Today’s question: is this the worst COP ever?

Well, that’s not quite a fair question.  Copenhagen, COP15, will, hopefully for all time, represent the low point in the effort to achieve meaningful action to avert disaster, but for in-between COPs, this one is vying for runner-up to Copenhagen.

COP19 Press ConferenceToday is the second to last day of negotiations.  No progress has been made in most areas of negotiation.  The President of the COP, Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec (who chairs the meetings and shepherds the process) was fired yesterday by the Prime Minister.  He remains president of COP through to the meeting in Lima, Peru next November (COP20).  Rumour has it he has been off-side in Poland’s desire to launch massive fracking.  And has been replaced in Cabinet with a more frack-friendly minister. It all fits the pro-coal, industry heavy COP atmosphere established by our hosts.

Things are in a serious state of disarray, with delegates reporting episodes of bad faith bargaining, industrialized countries demanding previously agreed upon decisions be re-opened. Canada (with US and New Zealand) bringing in an entirely new proposal to the finance negotiations at 7 am, after negotiating all night.  The issues of bad process, bad faith negotiating are compounded by the obvious – the down-graded commitments at Copenhagen, the face-saving sham called the Copenhagen Accord is not being honoured by industrialized countries.  The effort to buy time for pollution by throwing money at the developing world – what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did in Copenhagen – was resisted at the time by the poor nations.  I remember Tuvulu’s head of delegation saying “We will not sell our children’s future for your 30 pieces of silver.”

Well, okay, admittedly, it was more than 30 pieces of silver; it was $100 billion pieces of silver.

It was a pledge of new climate financing to help the developing world reduce emissions and adapt to those climate impacts we can no longer avoid.  It was to start with fast start financing of $10 billion rising to $100 billion/year by 2020.  All the other industrialized countries signed on to this, including Canada. The UN system responded by setting up the modalities to handle and distribute the funds.  The Green Climate Fund is all set up. It sits there empty. Initial contributions were spent quickly and now there is an empty bank.

Certainly it seemed to me the offer (bribe) was that the money would be steadily ramped up until it reached a level of $100 billion/year. Hillary Clinton was careful to say in 2009 in Denmark that the money would be mobilized from public and private sources of funds.  It was not all to be coming from governments.  But still, it is a bit hard to swallow the current line here in Warsaw from the US, Canada and other rich countries:  don’t expect money in the bank til 2020.  Countries are saying, you expect us to believe that suddenly $100 billion will be in the bank in 2020, with nothing there in 2019?

This issue, code named “Finance” is a major sticking point at this COP. NGOs put out buttons, sported now on many lapels: Where’s the Financing?   Actually, the button is the abbreviation: WTF?

The log jam, the sense that the rich countries are gaming this COP to avoid taking on either finance commitments, funding for loss and damage, or, most importantly, deeper emission cut commitments, led to a dramatic and historic walk out yesterday. Although some reports have said developing countries walked out, that’s not the case. But hundreds of NGO observers, civil society representatives from environment groups, development groups labour and indigenous groups walked out.  The walk out included World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth International, Oxfam, Greenpeace,, and many others.

In the stock-taking plenary later that day, many delegations, including China expressed thanks to civil society for those actions. (it is fascinating to see a country that makes such protests illegal appreciate them here at COP).

The negotiations went on til the wee hours on many areas.  The ADP meeting adjourned early, around 9 pm, but finance went on til the morning.

By all indications, tomorrow (today) Friday, will be a very long day.