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As FishOutOfWater noted in his breaking news diary Climate Deal Cut, Kyoto Extended, All Nations Have Same CO2 Limits, the UNFCCC Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action session COP17/MOP7 reached an agreement in penalty overtime play on Saturday against what seemed to be insurmountable odds just days earlier, flipping the table on the low expectations for the summit.

Although this marathon 36 hour negotiation session leaves much unfinished business and failed to produce any real concrete improvements in commitments to action, it did overcome some significant political obstacles that have, since COP15, side-tracked negotiations as a carnival freak show of political squabbling played out as ice caps melted.

Perhaps most importantly, China, India and the United States were persuaded to compromise and sign on to measures that effectively bring them and all nations into the regime and set the stage for accelerating negotiations on the substance of rules, regulations and commitments to meet the agreed goal to limit Atmospheric Global Warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels by 2050.

Although the agreement apparently pleases no one, it is a start and where we go from here depends on the pressure applied and it opens the doors to do so.

So what is the substance of the agreement?  A brief outline after the fold.

At this point, only draft documents prepared by the chair are available and they are subject to verification and change so I warn readers what is linked and the comments that correspond should only be taken as preliminary and, obviously, subject to my interpretation. I welcome others to make their own assessments and post to this thread.

UNFCCC Document Links

Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention, Draft conclusions proposed by the Chair. Dated 2011 Dec 09 (PDF)

Chair's Proposal - INDABA: THE BIGGER PICTURE. Dated 2011 Dec 09 (PDF)

The ABC's in short strokes

I have read the document twice as of this writing and due to the complexity and interlinkage will do so again several times, but some key conclusions are these:

What this agreement DOES NOT DO:

:: It does not advance actual commitments to reduce CO2 emissions

:: It does not establish uniform CO2 emissions limits as the above linked diary implies

:: It does not conclude finalization of the urgently needed Green Climate Fund which was scheduled to be concluded in the session (but presently roadblocked)

:: It does not end the Kyoto Protocol obligations

What this agreement DOES DO:

:: It affirms existing Kyoto Protocol classifications and obligations beyond 2012 up to 2020 unless a superseding agreement is concluded, which is the stated goal and intention

:: It affirms various existing goals, plans and obligations undertaken in preceding sessions, notably including those of COP15 Copenhagen, COP16 Cancun and interim sessions

:: It enshrines and clarifies the concept of verification and accountability modes initiated in COP16 with significant additional clauses that create obligations but also recognize national sovereignty, and specifies more details of the process

:: It enshrines the concept of universal obligation to the treaty as an instrument of law where all signatories bear obligations

:: It affirms the concept of differentiated responsibilities in two contexts; (a) as a continuation of Kyoto obligations and; (b) as a fundamental principle to guide future agreements

:: It affirms the urgency to act with more ambition based on scientific findings and scale mitigation and adaptation actions to the developing situation

:: It requires that currently classified non-Annex 1 Developing Nations report their status in 2014 and to initiate planning for mitigation measures within 6 months

:: It sets 2015 as a hard deadline to conclude a new agreement with accelerated commitments and urges members to conclude this as soon a possible (i.e., not delaying to 2015).

:: It enshrines the principle that global CO2 should peak no later than 2020, a very challenging goal given the slow progress so far

It also includes various other clauses too numerous to mention is a brief diary and which I personally need to digest. However, I would like to briefly comment on some significant points:

The Green Climate Fund impasse was not resolved. Currently the US is withholding it's vote insisting this be vested in the IMF (where it has dominant political clout) rather than as an independent fund, to quote Todd Stern:

“We want to see a green fund that is going to draw in a lot of capital from countries all over the world, including the United States,” he said at a briefing. “And although I love climate negotiators and spend much of my time with them, they are not necessarily the most qualified people to run a multibillion-dollar fund.”

Thanks, Todd, but meanwhile floods and droughts are ravaging the southern hemisphere while you defend the turf of an organization with track record of mismanagement.  It's not clear to me how the UNFCCC plans to resolve this issues but Small Island Nations and Under-Developed Nations now suffering consequences are waiting for these funds so if anyone reading knows the plan please comment.

A significant political issue has been shared legal obligations. Indeed, two successive US Administrations used this as a justification not to sign on to Kyoto and it continues to be a political football in the US Congress, particularly with respect to China. In early negotiations China signaled it's willingness to sign-on provided a bridge to extend Kyoto from 2012 was agreed, and having accepted the agreement from the EU made good on that promise. India, the final G77 refusenik was also pursued and this should then close the issue and end questions about their intentions.

Kyoto was preserved in present form at least until 2020 but presumably superseded by a new agreement before or by 2015. This, I believe, was the deal clincher for China, India and several African countries that have urgent development goals requiring a grace period and having committed themselves to sustainable development, but realistically not capable to start reductions in the immediate short term. What they have traded for this is the obligation to make their sustainable development goals a matter of legal obligation. The EU, particularly Connie Hedegaard who organized the EU draft agreement and then doggedly pursued all parties to resolve the disputes and conclude an agreement deserves much credit. Likewise, the acceptance, finally, of this reality by the US is much welcome especially considering it comes at zero cost and obligation since the US is not a Kyoto signatory.

