In tweets: Ministers meet for last time before Doha climate change talks

By John Parnell

With the UN climate talks in Qatar just a month away, the focus will soon firmly be on Doha, but for this week at least, it is South Korea’s time in the limelight.

The country, which was narrowly beaten by Qatar for the right to host the COP18 talks, was comforting itself with the news at the weekend that it would be the venue for the Green Climate Fund’s (GCF) headquarters.

Hot on the heels of that success, the country is hosting the pre-COP18 ministerial meeting, the last chance for senior climate diplomats to debate before they break-off into their smaller negotiating alliances and head home to fix their own positions for Doha.

South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik opened proceedings in Seoul by reminding delegates of the development opportunity of addressing climate change…

Those us of hoping to glean as much information from the meeting as possible via Twitter were given a scare when the dreaded “Chatham House Rules” phrase appeared. The Rules encourage delegates to talk freely by banning the attribution of any quotes to any individual or even their affiliation.

Nevertheless, more information from Seoul continued to emerge.

EU climate action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard took the opportunity to visit the Chinese delegation in Beijing en-route to the pre-COP18 meeting.

The second period of the Kyoto Protocol (2CP) was top of the agenda in Seoul. Issues over the length of a new period of legally binding emission reductions and the debate on what to do with unused carbon credits continued. There is concern that countries will be able to use spare emission credits from the first period of the cuts, to negate further reductions in their emissions for the new round of reductions.

The first outcome of the pre-COP meeting was a roundtable on raising the ambition of the parties to the talks. There is currently an “ambition gap” between the pledged reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the depth of cuts required to limit the world to two degrees of warming, the recommended ceiling by scientists.

There were few surprises in the summary document of the talks issued by South Korean Ministry of Environment. Work on the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) negotiating track will continue as expected despite call for it closure from developed countries. Outstanding issues from it will be resolved first.

Continuity will be sought between the existing climate finance programme, which ends in December, and the next funding, likely to come from the Green Climate Fund in 2014 at the earliest.

Answers to the big questions, as always, will come at, not before the COP. The pre-COP meeting threw up no nasty surprises. There were no declarations of intent to ditch or join the second Kyoto Period emerged, the GCF continues to march along and the delicately worded framework agreed in Durban remains intact.

The absence of headline grabbing announcements in Seoul good be the best news anyone could hope for.

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