The Calm Before the Storm at the Durban Climate Talks

© Alex Stark

This guest post was written by Alex Stark who is reporting from the UN Cimate Talks in Durban, South Africa, as part of the Adopt a Negotiator program and TckTckTck.

The halls and computer stations outside of the negotiations were unusually quiet this Saturday. Many of the NGO observers headed outside for a massive march that wound through the streets of Durban, marking the Global Day of Climate Action.

Inside the ICC, the morning opened with a stocktaking plenary, where the chairs of the Kyoto Protocol and Long-term Cooperative Action negotiating tracks reviewed progress so far. LCA Chair Dan Reifsnyder presented a massive draft text weighing in at 131 pages which drew together suggestions from the different parties. He stated that negotiators are focused on seeking a "balanced, comprehensive, and robust outcome" here in Durban, and promised a revised draft on Wednesday.

There is still a great deal of ambiguity on the issues under discussion here, and while most agree that a Durban package outcome is within reach, few agree on what such a deal might look like. The small amount of movement over the past week indicates that the second week of COP17 will be particularly intense, with a comprehensive deal and complete collapse seeming equally possible.

On the Kyoto Protocol and long-term treaty issues, its still unclear whether negotiators will be able to agree on some sort of second commitment period for Kyoto parties, and even the ideal outcome, a formal amendment agreeing to a second commitment period, may not go into effect until 2013, leaving a gap after the first commitment period expires in 2012. On a mandate for another treaty, the United States seems to be sticking to a 2020 timeline, with the condition that emerging economies like China and India being equally legally bound with developed countries. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists' Alden Meyer, AOSIS' proposal to get a mandate for a new agreement within 12 months has been excluded from negotiating texts due to US objections.

On implementing the various commitments made last year in Cancun, progress is more variable. Work on drafting for various technical issues continues today, and rumors say that the texts on REDD and adaptation are the furthest along. Agreement on standing up a new Green Climate Fund is still possible, although there are a range of concerns from countries from the US to Bolivia that will be tough to reconcile. Word is that the US is still being obstructive of conversations around long-term sources of finance, such as a global shipping levy, and lead US negotiator Jonathan Pershing said on Friday that "we believe that the ideas about how a country chooses to raise money and how it puts it forward are a matter for determination by each country." He also stated that he expects work on the finance Standing Committee to accelerate this weekend.

On Monday, the negotiations kicked into high gear as high-level ministers from countries around the world will start to arrive here to take on the toughest issues still on the table. There is still a great deal of work left to do, and their diligence will determine whether or not COP17 can be deemed a success.

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Science | Global Warming Solutions

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