A last point I would like to address is that of differentiated obligations. Quite clearly the agreement intends that this be enshrined as a basic principle in the process or future agreements. I realize this is a complex principle not well understood by many people in developed nations that feel they are unfairly burdened with the responsibility  of solving this problem. Explaining this could take volumes but in simple terms:

:: those in developed nations are primarily responsible for the existing carbon inventory and benefited economically from it

:: they also have greatly escaped obligations for the damage done since their reduction obligations are baselined from 1990, which voids a very significant portion of  their inventory and indexes from a point when most of these countries were already past peak industrial emissions

:: much of the carbon intensive industry previously in these nations has migrated to developing countries where it continues to economically benefit the developed nations by producing products they consume and returning profits in the case they own the enterprises (often the case)

:: under Kyoto, Copenhagen and Cancun, the commitments made by non-Annex 1 nations actually exceed those by Annex 1 nations, and studies have concluded that based on accounting methods, many of the Annex 1 nation commitments require little or NO actual measures

:: by the objective measure of per capita emissions, virtually all developed nations have higher emissions and GDP

.  .  .  .  .

I hope this gives people a basic picture of the agreement and definitely welcome comments and debate.

Now, the ball is in OUR court. With these obstacles out of the way people now need to apply bottom-up pressure to governments to cast aside the politics and get on with the work of reducing emissions and mitigating the effects of Climate Change we can already see before our eyes.

Apply pressure constantly. It's the only thing that works.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A Promise is A Promise (6+ / 0-)

    Since the US signed on, I will now eat my words.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 07:16:31 AM PST

  •  Superb Summary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, WarrenS, DawnN

    I had written off Durban and this is not all it might have been, but it is something. All multilateral talks can do is to set a context of hope, it is up to nations, all levels of government, corporations and individuals to make real change over time. It will take decades at best, but there is a chance now that we can turn this around in time to keep climate change within limits that are not totally destructive and to which adaptation without massive loss of life and habitat is at least possible.

    What is crucial is that some semblance of global governance is happening -- there are many, many issues that we will need to learn how to address together globally, a task way past anything humankind has done prevously on a collective basis.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 07:27:08 AM PST

    •  Thanks (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      global citizen, WarrenS, DawnN

      Actually, it's a quick and dirty summary only intended to get people talking. The issues are so complex and whatever is written will no doubt be subject to interpretation and manipulation but the important thing is now that some political roadblocks have been removed it is time to apply pressure to act.

      Many people will be disappointed with the result for good reasons but I feel the delegates finally have begun to accept the political realities and the need to move on. Finally, there was no one in the room willing to kill it and that is some kind of progress.

      Good negotiations often drive to the brink, it's how big stones get moved. I'm thankful they all kept at it and I really have to single out Connie Hedegaard for special credit for an incredibly impassioned and tenacious performance, hope she is in line for a Nobel Prize some day, she certainly earned it.

      But We the People of the World need to make this happen.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 07:47:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The People LEAST Competent To Manage Multibillion (8+ / 0-)

    dollar funds have been conclusively proven to be people who manage multibillion dollar funds.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 07:32:25 AM PST

  •  Thx for posting. It's going to take some time to (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, WarrenS, DawnN, FishOutofWater

    sort out what happened in Durban. Last night I had the impression, simply from reading Twitter, that the political people were happy because a deal had been reached, but the policy people were unhappy because the deal puts us on a course to 3.5 degrees C warming.

    "At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like." - Tim DeChristopher @RL_Miller

    by RLMiller on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 08:57:35 AM PST

    •  Pretty much the case. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WarrenS, RLMiller, DawnN, FishOutofWater

      Zero progress in terms of commitments, but removes political obstacles and excuses. And the telling point may be that no one, even India, wanted to leave the room the spoiler.

      My analysis is really cursory and I will definitely be combing through the final version chapter and verse, but basically it allows status quo for the next 3 years, which is not good, but political reality.

      However, it may be interesting to see how this affects Clean Energy markets and venture capitalization of projects and technology. At this point, there is an overcapacity due to the financial crisis but piles of cash sitting around doing nothing and this just might prime some pumps.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 10:50:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Try this (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WarrenS, RLMiller, DawnN

      Guardian Q+A.

      Superficial but pretty much agrees with my opinions expressed above.
      .
      Legalize. Have at it. Can be pretty important and appreciate your comments.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 11:21:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  do you know of any efforts by chinese provinces (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, WarrenS

    or municipalities to reduce emissions greater than the overall national rate? most progress in the US WRT carbon emissions has come from local and state governments effectively bypassing the feds.

    •  Yes I do. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wu ming, WarrenS, DawnN, FishOutofWater

      In fact, the government is about to announce province by province targets in accordance with the 5 year plan and generally the focus will be on provinces with too much smokestack industry (for improvement/development) and to push areas with better than target performance (based on national plan) to shoot for the high benchmarks and serve as "Model Cities" (LOL) to transfer know-how in a similar fashion as some of the economic "sister city" programs operate. Other, rural Western and Northern (not Northeastern) areas have low improvement targets because they don't really make a problem, most of the pollution there is from elsewhere.

