Day 3 in Copenhagen: Ban Re-asserts Control over the Negotiations

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is reasserting control over the negotiations after a leaked document raised what he called “trust issues” between developed and developing countries. The UN’s top climate diplomat says the document is just one informal proposal and he real work will be done at the negotiating table.

For a look at exactly what these “trust issues” are all about, Abishek Nayak summarizes the differences between the so-called “Danish text” and a counter-proposal put forward by the BASIC bloc (Brazil, South Africa, India, and China). Developing countries feel that the Danish text weakens the principles of the Kyoto treaty which place special responsibility on the developed world for tackling climate change. For example, the Danish text calls for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system for all climate mitigation projects, whereas the BASIC draft calls for MRV only on those projects that rely on financing or technology from the developed world. The Danish text calls for developing countries to specify a year at which their CO2 emissions will peak. The BASIC proposal rejects that option.

Another major sticking point is that the Danish text gives more power to the World Bank, which is controlled by developed countries, at the expense of the UN where developing countries have more pull.

Angelica Navarro, the Chief Climate Negotiator for Bolivia, stressed in a radio interview that developing countries are not “begging for aid.” On the contrary, she argues, the global north emits most of the carbon dioxide and therefore owes the global south reparations for the damages it has inflicted.

The chair of the negotiating bloc of developing nations known as the G-77, Lumumba Di-Aping, said the proposed $10 billion in emergency aid to the developing world is “not enough to buy us coffins.”

As the developed world squares off against BASIC, a parallel rift is developing within the bloc of developing nations known as the G-77. Negotiations came to a halt today at the request of the island nation of Tuvalu. Tuvalu asked for the break after conference president Connie Hedegaard declined to advance its proposal for tougher, legally-binding steps.

Developing countries wanted time to hash out their differences behind the scenes. A rift is emerging between the most vulnerable nations and the industrializing giants of the BASIC bloc. Small island states and poor African countries want a tough new protocol that goes beyond the Kyoto agreement, holding global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and capping carbon concentrations at 350 parts per million. The richer developing countries oppose these measures which they believe they would stunt their developing economies.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson got a standing ovation at a closed-door briefing with environmentalist groups and other non-profits last night. They were cheering becaues the EPA announced on Monday that carbon dioxide is a public health hazard and will therefore be regulated under the Clean Air Act. Jackson is in Copenhagen as part of an Obama administration “charm offensive” featuring daily events with Cabinet secretaries. Today, Jackson pledged that President Obama would work with Congress to “make up for lost time” on the climate issue. Her remarks seemed calculated to reassure American lawmakers that the executive branch wasn’t planning to do an end run around them on emissions.

Of course, Lobbyists from the oil, gas, and alternative energy industry are flaking in Copenhagen. NGOs and activist organizations are also on hand. This evening activists from a group calling itself Young Clean Energy Advocates crashed a presentation sponsored by Americans For Prosperity, a U.S. corporate-funded advocacy group that opposes American action on climate change.