by Brian McKenzie T’14
As we headed to the National Stadium for the final day of COP 19, we had a feeling it might be a long day. That was an understatement. In fact, the negotiations went on until about 4am Saturday morning.
Much of the morning was spent walking around trying to find sessions that were open to non-governmental parties. There was much consultation going on amongst the parties and many closed-door sessions. There were four primary tracks of negotiations going on in parallel, which included: Advancing the Durban Platform (ADP), Climate Finance, Loss & Damage, and REDD+.
The ADP negotiations were perhaps most controversial because of the goal to create a roadmap toward an agreement at COP 21 (Paris in 2015). At that time, parties are expected to make binding legal commitments on mitigation and adaptation. Difu, Harry and I waited in line from about 3pm until 6:45pm to get a seat in the negotiations. They only let about 30 observers in to witness the discussions.
About midway through the session, the Chair took a moment to address the parties. He asked them all to look at their watches and take note of the time, and if their watch had a date function, take note of that too. He said “we are running out of time and we can’t stay here much longer”. He then asked all parties to dispense with “positions”, and focus on concrete changes to the language of the text. There was considerable back and forth over the next 15 to 20 minutes in an effort to wordsmith the document put forward by the Chairs. As an example, there was considerable debate about whether to change the word “facilitate” to “ensure” in one of the paragraphs of the draft text.
At this point, the stadium was beginning to sound like it was the Euro Cup, as a group of youth attending the summit gathered around the stadium’s seats, chanting as loud as they could in protest and out of disappointment that youth were not allowed to participate more fully in the conference. You could hear them loud and clear inside the negotiations.
Things got even more interesting when the Bolivian negotiator was given the microphone and made reference to the protesters chanting “WTF”, which, in this case, stood for “Where’s the Finance?” The negotiator from Venezuela spoke next, and didn’t pull any punches. She started by saying “we’re not here to make friends, and we all need to stop being so naïve.” She then proceeded to call out the lead negotiator from the EU for going to the media with accusations that there was a firewall between the LMDCs (Like-minded Developing Countries). She said “Where is the EU negotiator? I don’t see her around,” – to which a number of the LMDC countries stood up and applauded. The next speaker, from one of the small African nations spoke next, and after the applause had stopped, he said “well… it’s starting to get hot in here!”
The negotiations continued on for many hours. The photo shows the view from my seat. Right in front of me was the U.S. delegation, which was huddling just after their lead negotiator, Todd Stern, entered the room. It was in fact the US delegation that managed to get the negotiations back on track, by conveying a willingness to commit to a roadmap that would require the U.S. and other parties to release emissions reduction targets in advance of COP 21 and lay the groundwork for binding commitments.
The negotiations continued on for many hours, and the closing plenary didn’t take place until roughly 4am in the morning on Saturday. However, in the end, a number of decisions were reached, albeit not nearly as ambitious as many parties had hoped for.
Difu, Harry and I all had an awesome time at COP 19. We are all hopeful that meaningful actions will come out of the conference. We’ve a photo of us in front of Peruvian booth, which were handed out Pisco Sours all week to promote next year’s COP which will take place in Lima, Peru. They closed up shop at around 4pm on Friday afternoon, but I can’t help but think that had they kept on serving drinks into the evening on Friday, perhaps the parties might have been able to find common ground a little earlier in the evening!