Halfway Point Of Climate Negotiations: Where Are We?
Above image from Young Friends of the Earth Europe.
Entering the Final Week of Negotiations US and Western Governments Push Corporate Interests Ahead of Planetary Necessities
Saturday, December 5th was the halfway point for the COP21 Climate Negotiations being held in Paris. On December 4th the co-chairs of the meeting released two negotiating texts: a new draft of the negotiating text as it now stands and a version that includes compromise options from the co-facilitators of the issue discussion groups. Reviews so far are that they are inadequate. They do not place enough responsibility on already developed nations whose development came about because of industry that relied on climate gasses like carbon and methane. Finally, the United States is not negotiating in good faith on behalf of people and planet but rather is the dominant advocate for major corporate interests.
Efforts to expose the corporate domination of the climate talks with false market-based solutions are met with immediate police action as can be seen in this video by the New Internationalist Magazine. On December 4th undercover police cracked down on anyone questioning the sponsors of a corporate “Solutions 21” event in Paris. The action was supported by Amis de la Terre, ATTAC France, Climate Justice Action, Corporate Europe Observatory, JEDIs, Solidaire and Young Friends of the Earth France. Kandi Mosset from the Indigenous Environmental Network spoke at the event.
Below are three views of the COP21 meetings, the first two are commentaries on the text released at the halfway point; the third is a description of what it is to be like at the talks. Kevin Smith of the Global Justice Ecology Project writes about being inside the events and describes how NGO’s have been pushed out. He also warns that some NGO’s are already developing their spin, saying “There’s already muttering amongst some of the bigger and ‘less justice-based’ NGOs about what they will accept and promote as being a ‘good deal’ based less on the content of the deal and more on what they think their supporters need to hear. It’s really worth a careful examination of what any NGO has to say about the outcome of the talks as chances are there’s an agenda.” So, watch out, there will be a lot of deception when this is done.
Corporate Accountability International: Draft fails to deliver meaningfully toward the systemic transition climate change requires
By Tamar Lawrence-Samuel
While the text released this morning will likely be met with applause by Global North governments and their corporate board room backers, it fails to deliver meaningfully toward the systemic transition climate change requires. At the core of this failure are the obstinate negotiating positions of the US and other Global North governments who are bent on deregulating the global rules applying to them and advancing the financial needs of big business over the survival needs of people.
And, despite the image of hope and action President Obama and other leaders painted on Monday, the chasm between rhetoric and action continues to grow. Whether it’s finance or technology, loss and damage or differentiation, the positions reflected in this text are heavily biased towards the US, Japan, EU and other Global North countries, and the emissions-intensive industries they represent.
The US position, for example, reflects the strong limits placed on US climate action by a Congress overrun by the unconstrained campaign spending of Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and other big polluters. As a result, President Obama has said the United States can’t accept a legally binding agreement and is failing to come forward with any new commitments on important issues like finance, technology and capacity.
Rather than advancing the interests of polluters through a weaker climate policy regime this agreement must recognize the historical responsibility of the Global North, provide justice for the Global South and catalyze the rapid transition away from dirty energy. The primary obstacle to these and other policy imperatives is to insulate the policymaking process from the corrosive influence of big polluters, both here at the UNFCCC and at home in national governments. Only then will climate policy truly value people over profits.
Friends of the Earth International: Paris Climate Summit: Not enough progress by half
PARIS, FRANCE, December 5 – The Chairs of the ADP (Durban Platform for Action) have just handed over negotiating documents to the French Presidency of the COP21 climate summit in Paris, formally closing the ADP negotiations. 
The United Nations climate talks have made little concrete progress on the most critical aspects of a just deal to respond to the climate crisis, said Friends of the Earth International at the mid-point of the talks.
At the end of a frustrating first week, only reassurances by the French hosts that negotiations on all key issues will continue, and that developed countries would begin to engage with the negotiations in good faith, prevented the process derailing altogether. The high level segment of the talks, attended by ministers, will begin work on Monday on the final ‘Paris text’.
Lucy Cadena, Climate Justice and Energy programme coordinator at Friends of the Earth International, said:
“It is still unclear whether the warm words and half promises we’ve heard this week will yet lead to firm commitments. Will we really see a commitment to a more ambitious temperature threshold? There have been piecemeal pledges for finance for vulnerable countries to adapt, but nothing consistent or in line with rich nations’ fairshare of effort. Nor is there clarity on support to enable the poorest to recover from unavoidable impacts of climate change. Those who grew rich through a dirty climate-changing system and addiction to carbon pollution are leaving poorer countries to foot the bill as if they carry equal responsibility. The lack of progress in the halls is in complete contrast with the vibrancy and creativity of people on the streets and in alternative gatherings throughout Paris.” 
