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Asean Affairs   28 August 2012

Bangkok Climate Negotiations

By Alex Rafalowicz

United Nations climate negotiations will resume in Bangkok, Thailand, on 30 August 2012 until 5 September 2012.
This is an unusual "informal" negotiation session,[1] prior to the  annual UN Climate Conference in late November, which will be held this year in Doha, Qatar
The negotiations occur as the latest science indicates that extreme weather events being suffered across the world, from drought in the United States to floods in the Philippines, can be attributed to climate change that has already occurred (0.8C); and that the world is on track for an uninhabitable 6C of warming by the end of the century.
The negotiations provide an opportunity for governments to face up to their existing international commitments on climate change (made under the Kyoto Protocol or the  Bali Action Plan/Cancun Agreements); and to begin the process of negotiating a post-2020 international legal agreement on climate change (the Durban Platform) to be signed in 2015.
Agreement on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the resolution of issues under the Bali Action Plan, and work on the post-2020 framework, were the three elements of the package agreed at the last UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa.
Key issues in Bangkok, with more information below, include:
1.    The depth of emission cuts (for the post 2012 period) and the rules controlling them;
2.    The mobilization of finance for developing countries;
3.    Reactions to the limited action of the United States (US) and Canada ;
4.    Progress in agreeing to a work plan for the post-2020 agreement (the Durban Platform).
For further information, interviews, briefings or quotes on these topics or others from a range of civil society representatives please contact:, +66 907 200 018 (Bangkok). Information and documents will also be tweeted @ClimateJustInfo.
1. Agreement on REAL emission cuts
A central element of the international climate negotiations is agreement on commitments and obligations to limit carbon emissions - with developed countries to take the lead due to their historical responsibility for climate change and capacity to respond. Concerningly, at this stage, developed countries' proposed targets are so low they actually represent  less absolute abatement than those of developing countries.
In Bangkok, developed countries that are members of the Kyoto Protocol (all but US and Canada), will need to finalize their targets for a "second commitment period".[2] Currently there is a significant "gap" between what is required of those targets (40-50% cuts on 1990 levels by 2020) and what governments are proposing (12-18%).[3]
The rules relating to countries' targets will also be of high importance. Accounting tricks and technicalities could be used to hide the real level of emissions that countries are proposing.  Analysis shows that it is possible that a set of rules selected may in fact allow emissions to increase, regardless of which targets are officially inscribed.
The priority for governments in Bangkok is to agree to strict rules that ensure real emission cuts are made, and to improve their national targets to bring them into line with what the science requires. These rules and targets can then be accepted at the UN Climate Conference in Doha in December, under the Kyoto Protocol for most countries and an internationally agreed "decision" for the US and Canada.
Please see these more detailed notes on the: "Ambition Gap" and the " Kyoto Protocol"
2. Climate-finance to face impacts now and start global transformation
The provision of "climate finance" or money to vulnerable communities already suffering the effects of climate change has been an acknowledged responsibility of developed countries since signing the UN Climate Convention in 1992.
In Copenhagen in 2009 a pledge was made to mobilize USD 10 billion per year for 2010-2012 and reach a target of USD 100 billion per year by 2020.
This money is also earmarked to help developing countries meet their emission reduction objectives, as they do not have the choice of following the same path of economic development, based on cheap-fossil fuels, as used by already industrialized countries.
In Bangkok, governments will be forced to focus on the fact that at this stage no new money has been pledged for climate finance in 2013, and that up to 90% of the finance "provided" in 2010-2012 has simply been pre-existing foreign aid repackaged.
In tandem to the Bangkok negotiations, talks are also progressing in Geneva on establishing the Green Climate Fund as the vehicle to deliver climate finance, if promises for funding are ever honored.
Without progress on how to raise and distribute "climate finance", the Bangkok negotiations will provide a very weak foundation for the Doha conference.
Please see these more detailed notes on " International Climate Finance" and the " Green Climate Fund and Private Finance"
3.    US and Canada Block Progress
The US Government has never agreed to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, and last year the Canadian Government shocked the world by withdrawing from the only international system of emission controls.
As corporate interests, particularly from large fossil fuel companies, continue to dominate politics in the two North American countries, it seems unlikely that they will be able to make substantial progress on climate policies in 2012.
Both countries have seen domestic emission control laws gutted or rejected after extensive lobbying from vested fossil fuel interests. Their governments are now exporting that approach to the international talks.
The question for other governments in Bangkok will be: how do they respond to the US and Canada's rejection of otherwise universally agreed norms and rules?
The reaction to US Climate Envoy Todd Stern's speech, which suggested the US was not committed to guaranteeing the achievement of the globally agreed goal of  limiting temperature rise to 2C, suggests that other countries may be at the stage where they focus on preserving effective rules rather than weakening controls to meet US and Canadian corporate interests.
Please see these detailed accounts of the US position in climate negotiations and  possible responses.
4.    Start of the Durban Platform negotiations on a post-2020 agreement
In addition to agreeing to conclude the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period, and to resolve the outstanding issues from the Bali Action Plan, the Durban package launched a new round of negotiations on a post-2020 agreement: the Durban Platform which is to finalize its work by 2015.
In Bangkok, governments will have their first opportunity to  exchange views on the scope of negotiations for that agreement and to begin to discuss how to organize work up to the 2015 deadline.
These talks will be very general in nature, and should be limited in time to ensure that the focus remains on taking the urgent steps now to reduce emissions and find the finance to drive a global transformation.
A submission by some observer organizations on how the Durban Platform should organize its work is available here.
For further information, interviews, briefings or quotes on these topics or others from a range of civil society representatives please contact:, +66 907 200 018. Information and documents will also be tweeted @ClimateJustInfo.
Please also see the briefing papers linked to in this note:
•    The Ambition Gap
•    The Kyoto Protocol
•    International Climate Finance
•    The Green Climate Fund and Private Finance
•    US position in climate negotiations
•    What to do about the US
•    Third World Network InfoService on Durban Platform Submissions
•    Submission to the Chairs of the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform

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