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May 09 interview with a negotiatior

Email Interview about UNFCCC

(the interviewee, who wishes to remain anonymous, has intimate and long-term knowledge of the UNFCCC negotiations)

May 2009

1. What is “broken” about the UNFCCC negotiations?

I don’t think that the UNFCCC negotiations are broken.  I think they are fairly typical of the post-WWII UN international law-making process.  Bringing nearly 190 sovereign states to consensus on issues that are highly politicised due in large part to their economic importance (yes, it’s an environmental treaty), is a slow and quite often frustrating process, but we don’t have any real alternatives at this point.

2. Who or what is to blame for it being broken?

Please see my answer to 1. above.  If anything is to ‘blame’ for the lack on progress in the UNFCCC negotiations, we might want to look to the international law-making process.  Our world and global relations have changed fundamentally since 1949, and even since 1992 when the UNFCCC was agreed.  For one thing, in many ways the UNFCCC negotiations are stuck with a paradigm that was created on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the agreement to establish a World Trade Organisation, as a result of these and other contemporaneous events, there has been a real paradigm shift.  Nevertheless, in many ways we continue to negotiate using the paradigm that was relevant in 1992 – and many countries use this to their advantage, but is it real and will it produce the right results?

3. If we gave you a magic wand, how would you fix it (don’t say “by magic”!)

Barring a complete shift in the international order (which might be a bit ‘by magic-ish’), I’d

a) abolish the G77 and China and break the group up into smaller groups aligned along vulnerability and responsibility lines;

b) make the US a party to the Kyoto Protocol; and

c) remove any mention of ‘response measures’ from the Convention and the KP.

4. What would the shape of a global deal look like if AOSIS was in charge/what is AOSIS pushing for?

Very briefly: All Annex I countries would agree to a 45% reduction in GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2020 and a 95% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.  The emerging emitters would take on voluntary targets which would phase to mandatory targets over time.  An insurance / risk management / compensation mechanism would be established as part of a larger financing mechanism which is free of the tyranny of the Bretton Woods institutions.  An adaptation framework with an institutional home in the Convention would be established.

5. What are the current and future climate impacts for small island states?

To name a few:

Sea level rise;

Coral bleaching;

Ocean acidification;

More frequent extreme weather events (e.g. droughts, floods, cyclones);

Salinisation of the water table;

Loss of culture and traditional livelihoods;

Loss of land for agriculture and other economic and social uses;

Forced migration.

6. What are the likely scenarios for Copenhagen- an expanded Bali Action Plan, a weak deal, a bis meeting?

If the two tracks (AWG-KP and –LCA) stay separate, I think that there is a possibility that the AWG-KP discussions will continue beyond Copenhagen, which could mean that the 1(b)(i) text under the AWG-LCA remains open.  A bis meeting would allow the COP to meet and decide on something in 2010 before December of that year.  I do believe that there will be enough political pressure for some form of outcome at Copenhagen, so likely an expanded Bali Action Plan (see the just released AWG-LCA Chair’s text), but maybe with some bits missing around comparable efforts on Annex I mitigation.

7. What would you like to see climate activists interested in the international negotiations focussing their energies on?

Well informed support of vulnerable country positions, rational lobbying of relevant government officials, accurate reporting of negotiating results which is accessible to society at large.

8. What would you like to see “ordinary people” doing on climate change?

Understanding what the problem is all about and why it affects them.  Being curious enough to find out what they might be able to do about the problem – and what government needs to do.  Taking advantage of the rights that are available to them (e.g. voting; freedom of and access to information; participation in environmental decisionmaking; access to justice) to inform their representatives in Parliament (UK and EU) and Government (both at the federal level and at local levels) of their demands for action.  Taking voluntary steps to organise citizen’s groups to tackle the problem locally.

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