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Process rather than content is once again front and center at the official UN Climate Talks as disagreement over the official negotiating procedures today closed down discussions of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) before they even started.

Eight days into the Bonn Climate Change Conference, Russia - with agreement of two of its allies -  prevented the SBI from tackling pressing issues relative to climate change adaptation, finance and compensation by holding firm to its objection over the ending of the Doha Climate Gateway. The Doha agreement extended the  Kyoto Protocol without allowing Russia the opportunity to receive acknowledgement  for  5.8 billion tons of carbon credits the nation planned to sell under Kyoto's first period.

The two week Bonn Talks are the last official meeting of the 195 delegates to the UNFCCC until COP19 convenes late November in Warsaw.

The Ukraine and Belarus joined Russia this morning in rejecting a compromise deal, thereby ending any hopes of continuing the work of the SBI during the talks.

The SBI and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) are the UNFCCC’s two permanent subsidiary bodies. Both advise the Conference of the Parties (COP) on all issues relevant to implementing the Convention.

One of the SBI’s most significant tasks is the review of financial mechanisms designed to assist developing countries adapt to climate change and design sustainable low carbon futures.  They are also negotiating the controversial issue of ''loss and damages", which reflects how developing nations should compensate those countries most impacted by climate change due to the extreme impacts of GHG emissions on their current situation as well as their future rights to sustainable development.

Referencing the end of the SBI negotiations in Bonn, Russian chief negotiator Oleg Shamonov said his country intended "to bring the process from behind the looking glass."

Those countries most vulnerable to climate change and in need of finance and assistance with adaptation were, needless to say, most infuriated by the procedural stalemate.

To applause, Tuvalu, a small-island state worried by sea-level rise, asked: "Do we have to bury ourselves in procedural matters and not address important issues? Are we getting the impression that three parties are not interested in climate change? That seems to be the impression we are getting."

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SBI Chair Tomasz Chruszczow attempted to inject a degree of sanity into the proceedings  with a reminder that the UNFCCC was created with the sole intention of cutting GHG emissions to prevent irreparable devastation from climate change.

“This was agreed 20 years ago. We are no closer to this goal today. I won’t let this process jump from one obstacle to another. The Chair is in the service of the Parties, but it is up to the Parties to save the world,” he said.

“Countries have between now and the beginning of the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw to unblock the situation so that relevant decisions can be taken at the meeting," Chruszczow said.

"It is essential that the time is used for discussions at the highest political level on how to resolve the issue so that this body can take forward its important work,”

The SBI meeting faced trouble from the very first day of the talks last Monday, when Russia requested a new item calling for discussion of procedural rules be placed on the agenda. The other parties, with the exception of The Ukrain and Belarus, rejected the proposal and also rejected the idea of beginning the talks without adopting an agenda. Today's meeting followed eight days of closed doors negotiations, all of which failed to come up with a solution.

A post from Bonn by Arizona State University students  Live from Bonn – ASU Students Report from the UN Climate Negotiations adroitly reflects  "frustration and fascination" over the seeming inanities of the UNFCCC process:

SBI 2013 – frustration and fascination

Today’s meeting of the SBI reminded me of a conversation I had with Professor Bodansky before he left the conference that went a little something like this (paraphrasing liberally):

Me: “But why are we fighting over an agenda, when the real issue is the procedure rules? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Bodansky: “Sense? One thing you will learn at the climate change negotiations is to suspend your belief in logic and reason. There is a very different system of what’s logical and reasonable in the UNFCCC – consistent internally, but totally insane to outsiders.”

UNFCC Executive Director Christiana Figueres, while admitting failure of the SBI's Bonn agenda, said this afternoon that both the “Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action”(ADP) and SBST will continue work on their agendas through Friday.


Other Climate Talks Related News

Forests in Focus: Women's rights, lives and livelihoods in policy and practice

In partnership with the REDD+ SES Secretariat, with support from Norad and the Ford Foundation, WEDO is pleased to present its newest publication, From research to action, leaf by leaf: getting gender right in REDD+ SES. Geared toward REDD+ policy-makers, program developers and all levels of practitioners, this publication presents a full analysis of the gender dimension of REDD+- from concepts to actions- complemented by lessons learned from action research in four countries using the REDD+ SES: State of Acre in Brazil, Ecuador, Nepal and Tanzania. The outcomes are focused on safeguards and standards but may be applicable to all gender-responsive climate change efforts - and sustainable development more broadly.
Countries Forge Ahead on Mitigation in Agriculture Despite UNFCCC Delays
Although UNFCCC negotiations on agriculture are on hold, agricultural mitigation is already an objective for many developing countries. National governments are moving quickly to plan agricultural development that also leads to climate change adaptation and mitigation, which is crucial in a sector that is so vulnerable to climate impacts, but also responsible for 14 to 24% of global emissions. As a result, new policy mechanisms and tools are being put into use with some promising, recent developments.

Historical Overview

The official international climate negotiations convened in 1992 with the establishment of the  United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was tasked with stabilizing global greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid  “dangerous anthropogenic interference” with the world's climate .  Over the course of the next 21 years, the talks have moved through the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the 2007 Bali Roadmap, the Copenhagen Accord, and The Doha Climate Gateway.  the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)'s Earth Negotiation's Bulletin provides a short and sweet overview of the official negotiating process.

Doha Outcomes

 Along with amending the Kyoto Protocol, COP18 called for rapidly working to developing a universal climate change agreement for adoption in 2015 and to 'scale up' efforts to curb emissions before 2020.  The second 8 ear commitment period of Kyoto began on January 1, 2013.  

Key Documents

    The World Bank's "Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided", showing that the world is on track towards a 4 degrees Celsius temperature rise, should the currently inadequate level of ambition remain.

    UNEP's Emissions Gap Report 2012, which demonstrated that it is still possible to bridge the emissions gap by 2020.

    The World Economic Forum's  Global Risks 2013 report, released early in 2013. This report outlines a survey of more than 1000 experts polled on how they expect 50 global risks to play out over the next ten years. The report cites rising greenhouse gas emissions as one of the five major risks the global economy faces, and calls runaway climate change an X-factor that multiplies and exacerbates all risk.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in 2013 and 2014. The assessment will provide governments with the latest science on physics and impacts of climate change, and the scale of ambition necessary to successfully tackle climate change. The first installment of AR5 on the science is due this September, and the second and third installments are scheduled for release in March/April 2014. More info can be found on the IPCC website.

9:13 PM PT: You can watch the disastrous meeting here: http://unfccc4.meta-fusion.com/...

10:53 PM PT: COP 20 announced for Peru, Venezuela promises an 'innovative' pre-COP

Peru announced that it plans to host the 2014 Conferene of Parties (COP20). This puts a country actively wrestling with the effects of climate change in the host seat for what we expect will be a crucial meeting on the way to a 2015 climate deal. Venezuela will host a pre-COP ministerial. Of the two countries making announcements about future meetings, Venezuela's caught our eye:

    "As an innovation, Venezuela has proposed that this meeting allows the peoples of the world and the organised society to express themselves and make contributions, something unusual in these UN forums, where the civil society participation has been limited to brief statements as observers in plenary sessions, not having access to core discussions of the negotiations and with no possibility of raising their proposals directly to the Convention."  from tcktcktck daily briefing


Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 05:20 PM PDT.

Also republished by Deborah Phelan.

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