COP19: Are we getting anywhere?

November 22, 2013

“The public perception is that we meet but do not act. “ – H.E. Ms. Doris Leuthard Minister, Switzerland.

Photo Credit: Luka Tomac


In the wake of walkouts by NGOs and developing nations during loss and damage discussions, several speakers today commented on the apparent lack of progress in these negotiations. Prime Minister of Tuvalu, for example, described his expectations for clear commitments to climate change and stressed that negotiations are being stalled because of continuous backtracking.

The 7th meeting of the COP and CMP, a high-level plenary session, allowed Prime ministers and heads of state to describe their positions in three minutes (although hardly anyone stuck to this time limit). Each tended to echo the same overarching themes; mainly, most agreed that climate change:


(i) is the biggest and most severe problem facing the world today,

            (ii) needs to be mitigated immediately as the situation is worsening, and

            (iii) impacts developing countries the most adversely, who need funding for


What we have seen so far is an agreement that there is a problem and that action is necessary. Great - this should form the preamble for the draft text expected at the conclusion of the conference tomorrow. But what about specifics? What do we need to do, how will we do it, and who will pay for it?

I realize that my disillusionment with this process resides in the lack of tangible solutions to these problems. It is important to remember, however, that the purpose of this meeting is to get something together in preparation for the 2015 agreements and that many of the issues will not have immediate ‘answers’ per se. Recognizing this goal, the main hope for the final day of negotiations tomorrow is for draft text to emerge that will guide the 2015 agreements to a successful, legally binding treaty.

Some hope was regained during a simultaneous press conference by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC, View Session Here). The CCAC described collaborative actions for countries to achieve short-term and meaningful reductions on a purely voluntary, self-selected basis. The Coalition is not an alternative to the UNFCCC negotiating forum, but rather a companion to intergovernmental process, bringing together actors with common interests to move forward now. For example, they previewed the Green Freight Action Plan, expected to come into play by the end of next year, which seeks to hook and attract companies to reduce black carbon emissions. The idea here is that an immediate success can serve as an inspiration and confidence booster for other countries to see how similar initiatives might work for them.

I look forward to tomorrow with anticipation and a nervous optimism that something spectacular will happen. Fingers crossed.

- Anthony Carrasquillo