The Week Ahead

Last week there was much talk of elephants in the room.

Today, ECO chooses to highlight members of the cat family. The UNFCCC process is crawling forward like a timid kitten but the pace must accelerate to cheetah-like speed at once if effective actions are to be taken in Copenhagen.

The first observation on last week’s sessions is that after many weeks of “negotiations” this process can move forward. But movement is not enough. We need speed, focus and intention. And needless to say, the texts are still way too long and the steps so far are way too small.

Second, we need to see the political commitment and ambition expressed by national leaders in New York last month flowing into the text, rather than marking time and holding off the necessary steps to consolidate, clarify and consolidate yet again. ECO urges delegates to keep in mind that each step sorting through the different options steers the process either towards a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement, or towards a weak and empty deal which will get us nowhere. Every choice counts.

There is something else that needs to happen this week outside the UN Conference Centre. Heads of state and government should be clearing their calendars to attend the climate summit in Copenhagen. Their personal presence will signal that countries and leaders are willing to deliver the commitments required for a fair and effective global climate deal.

The current sad state of the discussions around finance and developed country mitigation action illustrate the very wide gap between low ambition of the offers on the table and the necessity of a high ambition outcome in Copenhagen.

This coming week is the time for negotiators to focus on accelerating their work significantly, sharpening the text and moving into full negotiations mode. To begin with, facilitators should be given latitude to consolidate text further. But there is one caution: shortening text by cutting out the ambitious options does not count as improvement at all.

Turning to the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) text in particular, ECO finds the following fresh footprints amidst the humdrum repetition of longstanding positions.

• Improvement and shortening of the technology text

• New clarity and progression in the adaptation text

• Commencement of shortening of

1(b)(ii) text

• Submission of the finance text for a round of consolidation after a positive political discussion

• Shortening and significant improvement of the REDD text

However, these are still the actions of a kitten’s hesitant forays into the bright new world. Delegates this week should start building up speed and sprinting like the cheetah with no delay.

[Article published in Climate Action Network's Eco Newspaper, Oct. 5, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand UNFCCC negotiations - full PDF version here]