      Generally, China takes the approach of experimenting with things in one place and then transplanting what they think is working elsewhere.

      Some cities such as Zuhai, Hangzhou, Hefei, etc have actually taken an "Eco city" development track to migrate away from energy-intensive industries and capitalize on improving their environment, Hangzhou has really improved a lot and is cleaner than Shanghai now. Last time I visited I was really impressed.

      It's really-really late here and I have to work tomorrow so going to bed, but I will try to get back to you.

      I actually have to check to see if there are any published reports abut this on the internet but I have seen a draft of the targets via a NGO buddy and could try to share that if I can find it.

      Do you know the site "China Dialogue"?  I think it's on my blog roll, you could try there, they tend to publish in Chinese first and translate later, shouldn't be a problem for you.  Another sources in English are the "Wilson Center" and "China Law Blog"  I may have linked that too. Usually I point Laowai there!

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 11:19:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you very much... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DawnN, koNko, FishOutofWater

    ...for this summary.  It is essential.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 11:35:40 AM PST

  •  Thank you. Hotlisted. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko

    “Wall Street owns the country. Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The parties lie to us, and the political speakers mislead us.” - Mary Elizabeth Lease, 1890. It's late. Occupy everywhere.

    by DawnN on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 12:57:08 PM PST

  •  Durban, plus (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater, koNko

    other concurrent efforts.

    Here is an excellent column in Center for American Progress about international work that needs to occur at the same time that anything useful happens (or even doesn't happen) based on Durban.

    Our review shows that, impressive as they are, the pledges made so far by the major emitters and the financial flows to developing countries are still not ambitious enough to put us on a pathway to the 2 degree target by 2020. In the almost certain absence of a binding framework inside the UNFCCC that brings in all major emitters by 2020, we need to look outside of the UNFCCC to find alternatives to achieve climate safety.

    In an upcoming report, CAP identifies emissions reductions that can be realized through alternative existing multilateral frameworks outside of the UNFCCC to close the gap between the existing unilateral pledges we have tracked so far and the reductions needed by 2020 to put us on the 2 degree pathway.

    We should be moving forward on a slate of less comprehensive multilateral agreements—either in terms of the number of parties involved or the sectors of the economy covered—that can close the gap between anticipated unilateral mitigation commitments by parties until 2020 and reductions in greenhouse gases needed to put us on a pathway to climate safety by the end of the century.


    We shall not contribute to our own destruction.

    by James Wells on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 07:18:41 PM PST

    •  The Agreement (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      James Wells

      Removes political roadblocks and sets a path to negotiate agreements that commit to action, but solving the problem will depend on nations and individuals, public and private, acting.

      Many observers discount the importance of agreements and the process of making them can slow down work if the parties let that happen or use it as an excuse to procrastinate.

      But I notice SOME Kyoto signatories, developed and developing,  used the framework and their obligations to get started.

      And that the US, which arguably at that time had the best technology and certainly had the most installed Solar, regressed.

      An important point is that thermal energy is deeply embedded in the infrastructure and economic systems of most developed countries (nuclear France being an exception) and so we have to deconstruct that and reconstruct a cleaner system. That requires shifting economic incentives from dirty to clean and there is strong resistance. UNFCCC aims to provide a tool to do that.

      Agreements or not, people can decide to to the right thing, but are they doing it?

      Laws keep honest men honest and cause them to change when they are obligated. This is no different.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 06:00:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this excellent analysis (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Wells, koNko

    Even though this deal is too little too late we will still have a hard time cutting emissions fast enough.

    I foresee the day when China adds climate modification to weather modification. I foresee the day when sulfate and other aerosols are intentionally emitted to try to cool the planet.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 07:57:50 PM PST

    •  China's immediate problem is water (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FishOutofWater

      It is actually one of the driest countries in terms of water per capita, the rate of extraction of ground water and polluting same accelerating, and the distribution due to global warming changing.

      Thus, it is adapting, building huge aqueducts to bring water from the abundant south (which increasing suffers extreme storms) to the arid north (where the deserts creeping toward civilization are being held at bay by reforestation).

      As Himalayan glaciers melt, it is only going to get worse for China, India and all of the surrounding nations.

      I assure you, it's not difficult to convince people in our region that AGW is real, question is are we doing too little too late?

      Hence my sigline, a constant reminder to myself.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 06:09:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Yellow River's problems are severe (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koNko

        and have been well documented on-line. The Asia society has a good site, I believe, that has covered China's water issues. I have been following global water issues for many years. The drying of Tibet and the melting of Asia's mountain glaciers will affect billions of people.

        look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

        by FishOutofWater on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 06:53:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If you want to learn more (0+ / 0-)

          Goggle Ma Jun (or Jun Ma), read his book (now available in English) and learn about his activist organization IPE which has partners in the USA.

          Mr. Ma really set the example of how to turn personal activism into an effective organization for change, it's really my honor to support IPE.

          Go to the reports section, many are available in English, at least in summary.

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Tue Dec 13, 2011 at 04:36:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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