Talks on Trade and Tech Transfer lead to Distrust in Process

~by Joe Perullo

The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) opened their meeting this morning on the issue of trade.

The big fight was whether or not to continue discussions of trade in the LCA. The LCA is wrapping up its last year, tasked with developing a new legal outcome of some kind. The outcome will have to address the five items agreed as major issues in Bali: Mitigation, Adaptation, Technology Transfer, Finance, and the Shared Vision (the articulation of the underpinning goals of all decisions for the UNFCCC).

The bigger fight yet is still about equity. Developing countries want to mitigate, as the developed countries are demanding, but can only do so with the help of finance, adaptation, and technology transfer—much of which is provided through trade. Trade, specifically unilateral trade, is an implementation tool to finally get aid moving to the global south. As such, developed countries have been going out of their way to keep it out of the Convention.

One of the first speakers, China, saw what was coming and suggested to continue talking about trade instead of ignoring the issue.

Venezuela, having facilitated issue in Durban, referred to a decision made that there were two parts: First, the establishment of a forum to discuss implementation, and second, the consolidation of all discussions under convention.

Developing countries quickly came to consensus that a spin off group on the item should be established to talk about incompleted work. They also pointed out that a mandate from the Bali Action Plan (BAP), the origin of the five issues above, included a mandate in 1b6 to continue and complete the work.

Developed countries, including the EU, Switzerland, the US, and Japan, supported by Mexico and Singapore, responded by urging parties to “move forward” by dropping this issue for the sake of saved negotiating time. They are trying to jump ship from their commitments in the LCA. Partly with the use of the five building blocks, the LCA differentiates developed and developing countries. If developed countries can undermine the LCA, they will be able to put themselves on par with developing countries in what they would like to see as the “new LCA,” the Ad Hoc Working Group for the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). In other words, equity is squandered and developed countries can be less ambitious.

The most common defense used by developed countries was the fact that other bodies are already in place to take care of trade, notably… (ready for it?)… the WTO.

The US exercised its skill in using the words of developing countries against them: “We agree with what has been said by others. Venezuela noted that a forum decided in Durban would consider all response measures. Yesterday, China noted on the importance of efficiency. Parties are already making measures on trade. We don’t see the need to open a spin off group. There is no prospect to agreeing on it. We have the WTO.”

Cuba rebutted saying that “in real life, nothing is coming from WTO to help climate measures. This is a climate related issue.”

The Chair shifted discussions to Technology Transfer itself, which underwent a similar battle: While developed countries claim that progress has indeed been made with the establishments of the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), the Philippines turned it around by pointing out that although these mechanisms are established they are not yet operationalized. The Philippines continued on a strong speech, outlining the essential nature of the five BAP building blocks, and the clearness of the BAP agreement itself.

The Philippines shed light on how these discussions have shifted from committing to the LCA to sweeping it under the rug. She exposed a lot of the transparency issues in the process. Referring to the exclusive backroom decisions made in Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban, she pointed out how an elite group of negotiators have been put on a certain level, and how the LCA chair (then Daniel Reifsnyder) has allowed that. “I’m only at sea level.” She then continued to criticize the role of the chair, bringing up how parties were not allowed to speak out about the Durban decision because of how the LCA chair took his own responsibility by passing the decision to the next COP. Under tech transfer, there were items bracketed under chair’s responsibility that were crucial to developing countries. “All of our options for finance,” said the Philippines, “were dropped off table in Cancun without us knowing what happened. You cannot just drop my options of the table. I will not accept someone to do so without not letting me know about it.”

The Philippines finished with noting the ambiguity of the ADP. It’s launch and period of when to plan its work is still under negotiation.

The Convention cannot be just swepped under the table. Parties agreed to finish its work. Developing countries claim that trying to do so would be stalling process, when in actuality ignoring these issues will only lead to further negotiation and lack of real action.


©2019 by Earth in Brackets.