The Negotiators’ Itch

Well, the ‘walk out’ (not formally a walk out because the G77 spokeperson said “we have not walked out, we are firming up our position on the KP,
the KP is our exodus point”) an hour or so ago by G77 negotiators provides a dazzling display of ‘negotiators’ itch’, akin to the itchy trigger finger of someone holding a loaded gun who is feeling frustrated and let down. So they are out, at least for now, just as their political masters begin to arrive in mass. Or at least just as these noble ministers stand for hours in the huge queues outside the Bella Centre that reflect no less than a fit of Danish sense of fairness in not distinguishing between those representing the global voice of vegetarians and the actual ministers who are meant to be inside negotiating.

Scratching the negotiators’ itch has happened on the face of it because of the perceived abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol by wealthy nations as a basis for doing business beyond 2012. And they are right that this is facing a Northern axe, but is that really a smart or even the real reason for walking. History suggests that cumulative frustration leads to walk outs and wars, a fact that is as true for BA facing yet another strike, or us all as these proceedings degenerate by the hour.

There is little money on the table, and certainly nothing that has the number of zeros required (to the right) to do the job on mitigation or adaptation. China has now publicly accepted that it is not a candidate for public financial transfers from wealthy countries (accepting the inevitable, but in rather an elegant and constructive way it has to be said, since they probably could have pulled G77 to walk out just on that point). And the domestic mitigation offers remain stuck decidedly low, at the very best still delivering 5GT too little mitigation in 2020, a seemingly little number but in fact one that would be impossible to claw back beyond 2020 because of the carbon-intense investments that would take place in the next decade without a high carbon price and money to mitigate.

The truth is that there is a deal to be made today, a pathway to COP16 in Mexico that could raise ambitions, and the potential for a ‘review and strengthening’ in 2014 once we are out of the recession and in receipt of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report. But the truth also is that the negotiator’s itch has become so irritating that it is being scratched at every opportunity. Indeed, it might be a viral problem in that it is becoming less likely that the 100 or so politicians due ‘to come in out of the cold‘ (for those into old movies) can find a way to ditch the itch and do the right thing.


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