Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Prospects Grim in Cancun

It's end of day 3 in Cancun. As always, it's been a frenzied three days.

The negotiations began along the well-worn path of the last year: developed countries refining the new rules and processes they would use to avoid accountability for emissions from logging and other land uses like croplands.

Then things got interesting.

The island state of Tuvalu, as steadfast in its abhorrence of the 'logging loophole' as we are, put a whole new package on the table. It basically throws out everything that countries have been negotiating on for the past three years - no reference levels (loophole), no credit for carbon stored in wood products (loophole), no special provision for excluding emissions from fires (possible loophole).

The quid pro quo for this tossing out the window of all things bad and troubling in the negotiations is that accounting for everything would remain voluntary. It's hard to get excited about this approach, but easy to comiserate with the apparent desperation caused by the singular focus of developed countries on anything but accounting for emissions from land use.

It's still shocking how, in this convention on climate change and emission reductions, there is no preoccupation with emission reductions from land use - they can go up as long as the practices are 'sustainable'!

It's really not clear where things will go from here. There are now three options on the table on the basic accounting approach, all of which have entrenched opposition. And, ironically, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that they want an agreement here in Cancun!

Meanwhile, small informal groups of negotiators have been locked behind closed doors trying to hammer out an agreement on the how to deal with natural disturbances and carbon stored in wood products.

Tomorrow may bring more surprises...

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