We Need an Umpire: From UNFCCC Climate Negotiations to the World Cup

Bonn, Germany ⎯ At the end of the two-week climate change negotiations in Bonn, nation groups stood up and expressed their frustration with the 22-page draft text put forward.

The G77 (representing 130 nations) and China said: "The group is dismayed that the [...] text [...] is imbalanced." One by one, individual nations stood up and took the same stance.

Most nation groups, such as the Africa Group, underscored that industrialized countries should take the lead in reducing emissions instead of putting the burden on developing nations to reduce emissions. Problematically, the draft text stipulated that the emissions of developing nations should peak by 2020, while it did not force Annex I countries to commit to specific emissions reductions.

The pledges made by industrialized countries thus far add up to 12-19% of emissions over 1990 levels by 2020. As outgoing secretary Yvo de Boer put it: "The fact remains industrial country pledges fall well short of the 25-40% range the IPCC has said gives a 50% chance to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees," he said.

"Take all current pledges and plans from all countries and we will still won't stop emissions growing in the next 10 years," he added.

Instead of focusing on actual greenhouse gas reductions, the meeting fixated on mechanisms for trading greenhouse gas emissions.

Bolivia has argued for enforcing greenhouse gas emissions commitments domestically
and against offsetting or outsourcing them, which typically does little to reduce the actual amount of emissions.

Countries echoed the concerns expressed by the G77 and China that the draft text trammels the principles of the Convention and specifically of the Bali Action Plan, which established two working groups (AWG-KP and AWG-LCA) in 2007 in order to implement the Kyoto Protocol and extend it beyond 2012.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said "the draft text prejudices the future of the Kyoto Protocol. It is not appropriate ... As you are aware there is a fundamental divide among parties on these and many issues."

Malawi put it most starkly: "In my understanding (the process) is intended to work towards implementing the Kyoto Protocol, and not to kill it, as some in this room seem to want to do."

Saudi Arabia likewise expressed concern that the "non-paper," as they insisted on calling the draft text, "paves the way for a gradual death of the Kyoto Protocol."

Another issue was the lack of funding forthcoming to assist with adaptation to climate change. The Least Developed Countries pointed out that "we have contributed the least to the emission of greenhouse gases, yet we are the most vulnerable group of countries reeling under the impacts of climate change. We are experiencing an increase in natural disasters, such as floods and droughts. Yet we have the least capacity to mitigate or adapt to these climate change effects." They expressed concern that their need for funding to help them adapt to climate change was not adequately addressed by the draft text - a position seconded by AOSIS.

Bolivian climate negotiator Pablo Solón delivered scathing comments, critiquing the text for having absorbed the Copenhagen Accord, which did not accord with the UNFCCC negotiating and decision-making framework.

"You have the responsibility of being an umpire like at the World Cup," said Solón to AWG-LCA chairwoman Margaret Sangarwe of Zimbabwe, late in the day, as the World Cup was soon to begin. "You have to negotiate between all the teams and cannot give preference to one over another."

The 22-page draft text will be commented on and amended by all 192-member nations prior to the next UNFCCC meeting, which takes place in Bonn, Germany from August 2-6, 2010.

Subsequently, one more one-week meeting - date and location yet to be determined - will occur before the COP 16 takes place November 29 to December 10, 2010 in Cancún.

As the discussions drew to a close, the screen behind the negotiators flipped to the World Cup being broadcast live and kicking off in South Africa.

Will a climate change treaty have to wait until the COP 17 in South Africa next year?