Perspectives from a Youth Climate Leader and the U.S. Lead Negotiator, Todd Stern
Abigail Borah, Middlebury College student delivered (unauthorized) remarks to the plenary on behalf of the American people just before Todd Stern, representing the U.S. State Department:
"I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot. The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for too long. I am scared for my future. 2020 is too late to wait. We need an urgent path to a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty. You must take responsibility to act now, or you will threaten the lives of youth and the world's most vulnerable. You must set aside partisan politics and let science dictate decisions. You must pledge ambitious targets to lower emissions, not expectations. Citizens across the world are being held hostage by stillborn negotiations. We need leaders who will commit to real change, not empty rhetoric. Keep your promises. Keep our hope alive. 2020 is too late to wait."
As of 10:45pm on Saturday Dec. 10, 2011, the only big decision of the COP process was a recommendation by a working group that the next Kyoto commitment would be 8 years. They also suggested that the commitment would allow for a range of 20-40% reductions from 1990 levels by the major industrialized nations. Many of the developing countries were not satisfied by this level of “ambition” and therefore wanted a 5 year commitment so they could ratchet up the standard for the next one. Parties additionally wanted to change language of the proposal, and probably could have fought over the exact wording forever. At the end of the day, the chairman of the working group decided that the 8 year, semi-weak reductions were better than nothing, and forced it through. He made a quick motion, no one objected in a half-second (literally), and down went the gavel signaling the close of this particular session until COP 18.
Friday, December 9th: COP Exhaustion
The conference was supposed to end on Friday, theoretically with an evening plenary session that began at 8 pm. However, the meeting only ran an hour, with little to no concrete accomplishments or timeframe for wrapping up the COP. So the COP continues on Saturday, but with much less energy and lower attendance. I can only hope that the skeleton crew here wants to get down to business so we can move on.
In some ways I’m happy the negotiations are still going on, as little has been accomplished, although I’m also getting frustrated that things keep getting dragged out with little assurance of a final, successful outcome. Apparently some parties were at the conference center until 3am last night/this morning, which meant approximately 16 hours of being at the COP for many delegates.
“A People United, Will Never Be Defeated”
One week ago in the big march and rally through the streets of Durban those words were echoed over and over along with many other chants as 7,000 activists from all over the world made their statement.
Were the delegates and ministers from the 191 countries represented at COP 17 listening? I’m thinking not. Now that the COP has finally been gaveled until COP 18 in Qatar next year what are we left with?
COP 17 ends tomorrow, but for all the NGOs and Inter governmental organizations it only means that our work is just continuing.
The context of that work however may be slightly different depending on what happens inside the Baobab Plenary Room today and tomorrow.
A major discussion item is emission control and closing the gigaton gap so that a peak in global emissions by 2015 is still achievable. This will keep a credible 1.5 degree Celsius or 2 degree Celsius pathway in reach, instead of the 4 degrees Celsius (or more) rise predicted if a new agreement is not reached until 2020 which is what the US seems to be delaying negotiations around.
You can view our full profile at the Charities Review Council.