China in Copenhagen, Days 6-8 #cop15

Today (Day 8), our fingers have finally thawed out after waiting two hours outside the Bella Center(can you spot us in the picture to the right?)- the nexus of COPactivity, so that we are be able to bring you the latest updates onChina in Copenhagen. 

The weekend proved slow for the COP, owing muchto the distraction provided by an estimated 25,000 protesters who took to the streets of Copenhagen to demand a fair and urgent climate deal. (see an excellent video and pictures at Dot Earth). The protests didn’t prove to be too much of a distraction, however,as lead Chinese climate negotiator Su Wei said during a press briefingon Saturday (Day 6) that he wasn’t aware of them and was ratherambivalent about their role in the negotiation process.  Saying it wasa “matter of opinion” as to whether such demonstrations wereconstructive or destructive, Mr. Su just hoped that delegates would beable to get into the venue so that they could work “25 hours a day” toguarantee an agreement by the end of this week.

Indeed, Mr. Su was correct in saying that the tens of thousands ofprotesters are probably the least of concerns for negotiators, as aconsensus on certain key issues seems to be evasive still.  With the impending arrival of 110 heads of statesto participate in the ministerial summit at the end of the week on Dec.17-18, there are still significant issues on the table.  Two majorupdates we’ll touch on in this post reflect the pressure and thepromise of the negotiations as the end of COP rapidly approaches:

1. African “disappointment”

Talks here in Copenhagen threatened to halt today when the AfricanGroup, comprised of 53 African nations, walked out of negotiations.  Weare not too disturbed ourselves, however, as this is all part of theusual “COP-drama,” where year after year, some negotiating group oranother walks out or threatens to do so.

Kamel Djemouai, a delegate from Algeria and chair of the AfricanGroup, said during a press conference this morning that they are,“definitely, completely disappointed,” with the COP-15 President, theUNFCCC Secretariat, and all developed countries who moved to collapsenegotiations for the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA (the two working groups for theKyoto Protocol and Long-term Cooperative Agreement) into one track.Despite the attempts of Connie Hedegaard, COP-15 President, to draft alist of concerns with the move to focus on the LCA track, the AfricanGroup noted that not all concerns had been listed and that such a shiftmay mean “signing the death of the Kyoto Protocol.”

The African nations stressed “killing the Kyoto Protocol” meanslosing the only “legally binding instrument that is functioning.” Theyfear that the tight timeline for rest of the negotiations will mean theclock will run out for discussions on the KP. Along with the AfricaGroup, China has strongly supported the two-track process for thenegotiations so that the KP might persist and commit developedcountries to a second commitment period.  Developed countries-mostnotably Australia-do not want to continue the KP because it doesn’tinclude major emitters like the United States and China.

Fifty African nations have also proposed their own text,which asks for $400 billion dollars from developed countries from2010-2012 (despite the UN’s estimates that only $30 billion over threeyears is needed) and steep emission cuts of 50 percent by 2017 comparedto 1990 levels – the most in any proposal we’ve seen in COP to date. Because we (or anyone we asked, for that matter) were unable to trackdown a copy of the text, it is unclear at this point whether the text,even if it materializes, will have an impact at this point given itsstrong demands.

On another note, Tuvalu’s proposalto establish a contact group for its suggested amendment to the KP, hasbeen officially quashed, despite Tuvalu’s chief climate negotiator Ian Fry’s tearful plea for developed countries to commit to stringent reduction targets.

China’s chief climate change official and head of the Chinese delegation Xie Zhenhua said during a press briefing this afternoonopen only to Chinese media that they supported this move by the G-77and other developing countries for “removing obstacles and speeding upwork on amending the Kyoto Protocol.” (While Minister Xie’s address wasoriginally open to the public, an e-mail sent around noon abruptlycanceled the event. Only later when we checked up to find out if thecancellation had anything to do with the Africa Group’s walk-outearlier were we told that the event was indeed still on but only opento Chinese media, for which Minister Xie had a “special announcementand communication” for domestic audiences.)

