Day 10 – Breaking news from COP17

By Tierney Smith, John Parnell and Ed King
RTCC in Durban

Welcome to Responding to Climate Change’s live coverage of COP17 in Durban. Our team of Ed King, John Parnell and Tierney Smith will keep you updated on the talks all day as the high level segment continues

You can contact our team in Durban via email or through Twitter. Check our interviews at the UNFCCC Climate Change Studio analysis from delegates, diplomats and ministers.

Thursday, December 8

1930 (GMT+2)

We’re retreating to recharge our batteries, ahead of tomorrow’s final assault. Clear from atmosphere in ICC there are major talks afoot, and signs of a deal in a number of key areas.

-The Green Climate Fund appears to be on the brink of completion. One source says it is a done deal, two say the final details are being thrashed out this evening

-There is mounting speculation that China has cemented its offer to begin talks on a future globally binding deal

-Collaboration between the EU and the LDCs, and between the EU and the G77 has led to speculation that a deal in Durban could be more significant than previously thought. The sensitivity of the talks has made it tricky to confirm with the Parties involved

1925 (GMT +2)

@rtcc_edking: Just back from Brazilian press conference. Nothing major to report, and no comment on Green Climate Fund. Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo said it was “highly probable that some of us would not sleep tonight” due to ongoing negotiations, but that there was “convergence” on a number of issues he would not be drawn on.

1824 (GMT +2)

@rtcc_tierney: Fossil of the Day just announced. New Zealand third, joint second for Japan, Russia and Canada and in first place…the US. You can work out why for yourself I’m sure.

1816 (GMT +2)

@rtccnewswire: Update on Green Climate Fund, two independent sources say that the text is being finalised.

1806 (GMT +2)

@rtcc_john: There’s still lots of talking to do and we are pressing for a second source on these developments.

More from Samantha Smith, WWF: “China is putting more detail on the table. They put their initial proposal on the table in a meeting with NGOs on Sunday, it was rather detailed then. But when they were in the informals and in press conferences they were not giving a detailed proposal. My impression is that other countries have now come back to them with different offers and that is moving the process along, that is why everyone is running around. It’s also because some groups of countries, the G77 and also Brazil have been working on texts. Some of these textual proposals are coming out and all of a sudden everyone is saying ‘ok, we could have in agreement here’.”

1758 (GMT +2)

@rtcc_john: More speculation on the showfloor surrounding moves by the EU and the LDCs. Samantha Smith, Leader Global Climate & Energy Initiative has just told me: “There are some very interesting constellations developing between Brazil and the G77 and the EU, and between the LDCs and the EU. What we may see emerging is a situation where most of the BASIC countries are moving and are agreeing to take on a process for a legally binding agreement while the US is left standing there with nothing.”

1725 (GMT+2)

@RTCCnewswire We are hearing the Green Climate Fund may have been signed off. Just one source and need to check on this. Off to Brazil press conference in 35 mins…

1715 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: I’m hearing Brazil and China have given more detail on their terms for a binding deal….Chinese have cancelled meetings with NGOs – figures for deal on emission cuts are being discussed.

1700 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking: Aussie press conference latest to be cancelled. Fairly standard in high level negotiations, but tension increases.

1655 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: In their first COP, the minister from newly formed South Sudan says the country is willing to develop a productive environment if it is assisted. Mr. Alfred Lado Gore said: “South Sudan is only five months old. One can not expect a child of that age to do much without some help.”

1649 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: Solomon Island minister speaks of his country which has been a story for two decades – experiencing sea level rise and extreme flooding. He said: “We we depart from Durban with a balanced outcome. I believe we can” but it depends on strong leadership from Annex 1 and big emitters, “responsibility comes with accountability”.

1630 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking: Our reporter Daniel Schweimler went along to the EU press conference this afternoon only to find it cancelled. No explanation given.

1628 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: Minister from Togo says “we run the risk of ending all life on our planet” if climate change is not addressed.

1620 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: Minister of Environment and Tourism of Namibia tells the delegations that the country saw temperatures of 47.7 degrees Celsius this year – never seen before in October.

She said COP17 must put into operational the Cancun agreements and resolve outstanding issues and that the mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol must be preserved – “a cornerstone of our efforts of fighting climate change” – but said ambitions should be raised.

On the topic of the Green Climate Fund she said countries like Namibia needs reliable funds for adaptation as well as affordable technology transfer.

