On day four of the COP18 Doha climate negotiations, three things have become glaringly obvious — the process is slow, there remains a distinct lack of trust between developing and developed countries, and it's all about money.
Developing countries have been critical of the lack of certainty around finance. US$100 billion has been committed to long term mitigation and adaption for developing countries, but so far the Green Climate Fund remains empty. There is no clear indication of when the coffers will be filled.
At a side event yesterday hosted by Oxfam Australia, panelists discussed what they have dubbed the "climate fiscal cliff". Green Climate Fund board members from the UK, Germany and the US reassured developing countries that financing would continue despite the termination of the Fast Start climate funding this year, but failed to specify how much and when money would be put on the table.
Developing countries, including Australia, maintain that budgeted climate financing cannot be delivered until the recipient countries are "climate funding ready" which includes having a fully operational Green Climate Fund.
Substantial criticism was levelled at developed countries for not contributing "new" and "additional" finance under the Fast Start scheme, as promised. According to Oxfam's calculations only 30 to 33 per cent of finance was actually new and additional, as opposed to funds already allocated.
Additionally, only 40 per cent of the money has been delivered as grants (as opposed to loans). This has further tarnished the already shaky trust of developing countries who are now seeking reassurance that they are not going to be left with empty bank balances in 2013.
There are also technical disagreements over where the money should come from and how it should be allocated. G77 and China maintain that climate finance should come from new public funds mobilised by developed countries, in an attempt to ensure predictability and transparency. However, many developed countries such as the UK, believe that private funding sources are critical if the private sector is to reduce its emissions, essential for the ultimate goal of keep global warming below 2 degrees.
The shared fear of developing countries is that climate finance flows will go down in 2013 when the Fast Start scheme ends, precisely when they need it to amp up due to the already intensifying impacts of climate change. There are loud demands for the initial capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund to take place here in Doha.
Australia has also continued to stand with several other developed countries in what is being perceived as a deliberate attempt to stall progress.
In the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) informal consultations, the tensions that were emerging on day two continue to bubble. Historically, the LCA has been one of the more tumultuous negotiating streams of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Tumultuous would be an appropriate word to describe the discontent and confusion that characterised today's negotiations as Japan and the United States launched a strong challenge to the Chair's attempt to guide the text that the LCA will take back to the Doha negotiations proper.
The animosity generated appears to be multifaceted. Japan, the US and a number of other developed countries resent the Chair's influence over the proceedings. They consider it a breach of process, and it runs contrary to their belief that negotiations under the LCA are complete and it is time to move onto an implementation stream under the Durban Platform. Developing countries disagree, viewing it as an attempt by rich nations to water down their initial commitments.
Further, it appears that there is substantial confusion over what text is being used in the negotiations. Different contact groups seem to be using different texts, creating further frustration. This confusion meant the 90 minute consultation was spent discussing procedural disagreements rather than working towards substantive progress. There is speculation that the entire process will be derailed, because developing and developed countries are unable to agree on when the LCA should end and the Durban Platform will begin.
It is only day four, and there is still time for the President of Qatar to step in and shift the tone of the negotiations, or for developed countries to make a gesture of good faith to facilitate moving forward. It is disappointing that the LCA is already bogged down in debates over technicalities because developed countries are reluctant to discuss equity issues. Before the Ministers arrive next week in Doha, it is critical that the current inertia is broken in order for progress to be made.
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