Hanging around at COP17 is a place to meet many people, and hear many different versions of what is going on inside the negotiations. One version I have heard is that the world may well be on the brink of a new age of climate negotiations.
A road map will be agreed, and finalised by 2015, and will be legally binding before 2020. This is being led by the EU, but being blocked by the US (of course), Canada, India and China. But the latest news is that China may be shifting. The US has said they want to wait for the developing countries to agree on reductions before they will agree to anything legally binding. So now the crucial issue is China and India – if they move then the US will be a very difficult position. And this is where civil society should be applying pressure. If China and India move, then there could be a repeat of the Bali showdown, and a last second deaul could be signed.
Also, the Kyoto Protocol (KP) is going to be extended by the EU, and Japan might sign up. The US won’t (of course) and neither will Russia or Canada.
Another problem is that the current UNFCCC process requires consensus to reach agreement, which practically gives every participating country the right of veto. This may help explain why so few agreements have been reached. There is a move towards changing that to a voting mechanism. However, in order to make that change, consensus would be required…
What everyone is waiting for is a legally binding agreement, distilled into a usable set of achievable goals. Watch this space… but don’t hold your breath.