This post first appeared on East Asia Forum.

The negotiators at Cancún are currently trying to negotiate a ‘balanced package’ – also known as a ‘six-pack’ – that combines progress on mitigation, transparency (measurement, reporting and verification – or MRV), adaptation, finance, technology, and REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). The Mexicans are extremely determined to get some sort of outcome from the conference – both for the climate and for multilateral negotiations. They so far seem to have been quite confident in the way that they have facilitated the negotiations, and there seems to be much more trust in the Mexicans from Parties than there was for the Danes last year.

What is uncertain is how ‘good’ the decisions will be – in terms of criteria such as ambition (including capacity to ramp up ambition later), efficiency and equity; how detailed the decisions would be; and whether there is sufficient consensus to get a package of decisions at all. Different Parties are interested in progress on different elements of the six-pack, so the total level of progress will be determined by whatever element has the least progress. For example, the United States requires progress on mitigation and transparency in order to support progress on adaptation, finance, technology and REDD+.

There are two tracks to the negotiations: one track is focused on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol for ‘Annex I parties’ (which consists of developing countries, but does not include many countries that could be considered ‘developed’ such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore); the other track is focused on implementing the Bali Action Plan – that covers the six-pack described above. Developing countries (including China) have stated that for an agreement, they require progress on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. There could be progress on ‘technical’ aspects of the Kyoto Protocol – such as new gases, surplus emission allocations, and accounting for forest management. But Japan has now stated clearly what many have already known – that they do not intend to inscribe their target into the second commitment period. If this issue is not resolved, it could cause a potential deal to unravel.

Below is a summary of where things are at in the six-pack:

  • On mitigation, key questions are how to anchor pledges that were part of the Copenhagen accord, and what could be done later to increase ambition. Points of contention include how developed country commitments relate to the Kyoto Protocol and the nature of developing country commitments. China has said that it would submit its emission reductions as a binding UN resolution – but this is conditional on progress on a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol. Todd Stern has described China’s announcement as nothing new.
  • There is some information on transparency in the negotiating text, but the United States want more detail. The Indian Environment Minister Jayram Ramesh has put forward a proposal, but it is uncertain how much support there is for it from major developing countries.
  • On adaptation, there is relatively clean text. But some countries (including Saudi Arabia) want adaptation to be linked to ‘response measures’, which essentially means that as well as assisting countries with adapting to the effects of climate change, oil exporting countries would somehow be compensated for lost fossil fuel revenue.
  • On finance, a major point of debate has been the establishment of a fund, that was called for as part of the Copenhagen Accord. Some countries wanted it established at Cancún, but others argue that time will be needed to set it up and that it should instead be set up in the period between Cancún and the negotiations next year in Durban, South Africa. Areas of discussion include the transitional committee to set it up, the operating entity of the fund, and its relationship to the World Bank. Australia’s Minister Combet has been involved with consultations on finance.
  • On technology, there is clean text, but the United States is likely to block progress if they do not see progress on other issues.
  • The text on REDD+ is largely complete, with most of the remaining areas of disagreement (mainly on the role of market mechanisms) expressed as clear options.

The Mexican Foreign minister, Patricia Espinosa, stated on Wednesday December 8 that an ambitious and broad package of decisions is within reach but we no not have it in our grasp. We are now in the final stage of negotiations, where the final political issues need to be resolved, and negotiators may not get much sleep. If nearly 200 countries can come up with an ambitious and broad package of decisions, it will be a major success in diplomacy that could rejuvenate the UN process.


The climate negotiations commenced today in Cancún. Today was dominated by opening plenaries, these are open to observers, and webcasts are made available on the internet. These generally consist of set piece speeches from the main negotiating blocs. Things of interest that happened include:

  1. PNG proposed that in the case that the UNFCCC cannot reach a consensus on something, as a last resort there should be some sort of vote, which would then require some sort of supermajority to make a decision. This proposal was opposed by Bolivia, India, and Saudi Arabia.
  2. The previous negotiations this year on long-term cooperative action have resulted in very dirty text with a large amount of brackets (parts of the text where there is not consensus, and which would could be deleted), and a large amount of pages. The chair has prepared here own text to facilitate negotiations. Various Parties (countries) have made comments or criticisms of the text, but it seems like it will be a useful basis to go forward.
  3. Japan made a comment in the opening plenary of the ad-hoc working group on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol that its 25 percent emission reduction target is not a target that it plans to inscribe into the Kyoto Protocol.