Asad Rehman, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth International, said:
“Rich, developed countries, led by the United States are negotiating in bad faith here in Paris – they are refusing to even discuss proposals brought by developing countries. The poorest, most vulnerable nations are being bullied behind closed doors and their issues are being railroaded out of this process. It is simply unacceptable that the USA won’t live up to its legal and moral responsibilities. At the same time civil society observers, the eyes and ears of global citizens, are being shut out of negotiating rooms. Not only are we seeing an ambition deficit, but we are seeing a fundamental lack of justice.”
Contacts in Paris:
Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth International spokesperson, + 33 753 92 59 04, email@example.com
Lucy Cadena, climate justice and energy coordinator, Friends of the Earth International, +44 7580 270 129 or +33 607 10 39 62 (29 Nov-12 Dec) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Francesca Gater, Friends of the Earth Europe communications coordinator + 32 485 93 05 15, email@example.com
 ‘Draft Paris agreement’, a bridging note Annex I, and ‘a reflections note Annex II’:http://unfccc.int/files/bodies/awg/application/pdf/draft_paris_agreement_5dec15.pdf
 The ‘Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs’ report, from climate justice organisations, social movements, faith groups, trade unions, environmental and development organisations, shows that many developing countries are pledging to do more than their ‘fair share’ to cut emissions while rich countries are dangerously failing to pull their weight: http://civilsocietyreview.org.
Negotiations update from Friends of the Earth International
The negotiations are reaching the mid-point with a very long text and almost all options still on the table.
None of the most controversial points have yet been agreed.
· References to both 1.5 and 2 degrees are included, recognising that 2 degrees is a dangerous level of warming.
· Debates continue about the inclusion of language about human rights.
· The concept of ‘net zero’ (which means a reliance upon Carbon Capture and Storage and offsetting) has been removed from the text about mitigation (emissions reductions), however climate neutrality, in effect the same thing, remains in the text. ‘Decarbonisation’ has been maintained. However, the timescales for decarbonisation have been weakened, with the emphasis on the end of the century.
Equitable distribution of a global carbon budget based on historical responsibilities and climate justice also remains in the text
· A legally binding emissions target remains on the table despite continued push back from the US. It is not impossible we will finish the talks with a legally binding target.
· Mitigation is being prioritised – above all the principles designed to help poorer, developing countries adapt to and recover from the impacts of climate change.
· Finance (from developed countries to developing countries) remains controversial (and is one of the drivers for some developed countries wanting to focus on mitigation over other issues as it costs them less).
· Loss and damage remains in the text but without strict definitions and clarifications there is a risk it will be weakened.
Global Justice Ecology Project: Things I have learned since being at the Paris climate talks
By Kevin Smith
It’s big, it’s dizzying and it’s inside an enormous aircraft hangar. Everyone seems to run around in a constant frenzy, people are dressed up as polar bears and penguins and handing out bars of carbon-neutral chocolate and big fancy industry booths from many different sectors are loudly proclaiming themselves to be THE solution to the world’s problems. And then in the midst of the circus are a series of rooms where representatives from over 190 different countries are hammering out the international response to the greatest threat that humanity faces.
The COP is such a big and complicated beast that it’s almost impossible to make a definitive statement of what’s going on – never has an elephant been groped by so many different blind-folded people. So here’s a smattering of what I’ve picked up since I’ve been here. For something that’s more thorough and comprehensive, I’d recommend the regular briefings from Third World Network, and for a more accessible take, the daily Storify round ups from Climate Justice Info.
If you actually believed the speeches of world leaders at the start of the talks, you would think that we could all go home because the problem was pretty much solved already. This rhetoric/reality disconnect was perhaps felt most keenly with our Prime Minister David Cameron asking “what we would have to say to our grandchildren if we failed,” while his government seems to be hell-bent on systematically running the renewables sector into the ground. If I was sat on Grandpa Dave’s knee, I’d definitely have a few questions to ask him about that one.
