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Meeting in Barcelona (Spain), from 2 to 6 November, for a final preparatory session for the global climate change conference in Copenhagen (7 to 18 December), delegates from the 193 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol will have to find a way of breaking down the barriers that are blocking negotiations. "These five days are essential to guarantee success in Copenhagen," warned Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the Convention on Climate Change, at the opening of the session. "You will have to decide on simple, clear options for the policies in order to allow ministers to come to a decision in Copenhagen," said Danish Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard, chair of the Copenhagen conference. "Not next time. Here, this Friday," she insisted.

At this stage, the draft agreement has been reduced to approximately one hundred pages compiling the possible options for each of the main chapters. "We must now enter into negotiations and switch to an operational text," pleaded the United States' representative, Jonathan Pershing. It is clearly easier said than done and pressure is justifiably increasing on the US. "We need clear objectives from the US for Copenhagen; this is an important part of the puzzle," underlined de Boer. "The US cannot come to Copenhagen empty-handed," added Hedegaard, whereas some African countries are threatening to leave Barcelona if the rich countries do not reinforce their emission reduction targets. The harsh message was to be relayed to Washington by the European delegation, as of 3 November, on the occasion of the EU-US summit.

Another point of friction is the legal status of the future agreement and its binding force. The issue is far from being settled, but Pershing has already warned that, for Washington, "the commitment's constraint will be exercised at national level; the international agreement will have to reflect our collective efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions". This position is contrary to that of the EU - which, according to the mandate adopted on 30 October, wants a text that is "legally binding and immediately enforceable by all parties" (see Europolitics 3851) - and to the demands of developing countries. As of the opening of the session, Sudan, on behalf of the G77 (130 developing countries), and Grenada, for the small island states (AOSIS), reasserted the need for a "legally binding global agreement," as is Kyoto for industrialised countries. At the same time, and for the first time, Russia has come out of the woods and announced its intentions: Moscow "will support the idea of a politically binding document [...] but on two conditions," indicated Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, "that it is signed by all countries and that the likelihood of the Russian forest being used as a CO2 sink is taken into consideration ".

The main topics that have been suspended pending the unblocking of negotiations are, among others: emission reduction targets for industrialised and developing countries (except for the least developed) and how to evaluate them, consideration of forestry activities and reform of the Clean Development Mechanism. Not to mention what is undoubtedly the most thorny issue of all, namely that of financial assistance for developing countries, which is not making any progress. The issue "has little chance of being resolved in Barcelona," acknowledged de Boer, who regrets that the EU did not specify its offer on the matter and is waiting for the US to finally move forward. He recalled that US$10 billion per year should immediately be released in Copenhagen to carry out the most urgent action in developing countries, under the fast-start' programme for 2010-2013. This is an essential gesture to restore North-South confidence and give negotiations a chance: developing countries, in fact, have hardly any confidence in the unkept promises of rich countries.
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Publication:European Report
Article Type:Conference notes
Date:Nov 4, 2009

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