While countries are maintaining a brave front on an agreement at Cancun where the United Nations climate change talks are being held, the reality could be very different. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres has been speaking of a balanced package of decisions, but what constitutes that balance is contentious. On the one side, you have the United States, which is not part of the Kyoto Protocol, and on the other, you have major blocks such as the European Union, which are committed to a second commitment phase of the Kyoto Protocol, but at the same time wants other industrialised countries to be on board as well.
As the Cancun talks move into a high level segment from Tuesday with Ministers and heads of states arriving for the negotiations, compromise and optimism and seeking a middle ground are the buzz words. The Wikileaks report in The Guardian, which has been exposing pressure tactics by the U.S. and the EU to get smaller countries such as the Maldives on board at Copenhagen with the lure of funding has not helped matters. Bolivia was highly critical of the report and said that it only confirmed what everyone knew already. Bolivia refuted reports that it would walk out of the negotiations and said that it was very keen on an agreement.
Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action who is mentioned in the Wikileaks transcript, when asked about the Wikileaks report, said it was a one-sided conversation and the full facts needed to come out. The fact is that the EU was committed to funding programmes in countries such as the Maldives, she said. U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern too took the high moral ground by saying that he would not comment on the issue. However, he took the example of a Norwegian Minister who was accused of bribery in Copenhagen and who said countries which made a strong case for climate funding could not accuse them of bribery.
Where then are the Cancun climate talks heading? Mr. Stern said “he is quite sure there will be an agreement, but will we get to it?” The U.S. is keen on anchoring the pledges made in Copenhagen. The EU too has been speaking of a balanced package. China, the developing countries and small island states and least developed countries are keen on the second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol. Mr. Stern was concerned about the transparency aspect in the negotiating text and he felt it could be improved upon. It is clear that for the Americans it is the International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) that is a crucial issue.
President of Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC Patricia Espinosa announced an initiative to help the discussions by bringing together Ministers from developed and developing countries to work on specific issues. She announced five pairs, one from a developed country and one from a developing country to work on: shared vision, adaptation, finance, technology and capacity building; mitigation and Measurement Reporting and Verification; and issues under the Kyoto Protocol.