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The key development of Week 1 at the COP

The first week of the COP has almost wound to a close. In the hallways today, I spoke to various people who are familiar with what is going on behind the scenes in the real negotiation: everyone seemed rather depressed. The basic problem is that the Chinese and Indian negotiators want more than the US feels able to give, and there is at least the possibility that the maximum US offer is less than the Chinese/Indian BATNA.

Not a good situation. But we are just at the midpoint of the talks, all of the negotiators face a responsibility to deliver for their leaders, arriving at the end of the week, and so there is still reason to hope that an agreement will emerge. One clear result of the meeting is already obvious and will hopefully prove helpful in this and future climate negotiations: China and India have adopted negotiating positions that are different from the remainder f the G-77.

This is an incredibly significant development in these negotiations where, ever since negotiations began in the late 1980’s, the group of developing countries (G-77) and China have negotiated as a block. This week, in the face of Tuvalu’s proposals that developed and developing countries adopt targets for their 2020 GHG emissions that would limit warming to 1.5°C, China and India split from at least the AOSIS group within the negotiation. Now there appear to be at least three major negotiating factions at the negotiation – the developed countries, India and China, and the remainder of the G-77.

This may be a major step forward in the road towards a new agreement in the sense that it recognizes that different developing countries have enormously different abilities and interest in dealing with the GHG problem and begins to move beyond the overly simplistic and increasingly unworkable vision of the world created by the developed/developing country binary classification enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol and towards a more nuanced and realistic view of the parties interests.

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