The events of the first day of the 38th session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation of the UNFCCC were far more substantive and contentious that I was originally expecting. I expected the first day to largely be filled with formalities, ceremony, and a broad overview of the difficulties and complexities of dealing with climate change. Instead, the first of the Plenary Sessions began with the attempted adoption of an agenda, which resulted in a heated debate.
On one side, the Russian Federation, Belarus, and Ukraine were arguing for the addition of an agenda item which requested discussion of the failure to adopt rules of procedure. On the other side, the European Union, G77, and China were arguing to proceed without adopting the new agenda item. The Chairman suggested what appeared to be a compromise: the meetings could move forward without adopting an agenda and—in the meantime—the Vice-President would be willing to further discuss the issue with interested parties. His goal primarily seemed to be focused on moving the meetings forward while not proceeding by ignoring the issue presented.
By the end of the plenary meeting, after a series of back-and-forth comments between the two sides and the Chair, no consensus was reached. In the end, a decision was made to have the delegates discuss the issue behind closed doors, where they seemed to have spent most of the day. Going in and out of the closed meeting room, I could see the delegates huddling in small groups, the composition of the groups frequently rotating. But the end of the day, we had waited for the delegates to resolve the disagreement and report back for the second Plenary Session, but it did not happen.
Moving into the second day, the Plenary Session for the Subsidiary Body for Implementation continued to be suspended throughout the whole day. This means that the Subsidiary Body has done no formal work at this point in the conference.
Overall, I think this is a very interesting start to the negotiations. It is easy to see how difficult and complex this issue is when even at the very beginning of the meeting the parties cannot agree on the adoption of an agenda. I am curious as to why the Russian Federation, Belarus, and the Ukraine decided to bring up the amendment to the agenda three days before the start of the meeting? What was their motivation? If only I could have been a fly on the wall when the decision was made.