Unlike Copenhagen, participants haven’t had to line up for long to get into the venue -instead the shuttle buses have been slowed down by a traffic jam that was caused by security arrangements. The main venue where the negotiations have taken place – the “Moon Palace Hotel” – is a giant fancy golf resort but where people who are not staying at the hotel have been subjected to bad expensive food and bad coffee. There have been problems with the internet all day, with it only working intermittently. Not ideal for getting things done.

UNFCCC climate change negotiations have resumed in Bonn. Between April 9 – April 11, meetings are occurring for both the ad-hoc working group for long-term cooperative action under the convention (AWG-LCA), and the ad-hoc working group on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). These working groups have been tasked with completing the Bali action plan by the COP 16 meeting in Cancun, Mexico. Some of the Bonn meetings are webcast here. According to the UNFCCC website:

The first sessions of the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA in 2010 will focus on the organization of work of both working groups this year, including the need for additional meeting time, with a view to reaching a successful conclusion of their work at COP 16 /CMP 6 in Cancun.

Several issues have played a significant role so far:

  • There is a proposal that the Secretariat draft a new next that would draw on both the LCA text from last year, and the Copenhagen Accord. The other option would be to continue negotiating on the old text. If there was a new text, it would be released before some negotiations in June. At the time of writing, it seems like a new text is being opposed by Bolivia, Venezuela, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
  • Countries are staking out (and to a certain extent re-iterating) the positions. Some non-Annex I parties have emphasised the importance of the Kyoto Protocol, and that Annex I parties to the Kyoto Protocol should have stronger commitments, and that loopholes involving permit carryover and LULUCF accounting should be addressed.
  • Russia stated that negotiations should be more efficient; countries should not use up time by repeating their positions; and negotiations should not take place at night, so that negotiators could get some sleep (this particular point received applause).
  • An issue for discussion is the number of meetings, some suggestions for two additional meetings.
  • The US stated made a statement that included the following points: Copenhagen was a remarkable breakthrough because: an agreement to limit temperature rises to 2 degrees; a framework where countries can list their actions or targets; a framework for transparancy; finance commitments; technology; adaptation; and REDD. But there was not much progress in the formal negotiations on the ‘crunch issues’, over 100 pages of brackets. But heads of state achieved things that the formal process could not. The accord should materially influence negotiations. Support chairs proposal to draft new text.
  • Ghana stated that Annex I parties should fund the extra meetings and fund the participation of two participants from each non Annex I party.
  • In order to simplify the negotiations, and make them more inclusive, the chairs of each working group have proposed to create a single contact group corresponding to each working group.
  • Papua New Guinea has called for ministers to meet in order to provide political direction, and when progress is made, then negotiators should meet and integrate progress into the negotiating text.
  • Other negotiators, including the Phillipines, have said that the process should be ‘party driven’ in order to avoid the ‘mistakes of Copenhagen’.

There were three things that resulted from the talks in Copenhagen:

  • A 13 paragraph ‘political accord‘ was agreed by most of the parties, but could only be ‘noted’ by the COP because there was not consensus.
  • The negotiations on extending the Kyoto Protocol had unresolved issues, and the next meeting in Mexico will return to this. The key text that resulted from the Kyoto side of the negotiations is here.
  • The negotiations on long-term cooperative action also had unresolved issues, which the Mexico meeting will have to resolve. The key text that resulted from the long-term cooperative action (LCA) side of the negotiations is here.

What did not result from Copenhagen was a framework for developing a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement. What was positive about the accord was a commitment on finance from developing countries, which would add up to $100 billion per year by 2020, but whether actual commitments will add up to this number is still unresolved.

