The latest round of climate talks last weekend in Bonn, Germany ended with agreement to…talk some more. But simply remaining at the table is something of a victory, as the divide between developed and developing countries and the politics of power overshadow the important work that is needed for global progress on mitigating climate change. Negotiators agreed to two additional meetings in order to prepare for the next Conference of Partners talks scheduled for November in Cancun, Mexico.
There are already attempts to temper expectations around the next major conference. The Associated Press quotes departing head of the UN climate secretariat Yvo de Boer: ”We should not be striving to get answers to each and every question in Cancun. The quest to address climate change is a long journey, and achieving perfection takes practice.” The Guardian quotes De Boer’s pessimistic response to emission reduction pledges so far: “They are nowhere near adequate. Industrialised countries must raise the level of their ambition.”
Meanwhile, the chief U.S. negotiator insisted that the Copenhagen Accord be accepted wholesale, without “cherrypicking” elements of the Accord. Jonathan Pershing confirmed that countries that did not sign on to the Accord will not receive funding from the U.S. Global Climate Change Initiative. The US State Department stated that Bolivia and Ecuador, which opposed the Copenhagen Accord and were to have received $3 million and $2.5 million from the fund, now will not receive the monies. Bolivia’s President Evo de Morales is hosting some 7,500 delegates from 100 countries at an alternative People’s World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights in Cochabamba on April 20-22.
In Bonn there was continued resentment expressed by some parties over the “take it or leave it” Copenhagen Accord that was engineered in the last hours of the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen last December. Countries such as India and China argue that the Accord has not been adopted by the full UN and that the goals and pledges on emissions reductions received so far are insufficient.
Against this backdrop, the Guardian released the text of a memo supposedly found on a photocopier of a European hotel, which outlines the Obama adminsitration’s key communications strategies in the coming months leading up to the Cancun climate change negotiations. While most of the memo is standard PR drill, including: use more social media, reach out to key stakeholders, and “manage expectations for Cancun.” One objective reads: “Reinforce the perception that the US is constructively engaged in UN negotiations in an effort to produce a global regime to combat climate change.” (One would hope it was more than a perception of engagement?) Another objective emphasizes that the entire Copenhagen accord must be “operationalized.” This reinforces the U.S.’s “all or nothing” approach to pushing through the agreement engineered in Copenhagen.
A revised Climate bill is expected to be announced in the U.S. Senate early next week in time for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22. If we thought the Bonn talks were rancorous, just wait until some Senators start in on climate change.
Photo: Retreat of the Gangotri Glacier
NASA image by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory; based on data provided by the ASTER Science Team. Glacier retreat boundaries courtesy the Land
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