Bangkok is on ‘full negotiation mode’-the fireworks begin on Day one

Yesterday the Thai Prime Minister, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, formally launched the 2 week Bangkok climate negotiations. The morning speakers included Yvo De Boer, head of the UNFCCC, and Connie Hedegaard from Denmark, who will chair the Copenhagen meeting in December. The speakers agreed that time was running out to get a global deal in place by December and this meeting was now 100% on ‘full negotiation mode’.

You want proof that we are on ‘full negotiation mode’? Yesterday the US requested that a new subgroup should be formed to discuss mitigation issues for both developed and developing countries. Developing countries quickly objected and said that the discussion should first be focused on mitigation issues for developed countries, and only afterwards should there be discussions on what developing country actions could be. Although this issue brought the overall mitigation negotiations to a halt, this is proof that indeed negotiators are negotiating. Overnight the US and others were busy talking to each other to find common ground and a way forward.

EDF Team in Bangkok

EDF's international climate team meeting in Bangkok, Thailand

What is the number one issue on the agenda? Shrinking and consolidating the text from the current 181 pages down to a more manageable number. It is hard to say what precisely the right number should be. Over the weekend I talked to several negotiators from across the globe who mentioned the magic ‘100’ as their best estimate. What was encouraging is the number of countries who actually believe that this is indeed possible over the next 2 weeks. As I mentioned last week in my blog, negotiators arrived in Bangkok with political momentum and a mandate from global leaders to make progress in the negotiations.

During the rest of Tuesday, the major issues that are at the heart of the negotiations will start to receive the focused attention of specialized negotiators in smaller, informal negotiating meetings. Some of these will be open to the public but some will be open only to government negotiators. So far, the UNFCCC has done a great job of ensuring and maximizing the transparency of the process.

Opening Bangkok

The key issues include future developed country targets, adaptation financing, technical issues around forest carbon measurement, and incentives for developing countries to participate in the post-2012 global carbon market. And of course, the US issue of how to deal with mitigation actios for everyone.

Although the negotiators have started to negotiate, everyone is asking me if and when the US Senate will act. It is expected that this week the Boxer-Kerry bill will be released. If this indeed happens, it will push the negotiations on overdrive, as everyone will try to understand the immediate implications for the current round of negotiations.

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