UN Climate Body in Bonn Still Can’t Agree on its Agenda for the Fifth Day

Elpidio V. Peria
8 June 2013

As Euronews.com reports that floods continue to wreak havoc across northern and central Europe, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) meeting in Bonn, Germany since 3 June has still not approved its working agenda due to disagreement among the Parties (who are the countries who are signatories to the treaty) on what to do with the Russia, Belarus and Ukraine proposal to include the matter of procedural and legal aspects of decision-making of the UNFCCC in the SBI agenda.

During the plenary session of the SBI yesterday, Russia, the lead proponent of the agenda item, stressed the importance of transparency in the decision-making processes of the UNFCCC and recalled past meetings where it thought the matter of consensus-making in the group was in question.

The more poignant of these meetings was the meeting held in Cancun, Mexico in 2010, when, in spite of the objection of Bolivia to the adoption of the decision of the conference, the Chair, Mexico, banged the gavel and declared the decision as having been approved.

The plenary of the SBI yesterday turned for the surreal when the 132-country strong regional grouping G77&China asked for a ruling from the SBI Chair to finally resolve the agenda impasse which the Chair refused, and such denial was appealed and during the appeal there were several points of order made, but such points of order cannot be entertained and the session got suspended as the SBI Chair consulted the legal services unit of the UNFCCC Secretariat on what to do next.

When the session resumed after several minutes it was ruled that there should be a voting on the appeal by the G77&China, which sought reconsideration of the SBI Chair ruling that Parties can speak freely as they wish to explain themselves on the agenda impasse, but the G77&China wanted already that this impasse be decided by the Chair, after all, this is already the fifth day the SBI has been struggling with the adoption of its agenda and it still cannot agree on whether it should already do so.

The surreal part happened during voting as the SBI Chair asked the plenary who are in favor of the proposition that Parties should speak freely and not one Party raised its flag and when those who are against the proposition were also asked to raise their flags, still no one acted, prompting the SBI Chair to rule that the appeal by the G77&China was defeated in the voting.

Or perhaps the surreal part of all this was that Parties were invoking or seeking to apply provisions of the rules of procedure of the UNFCCC which are not, still, even now, not yet approved by the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC.

When the SBI plenary ended at way past 1pm, the SBI Chair organized an open-ended Friends of the Chair group to continue discussing the various proposals on the table on how to end the agenda impasse giving the group one hour to finally come up with something so the SBI work can proceed.

As Parties waited in the corridors of Maritim Hotel in Bonn for some agreement to come out, an announcement came over the TV screens later in the afternoon that the resumption of the SBI plenary for 6pm was cancelled and Parties were told to come back the next day.

Uninterested observers may look at this as something straight from the stories of antiquity where it is said, as Rome burned to the ground, Nero was playing a musical instrument.

Other countries who are here say this is the Russian revenge for its inability now to use what is called “hot air”, these are greenhouse gas emissions allowances which was a flexibility given to it when it joined the Kyoto Protocol, an international legally-binding instrument where developed countries dubbed as Annex 1 countries made commitments to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to five percent of what their levels were in 1990.

The Doha conference of the UNFCCC last December 2012 already disallowed the use of this “hot air”, which countries like Russia could have used to continue on its pollutive path to development and not held to account for it.


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