Minister Xie also said he favored the first installment of fundinggoing to the African, small islands, and least developed countries thatmost need the financing, however not disqualifying China as a potential recipient.  An articlefrom Financial Times yesterday jumped the gun when it concluded thatChina “had abandoned its demand for funding from the developed world tocombat climate change, the first apparent concession by one of themajor players at the Copenhagen climate talks.”  Indeed, the Chinesenegotiators, especially Minister He Yafei in our observation, have beenvery careful and performed an intricate dance aroundthis issue.  China knows that the most vulnerable countries, such asthe small island countries, should get priority for internationalfunding, but China has not counted itself out of contention for fundsin the long run, when $10 billion per year in aid grows to $100 billionper year.

Which brings us to our next update …

2. Who’s REDI for clean tech?

The United States made a splash today with Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s (pictured right) announcement of an international plan to deploy clean technology globally (with a strong emphasis on developing countries)-the Climate Renewables and Efficiency Deployment Initiative (Climate REDI)will include three clean technology programs focusing on solar and LEDlighting, efficient appliances and equipment, and policy and technicalsupport for countries planning for renewable energy. The funding forClimate REDI–$350 million in total over five years–comes from fundspreviously pledged by the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway andSwitzerland, Australia, Italy, the United States and others (the U.S.share is $85 million). The initiative aims to make energy-savingtechnology that already exists cheap enough to penetrate markets inIndia, parts of Africa and elsewhere.

The program also develops Technology Action Plans(TAPs) which share information among MEF members about high-priorityclean technologies like solar and wind energy in order to acceleratetheir development and deployment. The TAPs address over 80% of theenergy sector emissions reduction potential identified by the IEA. Withthese efforts, the United States has made clear its intentions topartner with its peers to develop and deploy clean energy technologiesquickly and broadly, but both the Climate REDI and TAP programs lackclarity as to who will receive and benefit from these technologies.

Nearly all MEF members have taken leadership roles on the TAPs, fromFrance with marine energy to Brazil and Italy with bioenergy, but Chinanumbers among those countries not serving in this role. While the Climate REDI program does not omit China from consideration, its absence from a leadership role is noteworthy.  Particularly in light of the sharp ping-pong between US climate change envoy Todd Stern and Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs He Yafei, we wondered if this was yet another financing deal in which China was going to be the last kid picked during a kickball game.

However, during a speech today in the US Center at Copenhagen, Secretary Chu addressed this point by highlighting the recent dealPresidents Obama and Hu reached in November. According to SecretaryChu, this bilateral partnership would focus on building efficiency,clean vehicles, and clean coal.  He then went on to say that China andthe U.S. “have to aggressively share expert information on many ofthese technologies,” stressing that this could be accomplished partlythrough intellectual property rights, joint creation and ownership oftechnologies, and transfer of “know-how” that goes both ways. Secretary Chu’s statements suggest a special, heightened relationshipbetween the U.S. and China that move beyond a typical tech transfermodel between developed and developing countries in which technologies,capacity building, and funding normally flow one-way.

Things are getting hairy in the Bella Center.  Look at the queueoutside the Bella Center this morning!!! Starting tomorrow, secondarypasses will be required for all observer (e.g. non-governmental)participants to limit the number of civil society members to 7,000 forTuesday and Wednesday.  Beginning Thursday, this number will be reducedto 1,000 and finally to 90 on Friday.  Already, this news has outragedthe tens of thousands of non-government participants in the COP, whohave already sent a letter of petition to Connie Hedegaard, Presidentof COP 15, and Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC Secretariat, demanding moretransparency in the process.  Fingers are crossed that Team China willstill be given access to the Bella Center, so we can continue to bringyou all the action direct from Copenhagen.

By Angel Hsu and Luke Bassett, part of Yale University’s “Team China” blogging live from Copenhagen.

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