the next trying to pull strings that we don’t have, and just generally being entirely at the mercy of the UN process. We joined the mass of a thousand or so people outside the main gate where the Danish and UN police simply weren’t letting anyone through.

When we finally got inside good news was waiting. We had started the week with a pie-in-the-sky aim of being accredited as official party delegates. Yesterday the 5 of us who have been helping Kiribati for the last week, officially became part of the Kiribati delegation. We got our Pink party badges.

This takes the Kiribati delegation numbers up to 20, a lot for a small developing island you might think….we don’t. We met with their lawyer who explained what roles everyone in the delegation has. So far Kiribati have been using us to cover negotiations and events they don’t have enough people to go to. Often the overly complex UN process means it’s not clear whether they need to be in a meeting or not – we often end up covering negotiation sessions if they don’t know whether they are relevant.

Just to illustrate their situation further, there are countries that have far fewer delegates. Mauritius have 4, El Salvador have 5. In stark comparison, the Chinese delegation has bought 232 party delegates, that’s almost one for each hour of the conference!

Either way, we know that Kiribati have felt supported in their best endeavours here at COP15. They have us when they get too tired, they have us to get to the smaller events, they have us to do research they need quickly, they have us to rely on. How must smaller delegations numbering less than 15 feel without fellow negotiators to prop each other up, and without a secondary support system like us? Alone and confused we can tell you. It’s difficult enough being out of the real world for 2 whole weeks, in a whole different country, with strangers, a lot of whom are pitted against you. It makes for a hostile, ‘every man for himself’ kind of situation on a grand scale. We realise that our pink badges are indicators of the success of UNfair play, but, and this is a big but, never has such a great and seemingly unreal moment been marred by such frustrating events.

Further to our team of 6 (now 5 as Tina has gone home) were to be 4 others who arrived at the weekend to attend the second week of negotiations, to- allow us to- achieve even more. Three of them got into the queue outside the Bella centre at 8.30 AM. Everyone inside was told that Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) would be heavily restricted come Tuesday: 7000 NGO passes were issued for Tuesday and Wednesday; 1000 for Thursday, and only 90 for Friday. Yes that’s right, 90 people will represent the whole of planet earth who aren’t Government.

Our 3 new people weren’t victim to this yet. Instead they queued for eleven hours to register and get their passes.

11 HOURS in the (literally) freezing cold.

11 HOURS without access to water.

11 HOURS without access to toilets.

11 HOURS without access to food.

And even then not all of them made it: a typo in a database somewhere meant Katy’s name didn’t exactly match the name on her passport and she was turned away.

Between us we fought and fought to get her in. Having queued in the cold for eleven hours she could hardly speak. She’d come all the way to Copenhagen to help underrepresented countries – and now she wasn’t allowed in, because of a typo. As we were standing waiting for the verdict a woman working for UN, very eloquently and calmly put in a complaint about the abhorrent conditions under which people were subjected to that day, claiming she was “ashamed to be associated with the UN”. And she was justified in her complaint; when we walked in as free men, so to speak, past what can only be described as a cage keeping back the hoards of people needing and wanting to be registered, we unanimously felt sick to the stomach and red with shame. Those of us with party badges felt we didn’t want to be here if we were part of the elite, legitimising a democratic sham.

We eventually realised that any amount of persuasive tactics was not going to work; they had had their orders ‘from the top’.

The system inside here is no longer subject to subjectivity on the part of the person you’re dealing with, or the effects of your charm on their ego. The orders from on high remind us that we are about to be in the biggest summit of the world leaders possibly ever. This is security without exclusivity; the same man who turned Katie away had turned away ministers whose names also weren’t correctly spelled. This is no joke and we are not laughing.

Kiribati: we will be the first to go

The good, the bad and the grazers

The good…

Today we’ve been busy attending, taking notes and summarising the main plenary sessions for Kiribati.  The talks have been tense and amongst the inhuman UN language there have been tears and anger from the official negotiators.  We witnessed the spokesperson from Tuvalu break down as he spoke in utter desperation to save his culture, community and livelihood.  The future of his whole country is in the hands of a few.

Watching the Alliance of Small Island States hold their press conference last night, we could feel the exhaustion in their words… the dark lines under their eyes showed how stretched the small delegations are.  They have to negotiate and hold press conferences whilst larger delegations have individuals who do nothing but rest and deliver speeches.

The bad…

The wonderful Bella Center, the host of the COP15 conference, only has a capacity of 15,000. The Secretariat, the people who keep the conference ticking over, are putting into place what’s called ‘double-badging’.  This means that as of Tuesday, we might not be allowed in anymore. So Kiribati’s already tiny team will be reduced even further.

Sound like fair play? Not really.

As of this week, only a limited number of NGO people (like us at UN Fair Play) will be allowed in. So even though we’re doing important work for a vulnrable, underrepresented country we might be left hanging around outside unable to do anything. We won’t be able attend meetings for them, take notes or summarise documents.

It’s doubly frustrating because lots of people we’ve met here aren’t even doing very much. We’ve started calling them “grazers”

They just wander around “grazing”, popping in, popping out, collecting stickers and papers and aren’t really interested in any of the negotiations… they seem to think of COP as a festival rather than the official negotiations of the most important meeting ever to exist.  So we’re angry at being bumped off the list when there are people in the conference who don’t really need to be here.

It doesn’t help our situation but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s good to moan. We’re trying hard to get round this situation.  We’ll keep you posted.

Kiribati – a call to the world

So we’ve told you a lot about the work we’ve been doing for Kiribati, and a lot about the negotiations in Copenhagen. But not very much about Kiribati it’s self. To give you sense a of the country we are working for, and how they are threatened by climate change, here is short video about Kiribati.