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Cancun Negotiations Gather Pace at End of First Week

3 December 2010

Negotiations are starting to gather pace as the Cancun conference nears the end of its first week.

For the first few days the two negotiating tracks were conducted in open sessions, but now negotiators have moved behind closed doors to work on some of the detail.

Progress is painfully slow.

Each meeting is like a pit stop - the race car pulls in, but unless the pit stop crew work together effectively, it can’t get back on the track to finish the race.

You can imagine how a pit stop crew of 192 might make progress difficult.

Some of the more contentious agenda items are being put on hold in order secure progress on other matters.

‘Getting progress where progress can be made’ is the order of the day for the President of the Conference.

‘Constructive ambiguity’ (in diplomatic-speak) is the approach being taken on others.

It all adds up to a rather low level of ambition.

What does it mean with regard to New Zealand’s agenda, in particular, our emissions trading scheme? The idea behind our ETS was that it would be a small part of a deep and liquid global carbon market.

Unfortunately, limited progress towards a new climate change agreement also means limited progress towards such a deep and liquid global carbon market.

However it seems that progress is being made at the more practical, implementation level.

For instance, improvements are being made to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

(The CDM is the UN body that approves projects that can create Kyoto-compliant carbon credits that parties to the Kyoto Protocol can sell to help meet their legal obligations under the Protocol.)

Getting the CDM on a sounder footing is important because businesses operating under any emissions trading scheme need good access to a steady supply of easily transferable carbon units.

There is talk of extending the life of the CDM, regardless what else results from the Cancun negotiations. This would be positive – it would boost confidence in the carbon market and also boost trust in the UN institutions.

Work is also happening that would keep options open for non-Kyoto countries to use emissions trading or other market-based approaches to meet any emission reduction targets they may eventually take on.

Business clearly has a role in helping set the right framework for a robust carbon market, and the New Zealand delegation to Cancun is well structured to allow for good business engagement.

Yesterday I facilitated a meeting with delegation members and New Zealand’s Climate Change Ambassador Jo Tyndall to work through some issues on how the business community and the UN can work more effectively together at future conferences.

After all, it will be the business community that governments will turn to, once they are ready to get serious about emission reduction.

On Monday I will be able to report back on work that is under way towards the legal form for the eventual outcome from the Cancun meeting.

John Carnegie, Business NZ

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