Lawyers can’t, can we?

8 July 2011

Lina Li
Shanshui Conservation Center

I landed in Maritim Hotel- first time here building on previous mixed (both sweet and bitter memories) COP experience in Copenhagen and Cancun, with two big questions in my head:
1. How can we pursue the extension of Kyoto Protocol, the second commitment period of the ('KP CP 2')?
2. How can we avoid a 'gap' between the first and the second commitment period?

After doing some homework of reading the secretariat technical paper and other relevant lectures, I thought, “aha, lawyers seem to already offer some answers!”
We have a basket of choices among a treaty, two protocols, amendment plus a protocol, COP decisions, or political agreement; we also have provisional arrangements to deal with the gap (considering ratification would most probably take beyond 2012).

To further explore the full answers, I joined in the legal working group of CAN.
The two weeks of the climate talks were filled with energy and deliberations to dig into the legal group's work — intensive meetings and discussions within the working group and beyond, plenaries, contact groups, informals, rumors in corridors, bilaterals, media relations and briefings…It turned out that lawyers can't answer my questions, simply because they are political in nature rather than simply legal; the choices are in the hands of the politicians and negotiators. And we can and should make them make the right ones.

What is the right choice? KP CP2!
What's so good about it?
– the top down architecture that hold parties accountable
– the quantitative emission reduction targets
– the rules and infrastructure of institutions for MRV
– flexible mechanisms for cost effective solutions

The list could go quit long here, bearing in mind it is way far from a perfect system!

And an even more powerful answer is to see what would happen if we don't have a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol?
To quote a respectful experienced colleague who has followed the negotiations for over a decade, “everything in the negotiation will probably shut down and it is the END of the game.” This might sound a little scary and it actually is! If we lose the regime, it will take us another many decades to get another one!

Being in the negotiations seeing countries finger pointing to each other and sticking to their own interest (some are poorly self-defined), I am constantly reminded that we are living in an imperfect world. But that's not stopping us from making the best out of it and building for a better one. We just need a bit more wisdom and bravery. By we, I mean everyone here in Maritim– especially those wearing pink country representative badges!
This CAN Southern Capacity Building fellowship, as expectedly cool, exiting and challenging as it is, really gave me a wonderful two weeks in Bonn, with chances to observe, learn and OWN the participation and CONTRIBUTE to influence the UN climate talks. With my knowledge growing, I am also able to share more with my Chinese colleagues, and transfer the knowledge and experience here to the policy-working group of CCAN.
Bonn is the start point as SCB fellow, while a long way to go, I will keep on tracking my topics, working with my colleagues in the legal working group of CAN, interacting with other SCB fellows and the experts we've met, and more importantly, I will keep up the policy work (for both domestic climate legislation and policies, and international works e.g. COP 17 and Rio +20) together with other Chinese NGO colleagues, building our capacity, and enhancing our impact.

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