Elusive Unity

by Julian Velez

Unity between the different groups is a key aspect for the outcome of these negotiations, because that is how strong positions on the decisions come about and also that is how agreements come forward. If each country only pushed for their agenda and their agenda only, nothing would happen. Countries work as blocks to find united positions that give strength to their statements. The political influence of block positions becomes a force that can shift things in negotiations. This is particularly important for poor countries because otherwise their small voices wouldn’t be heard in this concert of giants.

Right now the developing economies are not finding a united voice. There is division and they are starting to have conflicts between each others’ positions when their interests are shared within their climatic and economic reality. Developing countries are the ones that are most affected by climate change. They are minor emitters in relation to the developed countries which not only have much higher per capita emissions, but also have a long history of emissions that has brought us to this crucial moment with the world’s environment.

The role of the African countries is crucial for the direction that these negotiations will take. They are being pressured to be divided. The Africa Group is trying to have a united vision for the outcome of Durban; we will see what happens when the ministers and the heads of state come in. These official figures don’t deal with details of the text – they deal with big political deals that are country-driven. They also have interests that are for personal political campaigns. The problem is that some countries have sold out in backdoor financial deals with threats and offers. When this happens, the country blocks can’t make statements as a whole.

The main issue is that the developed countries are pushing for a commitment that will relieve them from more responsibilities rather than giving them the responsibility to fulfill obligations that they had already signed to.  Developed countries are pushing for a deal that will create a good image for them and the Durban COP, while not really holding them to hard obligations. They want to show that they worked hard for a tangible result.

Right now it seems that most developing countries agree with the terms for the outcomes of these conference. Except for AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States), which doesn’t have a unified position, even publicly.  For example they all want an ambitious, legally binding second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol. The question in this conference is not whether we have a second commitment period or not – we will have one – the discussion is on how that decision is made. The question is: when it starts operating, how ambitious will it be in terms of emissions reductions, when do certain major emitter parties come into the protocol, and under what conditions they will join the commitment. In a general sense developed countries want to have less pressure for their commitments and developing countries want stronger commitments for developed ones at all levels.

Yesterday the High Level Segment of the convention started; these negotiations are carried forward by ministers and heads of state. Now it all depends on how strong developing countries stand with their block position and whether or not they sell out their position, and with it, the united voice of their group. Another factor is how much developed countries use development aid as a manipulative tool to push their own agendas. It is in this high level segment that all the big deals and bribes happen.

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