1610 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: Farhad Bakhtiar, advisor to HE Maria Mutagamba, Ugandan Minister of Water & Environment

“We are working very hard. Africa is working and talking with one voice and that is going to be a very strong voice. We want – not to save – but to keep the Kyoto Protocol. It’s the only tool we have that is binding. Unfortunately the countries of Annex I have left us. We are working with the EU on Kyoto. If we don’t get a second commitment period we want to maintain the institutions of Kyoto [like CDM]. We also want a binding agreement that is within our reach with common but differentiated responsibilities.We also want to sort the Green Climate Fund. Today it is not an empty shell, at the moment the shell doesn’t even exist. We need to create this shell and appoint a board of governors.

“Africa is flexible. Our bottom line is that we want a binding obligation and we are not going to budge on that. we are ready to sign a common binding agreement with CBDR. the developed economies have messed up the climate and they cannot tell us to come and fix it. we will do our best.

“I believe Durban will be a success I am very optimistic. Everyone should make an effort. Climate change is a global problem. It’s not easy to put 194 nations in one room and make them agree. Even a family of two children and two parents will disagree on different subjects.

“But tomorrow, will be very late.”

1605 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: An NGO interpreter has just told me that his job and that of his colleagues is getting harder by the day. People are seeking to cram more into their allotted time slots and have been talking faster and faster! He also says one or two meetings he has worked in have started to become more heated, but generally, people keep their tempers and are, for the large part, working through problems amicably.

1600 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: Minster of Nature Protection from Turkmenistan said the Kyoto Protocol has been “gaining strength” over recent years and therefore it must continue after its first commitment period. He also said on all areas, from GCF to REDD+, countries must “compromise” and come up with a “general consensus”.

1555 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: One party delegate asked to comment by RTCC on his way into the main plenary simply smiled and gestured a zip across his lips.

1545 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: Turkey say they “were determined to do its part in a post 2012 regime”.

1540 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: The minister from Nicaragu said the world needs to show “saving the planet has at least the same priority as bailing out the banks”. He said the country could not wait and have been fighting long and hard for the Green Climate Fund which must be more than a fund which contains no funds.

1535 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking: Student who was kicked out of Todd Stern’s presser today has just given her side of the story….Abigail Borahou from New Jersey said “You must set aside partisan politics and let science dictate decisions.  You must pledge ambitious targets to lower emissions not expectations.  Citizens across the world are being held hostage by stillborn negotiations. We need leaders who will commit to real change, not empty rhetoric.  Keep your promises. Keep our hope alive. 2020 is too late to wait.”

1530 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking: After being blown out by Team USA and Todd Stern, who cunningly changed the press conference time from 1430 to 1230, I do at least have some quotes from Mr Stern to offer you all…

On misconceptions over the USA: “It’s nonsense to suggest that what we are doing is proposing a kind of hiatus in dealing with climate change until after 2020.  So, I just wanted to make that clear because, after I heard it about the fourth or fifth time in the last few days, and again I’ve heard this from everywhere from ministers to press reports to the very sincere and passionate young woman who was in the hall when I was giving my remarks. What the U.S. has been doing over the last two years, with all due respect, has been showing the leadership necessary to try to drag this process into the 21st century.”

On need for future research: “There is a review called for in Cancun from 2013 to 2015.  It may be in light of that review, certainly part of the theory of that review was to be able to take stock kind of midway into the, into this Cancun period, if you will, to see in light of the new science, in light of not just that review but the review that the report — the assessment report that’s going to come out from the IPCC — whether there should be efforts to increase what’s already being done.”

Backing a carbon price: “It is a very good thing to have those fossil fuel sources priced the way they ought to be, to have a price on carbon.  That’s what we were trying to do with our legislation, it didn’t pass, but that kind of legislation obviously is in place in Europe, and hopefully it will come into place more and more.”

Cheap shot – taking credit for Kyoto (!): “We were quite instrumental in writing the compliance measures that ended up being in Kyoto.”

On USA taking tough measures: “The strongest kind of compliance (which) is compliance at the national level.  Thanks very much, folks.”

15:25 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: Chris Huhne begins with a little poetic language: “Against the dark sky we must summon the strength to create a brighter future.” Says climate change is a matter of life and death in Africa and that the UK stands behind Kyoto and a second commitment period – although goes on to say more countries must sign up to a roadmap to a wider agreement, without which the UK will not agree agree second commitment for Kyoto.

