Picking up the pieces in the climate talks

, 11. April 2010     0 comment(s)
Antto Vihma
Senior Research Fellow - The Global Security Research Programme
The multilateral climate negotiations of the UNFCCC quietly returned to work in a weekend session in Bonn (9-12 April). As immediate emotions after Copenhagen climate conference have faded, the ambiance in the corridors was peaceful, almost drowsy. The main issue on the weekend's agenda is to agree on the organization of work for the year 2010, paving the way to the main event, the Conference of Parties, this time hosted by Mexico in late November.

Underneath the cordial atmosphere of course lies a big uncertainty – the ongoing negotiations could lead to a legally binding treaty (in the long term), a bottom up voluntary regime, or endless talks like the Doha trade round.

The Copenhagen summit revealed some fundamental political dynamics concerning great powers the US and China, and their willingness and ability to engage in multilateral climate talks. Thus the expectations for this year are set considerably lower – but importantly, the parties are looking to restore faith in the UNFCCC process as a whole.

The battle lines in 2010 seem to follow closely the positions in Copenhagen. China, supported by Saudi-Arabia and several Arab states, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, oppose giving a mandate to the Chair to prepare a working document for the next two week negotiations session. Developed countries, supported by small island states and many African and Latin American countries, see this as the only way forward.

Although anger over the procedures and obstructionism in Copenhagen has faded, many small developing countries are balancing between mistrust and willingness to move forward. They are very careful about delegating any authority away from parties, however innocent the delegated duty may seem from a distance.

This atmosphere is fruitful for creating procedural blockings, and the chief architect of obstructionism in the climate regime, Saudi Arabia, is having a wonderful time. Very similar positions to those of Saudi Arabia are taken by the socialist ALBA countries, which seem to continue the Copenhagen trend to use the climate agenda to raise their profile vis-à-vis the United States.

Many seasoned observers now are preparing for a long final night in Hotel Maritim, the traditional Bonn spot for climate talks. Some noted that the organization of work would be much easier to agree in a slightly less politicized setting. But with the bitter aftertaste of Copenhagen summit still in everybody’s mouth, a lot of work needs to be done even before getting to the substantial questions overshadowing the future of the climate regime.

Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors

Discuss the topic

Personal information