Civil society organisations are being pushed out of the talks more and more. Apparently this is a trend that has carried over from the last Bonn intersessional meeting. Previously when the various working groups of negotiators were meeting to hammer out aspects of various texts, civil society observers were invited unless some of the parties specifically requested that they weren’t. Now it seems that more and more it’s a de facto position that these sessions are closed to NGO observers. It makes the elephant groping situation even more acute, and raises the question what the role of civil society is actually for if it doesn’t get to see what’s actually happening. Some people argue that the presence of civil society isn’t to actually input or influence the talks, but to just add legitimacy to whatever’s cooked up between governments and business lobbyists.
There’s a huge spectrum of different NGOs involved in the negotiations and some of them can be pretty shady! At one end of the spectrum, you have a series of NGOs are happy to take part in side events alongside disreputable corporate partners promoting all manner of dubious false solutions like Climate Smart Agriculture and carbon offsetting. There’s already muttering amongst some of the bigger and ‘less justice-based’ NGOs about what they will accept and promote as being a ‘good deal’ based less on the content of the deal and more on what they think their supporters need to hear. It’s really worth a careful examination of what any NGO has to say about the outcome of the talks as chances are there’s an agenda.
At the other end of the spectrum – huzzah for the frontline folks representing so hard in Paris. A much-needed breath of fresh air amidst the greenwash and the realpolitik and the corporatisation of the talks. I’ve been particularly impressed by the It Takes Roots to Weather a Storm, a delegation of over 100 leaders and organizers from US and Canadian grassroots and indigenous communities. They are speaking truth to power all over the shop and represent the cutting edge of progressive grassroots organising for climate justice and other NGOs should really be taking the opportunity to listen and learn.
This first week of the talks are all about negotiators agreeing to a revised version of the negotiating text that can be presented to the Parties tomorrow. There’s a frantic pace to the meetings and negotiations to get to this goal, and many countries from the global south have complained about not being able to represent and feed in to the multiple meetings take place simultaneously. The disparity in size between say, the US and the Small Island States negotiating teams is one of the many, fundamental and structural inequalities of the climate talks, especially in the context of additional challenges around translation and the dominance of English language. There’s also the backroom bullying – obviously impossible to say what’s happening behind closed doors, but with the way that Western might gets thrown around was evidenced by a leak that took place in the days before the COP started of a document from the US to select southern countries outlining how it thought the talks should progress.
There’s a depressing trend in the way that texts get negotiated for the good bits to get dropped in order to reach a compromise in what gets agreed on. For instance in the text negotiations around technology yesterday, they deleted “safe”, “gender responsive and human rights” in reference to technology. They did keep “socially and environmentally sound” despite attempts to delete socially.
That’s not to say that EVERYTHING IS CATEGORICALLY AWFUL. On Tuesday African heads of state launched the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), through which the continent is expected to deliver at least 10 gigawatts of new and additional electrical installed capacity by 2020. France has already said it will invest two billion euros between 2016 and 2020, and other countries are expected to follow suit. The devil is always in the detail with climate finance, but making big steps forward on finance and technology transfer are of critical importance for any outcome to the talks to be successful. While this looks like a promising initiative, there are reports that negotiations around the rest of these issues have been going quite badly.
And inspiring, interesting things are happening outside of the confines of the conference centre. Yesterday I was privileged to be at the launch of the Leap Manifesto, a proposal for how Canada can boldly strike out on a rapid energy transition based firmly on principles of social justice and progressive coalition building.The Leap Manifesto proposes that Canada “can transition to a renewable-based economy in way that changes our economy for the better – achieving meaningful justice for First Nations, creating more and better jobs, restoring and expanding our social safety net, building a better food system, and reducing economic, gender and racial inequalities.”
There are parallels in the UK with the Transition Towns movement, and the Zero Carbon Britain report, but this is embedded in a recognition and understanding of the social dynamics of inequality and historical responsibility. The manifesto was created through a collaborative process that was initiated by the team behind This Changes Everything film and movie, and involved trade unionists, First Nation representatives, migrant rights groups and faith groups as well as the ‘usual suspects.’ It may sound like pie-eyed idealism, but the extraordinary thing is the width of backing they have for the initiative. Speaking at the event yesterday wasHassan Yussuff, the president of the Canadian Labor Congress and one of the signatories to the manifesto. It’s hard to think of a figure in the equivalent position of power in the UK trade union movement signing up to such a visionary and transformational position.
There’s so much happening in Paris too outside the conference centre…. talks, art, actions and planning. We’ll be doing a similar blog in the near future that looks at all these too.