1510 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: Minster of External Relations of Brazil said a new commitment of the Kyoto Protocol must have “increased ambition and environmental integrity. She also said Durban was the “last chance” to prevent a gap between agreements and a decision must be reached by the end of the week.

1450 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: At their press conference following the protest by one of the groups delegates against the US in the plenary session this morning, the SustainUS youth group called the American attitude to climate change “anti-science, bad for youth and unacceptable.

They said: “We ask ourselves as youth how have we been duped into this message of hope and the message that things can change.”

They also used the conference to say that 2020 is too late and called for ambitious action before this date.

1430 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: Hannah McKinnon from Climate Action Network spoke to RTCC about the critical position of the negotiations in the final two days. While saying the discussions underway at the conference were still too close to call she remains positive that some decisions can be reached here in Durban.

She said: “It is a critical moment to remind the politicians of the urgency and do a bit of a warning call that if we fail to deal with serious ambition gaps that are on the table right now and fail to make sure that some key issues like finance are dealt with we are going to be locking ourselves into a world where the degree of global warming become unmanageable.

“So certainly the stakes are high and the decision right now have been past to the higher political levels and we don’t want to speculate yet how the chips will fall but we certainly think there is potential for a good outcome but only if ministers really recognise the need for political leadership here and now to ensure we get a positive outcome.

“With the absence of political leadership, yes we will be on to track for something none of us really want to think about.”

1355 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: Annie Petsonk from the Environment Defense Fund explains the three options on the table being considered by governments for the legal form as a result from the negotiations.

Option 1: A new protocol that would sit alongside the Kyoto Protocol – covering adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer and finance etc. Negotiations for such a commitment would start next year and be adopted by COP18 to COP21 (two to four years).

Option 2: A commitment at this meeting to negotiate a legally binding outcome or instrument. This is a much vaguer and softer outcome with no deadline in the negotiating mandate so no timetable for concluding the work.

Option 3: A series of decisions coming out of Durban about next steps.

Speaking at the Climate Action Network International daily briefing Petsonk said: “For many of you who have been following these negotiations for a number of years will know that we have had series of decisions…There is nothing like a legally binding commitment and a timetable for getting that commitment done.”

1335 (GMT +2)

@rtcc_john: The Environmental Minister for Barbados calls for “selfless” work in Durban. “Response must relate to the gravity of the situation we face.” He also re-iterates the importance of the two degrees warming limit and calls for a second commitment period of Kyoto. He says the two degrees goal should dictate countries’ Cancun pledges. “The window of opportunity for action is closing.”

And with that, the first half of today’s main plenary also closes. Next session starts at 1500 (GMT +2) and will include Brazil, UK, Netherlands, Tonga and the world’s newest country, the Republic of South Sudan.

1318 (GMT +2)

@rtcc_tierney: Nina Jamal, IndyAct: “The loopholes on the table are so large that they could negate most of the reductions pledged by the developed countries and undermine the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol.”

Those loopholes include: Pollution permits carried over from KP1, forest projects which allow country’s to “hide emissions” and there’s a danger that offsets from work by developed countries in developing countries, could appear in the carbon accounting of both parties.

Jamal said these loopholes must be closed before an agreement is reached.

1302 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: Casual bombshell from Russia at the end of their speech. They oppose hosting COP18 in Qatar because of “egregious violation of the Russian Ambassador in that country”. They propose switching to South Korea.

1259 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: Russia’s turn now. They note Russia’s role in getting Kyoto rolling. However: “Kyoto does not combat climate change without two key emitters…Russia will take no quantative action in the second commitment period.” They also call for a review of certain country’s status as ‘developing’. No specific names though. Here’s some from me; Singapore, UAE, Qatar…

1256 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking: From Connie Hedegaard on twitter: “This is the EU’s firm position: 2015 is enough time for those who are not ready to commit. Why further delay?”

1244 (GMT +2)

@rtcc_tierney: The Commissioner from the Philippines points out the infrastructure costs associated with extreme weather events. On The Green Climate Fund, she says its less about how much and more about good faith and calls for the short-term economic situation to not be used as an excuse.

1241 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: The Minister from Saudi Arabia takes the floor. Not the Environment Minister but the Petroleum Minister.

1236 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking: Not much of note from Stern once the drama subsided, we’ll be covering the US press conference later today. Will hopefully get more idea if there is any progress on their side then. Breaking lines from that on twitter.

