Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Aliens Sighted at the US Briefing

Aliens (avaaz.org)  showed up to the US briefing for ENGOs and youth – carrying signs “Take Me to Your Bunker Finance” and “Take me to your Real Deal.”  And the room, after being changed twice, was filled to capacity with over 300 people, many sitting on the floor.

Jonathan Pershing was the spokesperson for the briefing, and he started by assuring us that over the weekend many groups met, and there was a general consensus that nearly all of the Parties would like to see an outcome. There is a broad sense that something should happen.  At the same time he acknowledged that there were lots of brackets (for text under dispute) in the draft texts. There are many overarching problems concerning what kinds of actions countries will take, the types and scale of financing, and what kind of reviews the countries will submit to. There is much debate about the details and wording.  “Should” or “May”? And for adaptation, should it be for the most vulnerable countries? Or the most vulnerable people in countries?  At this point, there’s no resolution on many of these points.

There have been increasing numbers of discussions about the Kyoto Protocol, to which the U.S. is not and will not be a party. Many countries don’t want to let go of the KP without knowing what it will be replaced with, and they also want to know that the U.S. will be engaged in any new agreement.

Some of the concerns have been about rules and procedures, particularly Rule 42. Some parties are hoping that we should have a voting mechanism in the process – but to make that change we would require a consensus, which seems unlikely.

There has been a lot of interest in long term financing, with wide ranges of 1.5 to 4% of GDP or $50-800 billion dollars suggested by the LDC.  Pershing pointed out that budgetary processes and legislative realities will not lend themselves to commitments on those scales.

A central issue is verification of emissions reductions.  Pershing was concerned that China, India, and Brazil have all released statements regarding intensity numbers and deforestation, but most of those announcements have been in press releases and not part of the agreements that we are seeking.
Another area of concern is with the bunker fuels. Here, Pershing specifically said that it seems unlikely that we will be able to get legislation that allows for fees from bunker fuel use. One of the problems would be that Congress would see it as a tax without due process exacted by a foreign body. Another problem is that the current proposals would only apply the fees to developed countries.

A representative from the Center for Biological Diversity asked about the emissions targets that the United States has put forward, with a starting point of less than 4% of 1990 levels. Pershing explained that the end result is still 80% by 2050, which is in line with both current Congressional proposals and with IPCC. Even that would require extraordinary efforts and would be a very aggressive rate of change.  At the end of the day, our rate of decline will make up for the slower start, and we will end up with numbers that are huge and will have a huge effect.

Today, Al Gore spoke to the UNFCCC, along with Prince Charles and the U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon. Hillary Clinton will come in tomorrow, ahead of Obama. Meanwhile, Obama has been calling different leaders of vulnerable countries. More than 100 presidents and prime ministers will begin making 3-minute presentations tomorrow.

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