It’s just after 9:00 a.m. local time here in Durban, and COP17 continues to grind on to an uncertain conclusion.
All meetings have been postponed until 10:00 a.m., raising questions among some about whether a deal will be struck.
The United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference web site has posted three documents since last night that seemed to indicate the nations were moving to a conclusion.
The Bigger Picture document extends the planning process to arrive at a legal instrument by 2015. The phrasing is deliberate and could represent an effort to appease the United States, which firmly opposed the creating of a legally binding standard. This “road map” is the product of a proposal the European Union introduced and advocated for strongly.
The second document calls for a second commitment period extension of the Kyoto Protocol to begin on January 1 2013 and to end December 31 2017.
If approved, this will represent the fulfillment of what Cristiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCC, said would happen as early as last Sunday.
The rub, of course, is that major emitters like Canada, India, and Russia have all said they will not sign onto the extension-a stance that shows no signs of changing.
China has indicated its willingness to join the second commitment period and has also said it will agree to certain binding commitments on emissions provided certain conditions are met.
But the United States, which never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, has both indicated that it intends to do the same with the second commitment period. It also has said that it will only agree to emissions reductions if developing nations like India and China do the same.
The lack of binding commitments is all but certain to have dire circumstances for African and small island nations, some of which will have scorching drought and water submersion, respectively.
Last year in Cancun the world’s nation’s agreed to create a Green Climate Fund that would give developing nations $100 billion per year starting in 2020. The third document posted on the UNFCCC site spells out the details of the plans to “operationalize” it. This means setting up the structure so that it can start to be funded.
The document notes that South Korea has agreed to pledge money, but does not detail how much.
Even if approved, these agreements were not arrived at in a sufficiently open and democratic process, according to Angus Joseph, a nomadic resident of South Africa and Planet Earth.
He and a racially diverse group of about a dozen people slept in the park at Speaker’s Corner last night as part of Occupy COP 17.
Evening highlights included the performance of a play and singing songs by candlelight, and the main goal, he said, was to illustrate that democracy is not about giving someone else the power to make decisions.
Local police interrupted the occupiers at 7:00 a.m., telling them they were causing a disturbance by sleeping and had to stand up.
Joseph said his group was building on national traditions of occupying space that the former hearkened back to the apartheid era.
“They are the original occupiers,” Joseph said, referring to people forcibly removed under the Group Areas Act. “They would go and occupy space that they should be in due to being removed to a space that was too far away and unsafe.”
Joseph sported a white t-shirt with images of Mahatma Gandhi and Chief Albert Luthuli, both of whom spent significant time in Durban. In addition to being International Human Rights Day, December 10 also marked the 50th anniversary of Luthuli’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
Joseph and the other occupiers had hoped that this local tradition of non-violent struggle would help move the world’s delegates to a meaningful agreement, but thought that outcome was unlikely.
“We’re not super optimistic,” he said.
U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern did not appear to be filled with optimism, either.
Talking shortly after the meetings were scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m., he said he was still waiting to receive the revised text.
“It’s like hurry up and wait,” he said.