1221 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: Dramatic scenes as Todd Stern approaches the rostrum. Protester stands up and yells into the audience. Heard to make out but I heard the phrase “you must sign the treaty”. The Chair and Stern allowed her to shout for around 30 seconds. The Chair then interrupted and said “no one is listening to you”. She shouted a little longer before stopping. Spontaneous applause started in the hall. The Chair said “Mr Stern, this applause is for you”. Unclear whether it was, or whether it was solidarity with the protester. Stern opens with a joke, “wow, this is the most enthusiastic audience I’ve ever had”.

1216 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: Greek Environment Minister compares his country’s economic crisis with climate change: “We in Greece borrowed beyond our means to service our debts, just as we are emitting more than our atmosphere can cope with. We saddled our children with debts, just as we borrow atmospheric capacity from future generations.”

1208 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: Kiribati’s Environment Minister has compared the struggle of Small Island States facing up to climate change with that of Nelson Mandela.

1158 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: Every delegate has praised the hosts at the start of their address. It’s worth pointing out that the “Indaba” meetings, a Zulu form of open, community democracy, have gone down well. In the context of the COP they have been used to promote open, informal discussions. The COP17 President has also been praised for the openess of the talks. Less closed doors than previous COPs.

1149 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking: Nice turn of phrase from Ugandan Minister, “Climate change will not go into hibernation”. She was reprimanded for going over the strict three minute time slot though!

1134 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_john: UK Minister Greg Barker has tweeted “Very sober atmosphere at EU Umbrella meeting, real determination not to budge on KP2 without clear roadmap 2 Global deal”. If that is the case, we are likely to be relying on flexibility from the emerging economies if we are to have any progress with Kyoto 2.

1105 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_tierney: RTCC spoke to the lead Dutch Negotiator, Mass Goote, while he did not give much away, he did say it was unlikely a new agreement would come out of Durban, but positives steps could still be taken putting in place the pathway to a new legally binding agreement.

He said: “We have to have a clear roadmap of where we are going as a global community, not just the Kyoto Parties. It is clear that we cannot agree on a new treaty here but we have to have the security and the perspective is we are going to work towards something in that sense.

“In the meantime, and that is what we have been saying as the EU all along, the issues and the instruments of the Kyoto Protocol remains important, there dear to our hearts so we have to find a sensible and effective combination of the elements of Kyoto and the clear unambiguous agreement of a roadmap of where we are going.”

He also said positive steps were being taken on the sidelines, particularly looking at the Green Climate Fund.

“I am optimistic that we can take that step. A lot of the work has been done by the transitional committee, parties here are embracing that I think that is important. We have to operationalise that fund as soon as possible and I think again the issue around that fund will be a crucial element of success here in Durban this week.”

Watch the full interview here.

1025 (GMT +2)

@rtcc_john: Update on the fast-start finance talks. Developed nations have said it is “discouraging” to receive so little credit for their efforts. An argument is brewing over transparency as well. The same developed countries mentioned above are looking for one particular paragraph on transparency to be deleted from the text they are putting together on the subject.

0945 (GMT +2)

@rtcc_edking: Is there a buzz around the ICC? I’m not convinced. It almost seems more lethargic. The BBC’s Richard Black writes today about a ‘lack of urgency’ around COP17, similar sentiments to those of Rajendra Pachauri last week. We have four possible roadmaps on the table, while this morning’s Earth Negotiations Bulletin (the climate talks version of Hansard) reports on a legion of amendments states have tabled to the various proposals. More on those later today.

0927 (GMT +2)

@rtcc_john: Welcome to the tenth day of COP17 and the fourth day of the high-level segment. The level of frenzy in the halls is starting to increase as negotiators begin to work down to their final hand.

There was good news yesterday on the Green Climate Fund with both the EU and the US suggesting that negotiations on the proposed $100bn financing tool entering the final stages.

The second period of commitment on Kyoto remained unclear with the EU telling the US and China to stop playing a “ping-pong blame game“.

Meanwhile the Island States sought to put the negotiations back in context telling the main plenary sessions that action was need to avoid “climate genocide“.

As the talks fragment into bi-lateral meetings and water-cooler negotiations, we’ll keep track of the biggest stories throughout the day. We’ll also provide analysis on the talks from NGOs, negotiators and other conference delegates.

At 1230 (GMT +2) @rtcc_edking will host our live webcast on from the showfloor as we look to find out what’s going on behind closed doors.

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