Down to the Wire

Elizabeth May

Standing at my bus stop in Durban and for the first time since I got
here the bus doesn't arrive promptly. Maybe logistics are winding down. Last
night was my first time finding a cab leaving the conference site. At 2 am the
buses were not running, but I left the negotiations in on-going drama. The
African tradition of an imdaba has been the main approach to informal workings
hosted by South Africa's
foreign minister who chairs the proceedings as President of the COP, Nkoana-Mashabane.  The indaba process had brought
ministers (or in some cases, lead negotiators) into one small room to try to
find common ground. By 1:30, the President announced she was ready to keep
working, but asked country groupings to nominate one of two people to represent
them in much smaller space to keep working through the night.  The options
under discussion are now posted online on the UNFCCC website. Word has it they
met til 5 AM but did not reach consensus.

Oh for a time machine to be back in Montreal
at COP11 in December 05 where a deal was reached to avoid where we are now. At
COP11, with President of COP Stephane Dion, nations agreed to negotiate a next
phase Kyoto Protocol and to ensure negotiations concluded by 2009 such that
ratification globally would wrap up by 2012. The goal was to have a seamless
transition to second commitment period under Kyoto. And it all went to hell with the 2006
Canadian election and the emergence of a minority government that immediately
repudiated Kyoto
and cancelled the climate plan. New President of COP Rona Ambrose took the
reins and steered for the rocks.

Not all the blame for the backsliding since 2005 can be laid at Canada's door.
But we opened the space for anti-Kyoto positioning. As a friend here remarked
used to punch above its weight; now it punches below the belt."

 And here we are with a range of options at COP17 in Durban which would have had us running in
tears from the room at COP11.

Last night (early this AM) when I left the conference centre, the high level
meeting was grappling with 3 options. The best gets us to binding 2nd phase in
5 years -- 2016.

Meanwhile, the scientific warnings are that by 2015 we need to see emissions
start declining  --  globally. If we allow emissions to keep rising
past 2015, we go past the point of no return and plunge into run-away global

As far as I can see, the negotiations are progressing. The COP is unlikely to
wrap for another 24 hours. Media stories of leaving here with nothing are
premature. The realization that we will leave here with something that is
better than nothing but inadequate to the threat is sinking in.

We are down to the wire.