No Time to Lose

8 October 2009

All the talk about how little negotiating time remains before Copenhagen inspired ECO to turn to our dictionary of quotations for wisdom and guidance. Apparently 1960s British artist Andy Warhol once said:

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

This is just how ECO feels about the time available to negotiators to fulfill the promise made in the first paragraph of the Bali Action Plan:

“To launch a comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action (LCA), now, up to and beyond 2012, in order to reach an agreed outcome and adopt a decision at its fifteenth session.”

ECO wants the Copenhagen talks to get the best possible start. More than talks, it requires that political blockages around the big ticket items of Annex I emissions cuts and financing contributions be overcome.  But time cannot be made the scapegoat.

The missing ingredient this week has been political will, not time.

Former US Senator Jesse Jackson said: “Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things.” There has been no lack of opportunity for our leaders to put their minds to resolving their differences. They have met at the G8, the MEF, the G20 and at the UN Summit, and they will meet again at the COP. But no number of additional talks, either under the UN or other auspices, will make up for their failure to table an offer that negotiators can sink their teeth into.

Here in Bangkok, negotiators have clearly shown they can trim text even when their instructions prevent agreement. Imagine what they could do if they were told to deliver! If leaders deliver the mandate for a real deal in Copenhagen, that may mean extending the Barcelona session for an extra week. Or scheduling another session and continuing negotiations straight through to Copenhagen, with provision for the Haj season.

And what of the mandate required for negotiators to trim more text?

There has been general support for the work undertaken by the facilitators in preparing papers to facilitate negotiations. So, a mandate for the facilitators to produce revised negotiating texts will be an important extension of the consolidation work that has already been underway this week. Starting Barcelona with a shorter text, setting out clear options in the key areas for discussion will put the negotiations on track for Copenhagen. With a good text basis for LCA negotiations and by genuinely advancing discussions under the Kyoto track, Barcelona can be a success. For good measure and to help speed things along, maybe it is also a good idea to invite Ministers to join delegations in Barcelona.

Since dinner in Spain is not served until 11pm, Ministers would have plenty of time over tapas to starting bridging the gap.

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