Chris Wright is a climate researcher and activist from Australia. He has been following the UN climate talks in Bangkok negotiations on behalf of Adopt a Negotiator. Below is his review of the the past few days – as he tries to peer through the mists and fog and establish exactly what everyone is talking about.
By Chris WrightÂ
Jonathan Pershing (USA): â€śIn this forum, we donâ€™t highlight the capacity which we donâ€™t agree, we highlight where we agree and let the rest be silent.â€ť
Burhan Gafoor (Singapore): “We need to think not just agree to agree, but agree to disagree, but at this point we are disagreeing about what we disagree about.”
Khalid Abuleif (Saudi Arabia): “I think we need to consider a space to agree to disagree.”
Yesterday was certainly an interesting day in the UNFCCC. And if you can understand the quotes above, youâ€™re doing better than me.
But in many ways, it may be seen as a microcosm of the broader divides that were â€ścrystallisedâ€ť in the stock taking plenary of the Ad-Hoc Working GroupÂ on Long-term Cooperative Action.Â As you may haveÂ read, the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action is due to close in Doha at the end of the year.
In actual case, it was due to close last year, but was extended this year to deal with ongoing issues involved in streamlining all the discussions, or â€śthe workâ€ť, as negotiators like to call it, in order to figure out if there is more â€śworkâ€ť needed in the future (that would be â€śworked onâ€ť in the Durban Platform one of manyÂ standing committees).
At this stage, looks like thereâ€™s more â€śworkâ€ť
The AWG-LCA was given a mandate in theÂ 2007 Bali Climate Change ConferenceÂ toÂ undergo a â€śnew, comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2012, with the aim of reaching an agreed outcomeâ€ť.
And asÂ Bernarditas MĂĽller, lead negotiator for the Philippines andÂ G77 +China coordinator for the AWG-LCA (pictured right) highlighted yesterday, â€śan agreed outcomeâ€ť has not yet been reached. While she later noted that â€śno-one in here wants closure on the LCA as much as I doâ€ť she also hammered home the fact that there was still â€śmuch work to be done on the means of implementation,â€ť and that this was a critical aspect of the LCA discussions that developing countries feel has been left out.
These comments were supported by China and a swathe of other developing nations early on in yesterdays plenary, as a heated debate ensued between developed and developing parties. In response, Australia, the EU and the US hammered home the fact that they were unwilling to compromise on extending the LCAâ€™s life-span, and while euthanasia is illegal in Australia, it was time to take it off life-support.
In the end, everybodyâ€™s favourite former tash-taming AWG-LCA chair highlighted, â€śall parties wanted closure of the LCAâ€ť but also that in yesterdayâ€™s debates â€śwe have crystallized the divisionsâ€ť within the UNFCCC.
This then lead into one of the strangest exchanges I have ever seen (pictured above) between a number of parties who seemed to be arguing over whether the UNFCCC has the capacity to â€śagree to disagreeâ€ť. At this stage, things got a little confusing, but the debates raised some interesting points.
As Jonathan Pershing (or J.P as I like to call him) highlighted in yet another thrillingly patronizing lecture on the history of the UNFCCC, which included a strange new US interpretation of â€śCommon But Differentiated Responsibilityâ€ť and â€śFairnessâ€ť that has nothing to do with equity, but also included a momentary insight -Â that there is no space within the UNFCCC to â€śagree to disagreeâ€ť.
In historic J.P style, this was meant to close the door on this idea. But as my new muse has so often done this week, he opened a new door in my mind.
So J.P, Why canâ€™t we agree to disagree in the UNFCCC?
As Khalid Abuleif, the Saudi Arabian negotiator who was also â€śinspiredâ€ť by Pershingâ€™s comments highlighted, if we donâ€™t have a safe space to agree to disagree, the same issues keep coming up and up again, 20 years later. And then we just go round and round the merry-go-round that weâ€™re currently on. On one level, it might help to progress a number of issues that are currently holding up the negotiations, including the fact, that no-one knows whatâ€™s going on in the AWG-LCA.
In any case, as the Mr. Aysar Tayeb AWG-LCA chair highlighted, â€śthere is a lot of work to be done over the next 2 daysâ€ť â€“ unfortunately, Aysar wasnâ€™t talking about re-growing that tantalizing tashâ€¦
Will they agree to agree on disagreement? Or disagree for agreementâ€™s sake? Do they even know what this means?
I donâ€™t know, and I donâ€™t think they do either. But I thought I would ask an old friend of mine, Donald Rumsfeld on what he thought was going to happen in the LCA over the next two days.
Here was his response.
The blog first appeared on the Adopt a Negotiator website and has been reposted with the author’s permission. You can follow Chris in Bangkok here.