COP17 enters home stretch

The high level segment opened yesterday with speeches first from presidents and prime ministers, and, in the case of Monaco, royalty. Then down the pecking order to countries represented by ministers and those statements will continue, 3 minutes each today and tomorrow.  Peter Kent will speak this morning.

Meanwhile, all attention on negotiations is on China’s offer to be part of Kyoto but only if the industrialized countries sign on for a second commitment period. There are rumours that China is working behind the scenes to bring India on board.  The number of countries wanting a second commitment period under Kyoto seems to be around 150-160.

As the talks continue, I find more negotiators have written off Canada. Some even think if Canada is only going to be in the way, it is just as well to see our government legally withdraw.  The shock of the idea of a nation legally withdrawing is beginning to wear off.  The Canadian media, and even I hate to say, the Official Opposition critic, didn’t seem to fully appreciate how very shocking it was to the world to realize Canada plans to fully withdraw from the treaty.  But as other government representatives look at the issue, seeing that the Protocol requires any party planning to withdraw must do so at least one full year before the end of the first commitment period (December 31, 2012), shock turns to a shrug.

In other words, the CTV leak that PM Harper plans to announce our legal withdrawal from Kyoto on December 23rd has not only the logic of his desire to keep this shameful course of action out of public view by moving under the happy chaos of the holiday season, but also fits the legal timelines of Kyoto itself.  And now in Durban where Canada is playing a very unhelpful role in negotiations, some negotiators — off the record — would just as soon see Canada depart.

The issues in the last few days remain complex. The most important is the matter of finding a second commitment period under Kyoto, but there are also key questions on financing, creation of the Green Climate Fund, progress on adaptation, the possibility of levies to be applied on bunker fuel or airline tickets, land use and forestry — and within each of these topics further technical debates are unresolved.

The next three days are critical.