Insider's view: Bangkok opening days
05 October 2009 | News story
Bangkok: Part 1. IUCN's climate change expert Claire Parker gives her view on the opening days of the meeting.
I'm in Bangkok at the UN climate change talks and I'll be giving you the gist of what's happening here every few days...
The U.N. climate change talks which opened on Monday 28th in the Thai capital are drawing some 1,500 delegates from 190 countries in further efforts to prepare a post 2012 global climate change agreement to take over from or to complement the current Kyoto Protocol. It is still hoped that such an agreement can be adopted in Copenhagen in December of this year. That agreement-to-be is widely seen as the last chance to save the planet from the huge impacts of global warming.
During the next two weeks, the delegates will need to reduce a 200-page negotiating text to something more manageable; in its present form, it has been called long, confusing and contradictory. The text includes sections on the controversial issues that have delayed progress on climate change so far, prompting the need for a new and hopefully more effective agreement: by how much are developing countries able and willing to reduce their emissions? What are the biggest emitters among developing countries willing to do to cut theirs? How much finance will the developed world make available to the developing countries for adaptation to climate change and technological support to reduce emissions?
The meetings started in an atmosphere of relative pessimism: first, because there are few signs that the developed world is prepared - as yet - to agree to reductions which overall would match the 25-40% by 2020 recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Second, because it became clear in the past week or so that the US would most probably not pass climate change legislation before the end of 2009, so not in time for its delegation to put forward firm proposals in Copenhagen; this in turn could deter commitments from other developed nations. Developing countries are unwilling to make any undertakings unless they are guaranteed substantial financial assistance — something rich countries have so far refused to do.
This pessimism was in spite of both President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China — whose countries are the world's two biggest emitters, each accounting for about 20 percent of greenhouse gas pollution — vowing tough measures to combat climate change at U.N. talks in New York last week.
At the start of the Bangkok talks, many delegates were of the view that Copenhagen was more likely to be a way station to a final agreement, where each country posts the best that it can do, leaving the details and the legal embodiment of a new agreement until sometime in 2012.