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Drama Rocks Copenhagen

December 14, 2009

Severe delays and shock suspension of key discussion leaves negotiators in “massive disappointment”

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 With more than 120 heads of states and governments due to arrive in Copenhagen within the next 3 days, Monday the 14th of December marked the start of the highest level of negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and heralded the possibility of a global political or even a legally-binding agreement at COP15. However, in a shocking twist of events, the Contact group on Annex I Parties’ emissions reductions was suspended within 5 minutes of commencement.

The discussion was scheduled to start at 10AM (Danish Time). However, the lack of urgency by party delegates themselves was unmistakable – negotiators were still seen making their way into the discussion rooms at 1025AM. Coupled with administrative failures at the start of the session, there was no surprise with the 50 min delay, which constitutes more than half of the 90 minutes allocated for the important discussion. The co-chairs of the sessions were apparently in confusion themselves, being unclear about the availability of venues within Bella Centre, where negotiations have already been on-going for the past week.

In order to accommodate the huge turnout of party delegates and civil society observers, a last-minute decision was made to move hundreds of negotiators and observers into an adjacent larger room. This did not prove to be a wise decision, considering that the discussion was already engaged in a frantic race against time to set the stage for an ambitious global agreement within the next 5 days.

By the time the session started officially, it was already 1050AM.

As the first to speak, Australia sent shockwaves across the floor by requesting the co-chairs to suspend the session that has barely started, claiming that they were confused regarding the progress of the negotiations elsewhere in Copenhagen, and argued that based on their sources and latest news, the G77 and China has decided to suspend all negotiation temporarily. This motion was met immediately by fierce opposition from Micronesia, Peru, China, South Africa, India and Bolivia. Peru pressed the co-chairs to consider the pertinence of the discussion and not to waste more time, expressing dismay over a previous delay which lasted 1.5 days. The Bolivian delegation sent out a message of urgency for the discussion to resume. “There is no reason to suspend what is really the meaning behind Copenhagen”, the South American nation pleaded to the floor, in a clear reference to the specification of key emission reduction figures and timeframes for commitments to be enforced.

Sweden was the only other country which threw its support behind Australia, urging for the session to be suspended immediately in order that parties may clarify the situation and return later to resume discussions in the evening.

As the floor looks for direction on whether to continue with the session, the lack of transparency and restriction of information flow within Copenhagen become astonishingly evident as the co-chair themselves admitted to not knowing anything beyond the walls of their meeting room.

In a state of flurry and confusion, the co-chairs decided to close the session, claiming that the 20 minutes left for discussion was insufficient to secure any form of progress within the morning anyway. Instead of negotiating what are the targets to be implemented, national delegates found themselves deadlocked in a debate on whether to resume or to suspend the discussion. As the hundreds of delegates and observers took their leave from the spacious meeting room, there was a clear spirit of disappointment in the atmosphere. Currently Article 3, paragraph 1 and paragraph 1 bis alone have no clear specifications of emission targets and commitment periods. If negotiators cannot even agree on the text, what are the chances that national leaders can reach a legally-binding agreement within the next 4 days?

Right now the bracketed text remains unaltered, but time is surely ticking away in Copenhagen.

 Live from COP15,

Hu Ching

ECO Singapore

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