Doha Day Four – The Big Issues

Originally published by New Matilda 

As negotiations in Doha continue three things become glaringly obvious – the process is slow, there remains a distinct lack of trust between developing and developed countries and it’s all about money.

Yesterday, Day Four of the negotiations, Australia again stood with several other developed countries in what is being perceived as a deliberate attempt to stall progress.

In the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) informal consultations, the tensions that were emerging on Day Two continued to bubble. Historically, the LCA has been one of the more tumultuous negotiating streams of the UNFCCC. Tumultuous would be an appropriate word to describe the discontent and confusion that characterised today’s negotiations as

Japan and the United States launched a strong challenge to the Chair’s attempt to guide the text.

The animosity generated appears to be multifaceted. Japan, the US and a number of other developed countries resent the Chair’s influence over the proceedings. They consider it a breach of process, and it runs contrary to their belief that negotiations under the LCA are complete and it is time to move onto an implementation stream under the Durban Platform (read why developing countries disagree here).

Further, it appears that there is substantial confusion over what text is being used in the negotiations. Different contact groups seem to be using different texts which is generating further frustration. The result of this confusion was that the 90 minute consultation was spent discussing procedural disagreements rather than working towards substantive progress. There is speculation over whether the inability for developing and developed countries to agree on when the LCA should end and the Durban Platform begin will derail the entire process.

The other key issue plaguing negotiations is the lack of certainty around finance. Whilst $100 billion has been committed to long term mitigation and adaption for developing countries; so far the Green Climate Fund remains empty and there is no clear indication of when the coffers will be filled.

At a Side Event yesterday hosted by Oxfam Australia, panelists discussed what they have dubbed the “climate fiscal cliff”. Green Climate Fund board members from the UK, Germany and the USA reassured developing countries that the financing would continue despite the termination of the Fast Start climate funding this year, but failed to specify how much and when money would be put on the table. Developing countries, including Australia, maintain that climate financing has been budgeted for it just cannot be delivered until the recipient countries are “climate funding ready” which includes having a fully operational Green Climate Fund.

Additionally, substantial criticism was levied at developing countries for not contributing “new” and “additional” finance under the Fast Start scheme, as promised. According to Oxfam’s calculations only 30 – 33% of finance was actually new and additionally as opposed to already budgeted and/or allocated for other purposes. Additionally, only 40% of the money has been delivered as grants (as opposed to loans). This lack of transparency has further tarnished the already shaky trust of developing countries who are now seeking reassurance that they are not going to be left with empty bank balances in 2013.

There are also technical disagreements over where the money should come from and how it should be allocated. G77 and China maintain that climate finance should come from new public funds mobilized by developed countries in an attempt to ensure predictability and transparency. However, many developed countries such as the UK, for example, believe that private funding sources are critical to the process of also shifting the private sector towards a low carbon future which will be essential for the ultimate goal of keep global warming below 2 degrees.

The shared fear of developing countries is that climate finance flows will go down in 2013 when the Fast Start scheme ends, precisely when they need it to amp up due to the already intensifying impacts of climate change. There is a loud demand for the initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund to take place here in Doha.

It is only Day Four, and there is still time for the Presidency of Qatar to step in and shift the tone of the negotiations, or for developed countries to make a gesture of good faith to facilitate moving forward. However, it is disappointing that already the LCA is bogged down in debates over technicalities because developed countries are reluctant to discuss equity. Before the Ministers arrive next week in Doha, it is critical that the current inertia is broken in order for progress to be made.

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