While the the Kyoto and LCA negotiations did not result in a successful conclusion, the draft texts are now considerably shorter, and the unresolved issues are more obvious. Whether there is a successful outcome to the negotiations at a later date depends crucially on how these issues get resolved.

Some undecided issues related to the Kyoto Protocol include how land use, land use change, and forestry is accounted for; carry-over of permits from the first commitment period (hot air); the scale of the Annex I (developed country) commitments; and how these commitments are represented in a table, and the issue of base years and reference years (a less important issue, but the one that takes up most of the negotiators time). The most important unresolved issues for the LCA track are the precise nature of developing and developed country mitigation commitments and actions, and whether anything from the text will facilitate a legally binding agreement.

The final meeting of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) was supposed to commence early in the evening on December 16. It instead commenced at 4.45 in the morning on December 15, after negotiations went through the night. The meeting was considering a new version of a text on long-term cooperative action that is to be considered by world leaders over the next few days. In this meeting, the United States delegate watered down the nature of any mitigation commitments that would be required from developed countries. The text that he is referring to (with the changes included) is here.

A fundamental problem with any international treaty is that for it to work it has to be ratified by its Parties, in this case including the United States Senate.

At an earlier meeting of the Conference of Parties, when discussing Tuvalu’s proposal for a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal, the Tuvalu negotiator made some eloquent remarks on the role of the US Senate in these negotiations, noting the irony that the fate of the world is in the hands of a few US Senators.

Several draft texts that could play a role in a possible treaty outcome have now been released. The first to appear was an early draft of a possible political agreement drafted by the Danish government in consultations with others. This was leaked to the Guardian earlier this week, and was opposed by the G77. It is probably not as bad as the Guardian article made out, and some of the claims in the article did not appear to be reflected in the actual text.

On Wednesday, there was a discussion in the COP plenary for an agenda item based on submissions 6 months ago from Tuvalu, Australia, the United States, Costa Rica and Japan. The main focus of the discussion was on Tuvalu’s proposal, which had strong legally binding emission reductions. This was supported by many small islands states, as well as countries from the Sahel. Tuvalu sought to establish a contact group to discuss this text, this was blocked by China, India, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Oman, Algeria, Botswana, Libya, Kuwait. A consensus is required to establish a contact group. The COP was then suspended. The next day the COP/MOP was suspended because a contact group to examine amendments to the Kyoto was also blocked.

Yesterday the chair of the ad-hoc working group on long term cooperative action (AWG-LCA) released a draft text. This is now being discussed by the COP.

The chair of the ad-hoc working group on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) also released a draft text.

Draft AWG-LCA text is here: lca chairs text – 11 dec[1]

Draft AWG-KP text is here: awgkpchairstext111209

Draft AOSIS text is here: 23989010-AOSIS-Proposal-for-KP-Survival-and-New-en-Protocol-Final

Draft Danish text is here: 23831690-091127copenhagen

Spaghetti Code

Over dinner I was contemplating the similarities between software architecture and legal architecture. After all — reading something like the Waxman-Markey Bill or the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation is very much like reading source code. Then it dawned on me — in the field of software development, there is a way of describing the climate architecture that is being discussed in the UNFCCC negotiations. It is called a big ball of mud. Wikipedia describes it as follows:

In computer programming, a big ball of mud is a system or computer program that appears to have no distinguishable architecture. It usually features other anti-patterns.

Here is a definition:

A Big Ball of Mud is a haphazardly structured, sprawling, sloppy, duct-tape-and-baling-wire, spaghetti-code jungle. These systems show unmistakable signs of unregulated growth, and repeated, expedient repair. Information is shared promiscuously among distant elements of the system, often to the point where nearly all the important information becomes global or duplicated. The overall structure of the system may never have been well defined. If it was, it may have eroded beyond recognition. Programmers with a shred of architectural sensibility shun these quagmires. Only those who are unconcerned about architecture, and, perhaps, are comfortable with the inertia of the day-to-day chore of patching the holes in these failing dikes, are content to work on such systems.

A big ball of mud is the architecture you get when there is no architecture. This is why the legal architecture of a post-2012 framework is so important.