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."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 fascinationUNFCC 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.
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.”
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