The COP that would not die…

(LIMA) – Okay, I know that sounds like a Bruce Willis movie and my apologies… but this COP has achieved that dreamlike-nightmarish quality that obscures what day it is, what time it is. So apologies. I was surprised to check and see that my last blog had been late Thursday. We have been in nearly constant negotiations since then, without a final outcome as I write this at 7 pm Saturday night.

To my surprise Thursday night, the president adjourned, having instructed the two-chairs to work with him and develop a new text by 9 pm. He also asked the lead negotiators from Norway and Singapore to play a role in helping find consensus. He then sent all the rest of us back to our hotels with a plenary to begin at 9 am Friday.

The next morning a hundred or so NGOs with observer badges queued to get in the smaller informal room (the one with the deafening fan). We never did get in. Even some of the national delegations could not get in. The debate raged inside for nearly an hour. Only then did we discover that the debate had been about getting to a larger room! The delegations didn’t want so many NGOs excluded (at least those from the developing countries didn’t). The UN security guard came out and said “Everyone to plenary room Cusco. Don’t run.” At which point a fair number of weary delegates started running.

Once back in the large plenary room, the conversation continued along the informal lines of a working group. The new text was not well received. It had a series of options (1-3) on all key sections, but it was heavily balanced toward the industrialized world’s agenda.

As developing countries took the floor, one after another expressed, in very diplomatic terms, their disappointment with the lack of balance. A key word here is “differentiation.” (See my blog on Brazil’s proposal from Wednesday). There was no differentiation in this text. I asked one Canadian negotiator about it and the reply was “of course there is differentiation. It is self-differentiation.” Right, a wealthy country like Canada can say “poor me! Look at my difficult circumstances. I am so invested in oil sands!” While for the poor nations of the world, the differentiation is one of reality. Low lying island states face extinction as nations, while other poor nations with millions living near sea level are buffeted by oceans rise and storm surges become more dangerous, tropical storms gain greater intensity and scarce infrastructure is wiped out.

There was no mention of the issue of Loss and Damage, few references to adaptation and financing, technology transfer and capacity building and nothing to give comfort to poor countries that they would not have the same requirements to file their “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) as industrialized – but with no resources to do so. The weak reference to the place of the ADP work within the UNFCCC was a special point of alarm for developing countries. The preamble merely said “Guided by the Convention.” India was forceful in saying that sentence “shattered the faith” of developing countries that the industrialized world is not trying to weaken the role of the convention.

After a few hours of gathering comments, the co-chairs announced that they had been asked by the president to work with him and come up with a new text. We were asked to come back after lunch for a stock-taking session with the president, to see how well they had moved to compromise.

That stock-taking was delayed till 3 and then 4, then till 5, than 9 pm, to 11:30. As one of my environmental group friends said, “it is only at a COP were you can feel stressed and bored at the same time.”

Finally we convened at 1 am. Or at least the doors opened at 1 AM. It was around 2 AM before all country groups had completed their internal conversations and the President of the COP, Peru’s Environment Minister Manuel Pugar-Vidal convened the group. He urged us to be flexible and then gave the floor to the ADP co-chair. A text was handed out, slimmed down, as he explained it was based on comments from all parties. He promised all countries would be unhappy, but hoped all countries would be equally unhappy.

For the next hour and a half the developing countries primarily asked that they not be given a “take it or leave it” decision text. Fully aware that the meeting was already supposed to be over, some urged acceptance despite finding the document weak. But, not unreasonably, country after country asked to have time to read the decision text carefully, confer with capitals (as many ministers had already had to leave) and have a chance to think through new language.

By 3:30 am, the ADP co-chair agreed to allow time to read the decision and resume our talks at 10 am. It is a fair distance from this military base outside of town back to hotels in town. It basically allowed negotiators the choice of reading the text or sleeping in the available 3.5 hours they had in hotels.

At 10 am the conversation on the substance of the new text began. It was clear very quickly that there could be no consensus on the draft, despite some clear improvements. It was sufficiently weak for Australia to like it. Canada did not take the floor. But low lying island sates, particularly Tuvalu stood against a text that in the words of Tuvalu’s lead negotiator Ian Fry would abandon the poorest of the poor. “We implore everyone in this room that this not be the COP that decided to ignore the world’s poorest.”

The African nations stood against it, as well as the Like-Minded Group (for whom the very experienced lead negotiator is from Malaysia), a sub set of the G77 and China. The Arab nations agreed.

Brazil made a very reasonable, rules-based and principled intervention. Pointing out that the UNFCCC must govern this process and that “we are here to strengthen the climate regime globally, not weaken it.”

The room was not entirely against the text. The Marshall Islands, acknowledging that “my country’s existence is on the line” urged compromise to accept this text and “fight tooth and nail” to improve it before Paris.

Russia liked the text, ditto Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The US liked it and took on a rather threatening tone (at least I thought so) as Todd Stern of State Department said that not only the climate system was at risk. So was the legitimacy of the UNFCCC as a vehicle to respond to the climate crisis — if the COP did not accept the draft text.

China finally named the reality. “We are dead-locked.”

The co-chairs admitted that it was true and said they would adjourn and convey the ADP text for the President to consult and find compromises. Then Pulgar-Vidal announced that starting at 2:30 he would meet with every group of nations, regional or interest-based negotiating groups, in meetings of ten minutes each. And that that should take three hours more. At which point, he and the co-chairs would draft.

Negotiation on the pattern of speed-dating. We are still awaiting the results of that process. A new text is expected and we are to reconvene at 9 pm.

I will write more when I know if we leave Lima empty handed, with a weak text or with one that actually establishes a good path to COP21. My bet right now is on the middle option, a weak text but slightly better than the previous draft. Stay tuned.

PS: The new posted time to resume the ADP discussion in closing session is 11 pm.