The Durban Platform process is really reaching its stride. Having faced and endured the three hour meetings of the round tables on adaptation on energy, and I feel compelled to share that knowledge with the world, so here goes.
Overall impressions include the following:
- The divide between annex I & developing countries remains wide as to adaptation, but in the context of energy, the convergence is much greater.
- The ADP seems like a great forum for sharing information, but it’s not clear the extent to which it actually affects the negotiations
For those who are new to the ADP, adaptation discussions essentially entail an assessment of how the most vulnerable countries will adapt to the negative effects of climate change, i.e. rising sea levels, increasingly intense weather events, etc. In the Round-Table on Adaptation, developing countries such as Bolivia and Benin advocated for assistance on development of National Adaptation Plans, and also stated their view that climate change represents a threat to the right of development, including the eradication of poverty. They represent the view that the developing countries have not only an ethical obligation to provide funds for adaptation, but also direct assistance in terms of technology transfer and expertise. It seemed at times, however, that developing countries emphasized the money too much, without demands for specifics, even the Chairs insisted that when money becomes the subject of the fight, it can also become the main problem. Likewise, developed countries continued their insistence that mitigation is primary to adaptation, and their point is well taken. Of course if mitigation actions are insufficient, adaptation will be increasingly necessary. What seems needed is a clear definition of roles, but the developing countries lack specific proposals for needs, and the developed countries lack the proper emphasis on adaptation. Not sure where this will end.
The energy discussions were more productive; the expert panel discussed carbon capture and sequester, and other developing trends in energy technology . . . especially the gap in ambition and how the energy sector could help fill that.
However the most significant, and in this writer’s humble opinion, reasonable intervention came from China, so it will be on this intervention that I will focus. China reaffirmed the typical developing country stance that developed countries take the lead, but it has a truly unique position in this discussion. For a developing country, China has built out a truly astounding amount of renewable energy, despite its staggering environmental pollution problems. Therefore, I felt that their statement had special credibility and force as a country that is leading truly by ethical example (though it may of course be for political purposes). Its recommendation to developing countries was to utilize their bailouts and economic stimulus packages in order to jumpstart their renewable energy industries, as a “huge opportunity” for new growth. There was also a call for a change in the consumption culture, echoing sentiments I heard in the Third World Network Side event on Monday – however in that case I think China does stand on the moral high ground. It is serving as an enabler of U.S. consumption – producing the power and low-cost products needed to fuel U.S. consumption, and fixing its currency to the Dollar in order to make Chinese goods more competitive in U.S. markets. It was clear from this 14 MINUTE INTERVENTION (the time limit was 5 minutes) that China is starting to effectively assert itself as a world power and leader in energy and climate change.
In summary, these meetings are extremely informative; while they lend themselves to countries stating and restating their relatively predictable policies, they are also the only forum we have for such public communication. The next week of ADP negotiations will be interesting to examine in this light.