COP15: Friday Roundup - The Heavy Lifting Begins

A roundup of what I saw and heard today at the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen:

Week one of the COP15 climate change conference draws to a close here in Copenhagen, and negotiation now move into their next, crucial face tomorrow as ministers arrive tomorrow to start informal talks with Danish Minister for the UN Climate Conference, Connie Hedegaard. The starting point for those informal talks will be a set of texts tabled by the chairs of each of the working groups in the negotiating process - the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP.

COP15 - the whole world is watching

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said at a press briefing this afternoon that informal talks in plenary sessions were generally favorable toward the text as laying down a framework that ministers can work with in preparation for the arrival of at least 114 heads of state beginning on Wednesday. (More details on my post at TriplePundit)

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At an earlier press briefing led by Hunter Cutting of Climate Action Network International, leaders of several NGO's, including Greenpeace and Christian Aid, said that current negotiations are on the wrong track. One that leads to a four degree Celsius rise in average global temperature by the end of the century, and that developed nations need to commit to steeper emissions reductions and long term financing support for developing country's actions toward mitigation and adaptation. After the briefing, Christian Aid's Nelson Mullah told me that the US was the "big elephant in the room" in terms of moving on targets and financing. (Listen to a portion of that conversation)

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It is fairly clear that 114 heads of state aren't coming to Copenhagen, as Yvo de Boer said at his briefing, to "commiserate with each other." It is also the reason that Tove Redding of Greenpeace said that "legally binding is back on the table" - something will have to get done.

And if the whole process ends up falling apart, watch for the mud-slinging between the assembled world leaders to begin. China may already have its slingshot primed and ready - and today it was aimed at chief US negotiator Todd Stern.

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Amongst the heads of state, James Inhofe still plans to come as a self-styled "one man truth squad" in hopes of delivering a message to the conference that whatever President Obama pledges in Copenhagen, his hands will be tied by the United States Senate. A report released at COP15 earlier this week by the Center for Biological Diversity Center for Climate Law outlines why that isn't true and why a president has broad powers to enter into international agreement separate from a majority vote in Congress . For more details on the report titled Yes, He Can: President Obama’s Power to Make an International Climate Commitment Without Waiting for Congress (pdf), read my post on Ecopolitology.

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There has been a bit of a furor this week over a supposed "secret" Danish text that many characterized as "back-room talks" with a few selected wealthy nations. Bernaditas de Castro Muller, a negotiator for the G77, reacts strongly to the issue in the first video below. In the second video, Yvo de Boer responds to questions at today's press briefing about the actions and motives of the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen.

And tomorrow is another day.

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