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Cablegate: Argentina's Position On Climate Change

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DE RUEHBU #1244/01 3171834
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R 131833Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0024
INFO ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 0001

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BUENOS AIRES 001244

SENSITIVE
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OES/EGC FOR DREW NELSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV KGHG ENRG EIND TRGY PREL AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA'S POSITION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

REF: BUENOS AIRES 00603

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: ESTOffs met on November 12 with the GOA's
Climate Change Negotiator, Ambassador Silvia Merega, to ascertain
Argentina's position and flexibility ahead of COP-15 in Copenhagen.
From our conversation with Merega, it appears that the GoA's
position is firmly in line with classic G-77 negotiating stances.
The GoA seems unwilling at this time to commit to mitigation
actions, pleading a lack of technology and funds to undertake
serious efforts, though it appears that concrete outside financing
might be a way to move the GoA to undertake specific mitigation
commitments. Concerns over agricultural exports and emissions are
dominant, leading to a focus on avoiding Border Tax Adjustments.
Merega's tougher position may be the result of frustration with the
slow pace of progress on climate financing mechanisms, an issue of
primary importance to the Argentines (reftel). Post will report
septel on a conversation with Oscar Estrada Oyuela, Argentina's
long-time climate change negotiator, which sheds some light on the
GoA's current stance. End Summary.

------------------------------------

"DON'T CHANGE THE RULES OF THE GAME"

------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Argentina's lead climate change negotiator, Ambassador
Silvia Merega, met with ESTHCouns and ESTHOff on November 12.
Before a single question was asked, Merega insisted on laying out
her perspective on the climate change negotiations, stating that
the positions she would describe were not just those of Argentina,
but of the entire G-77. Since most countries had ratified the
Kyoto Protocol (KP), she said, KP should be the sensible starting
point for any negotiations, and the distinction between Annex I and
non-Annex I countries should be maintained.

3. (SBU) Merega admitted that she is pleased with President Obama's
stated interest in advancing climate change negotiations. She
feels, however, that developing countries are waiting for a strong
U.S. commitment and are frustrated by U.S. unwillingness to
negotiate without domestic legislation. Merega quickly blamed the
USG (along with the EU, Japan, and Canada) for wanting to "change
the rules of the game," a phrase she repeated several times during
the conversation. She stressed that the existing Framework
Convention is a solid agreement, noting specifically her belief
that actions by non-Annex I countries should remain reviewable only
if implemented with outside financing. She takes the U.S.
position, commonly referred to as "common but differentiated
obligations," to mean that "everyone must do something" and that
the U.S. and EU will decide what actions each country must
undertake.

4. (SBU) Merega stated that all the negotiating pressure is on
China, India, and Brazil to alter their positions based on their
individual situations. She is concerned that these countries, in
turn, will pressure the G-77 to accept obligations not in the
original Convention. Merega objected to placing any new
obligations on developing countries when it is already clear that
most Annex I countries will not have met their existing obligations
under the KP by 2012.

--------------------------------------------- -----

OPEN TO A POLITICAL AGREEMENT BUT NOT TO SCHEDULES

--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (SBU) Merega expressed a willingness to reach a political
agreement at Copenhagen and to continue negotiations in 2010. But
she was vehement that Argentina will not support any initiative
that includes a schedule of required actions for developing
countries. When specifically asked about the proposal of a

BUENOS AIR 00001244 002 OF 003


schedule, she fell back on cultural differences, noting that while
the developed world perceives schedules as "obligations," they are
viewed by Argentines as mere "indicators."

6. (SBU) Merega said that the G-77 believes mitigation actions to
be a purely domestic issue; therefore, countries should not be
required even to declare their action plans. "The Bali Action Plan
must be the basis for any agreement," she said, "and the current
U.S./EU proposals violate that plan." When asked what the U.S.
could do to help reach an agreement at Copenhagen, she said that
the United States should "use its imagination" to abide by the
Kyoto Protocol without ratifying it.

----------------------------------

AGRICULTURAL SECTOR OF TOP CONCERN

----------------------------------

7. (SBU) Merega noted that Argentina is taking steps to mitigate
emissions, including undertaking a national inventory and planning
actions in different sectors. She highlighted a 30-year plan by
the Energy Secretariat, legislation to protect native forests, a
waste disposal policy, and an inventory of glaciers. She also
noted that Argentina recently began work on its 3rd National
Communication on Climate Change, which will be completed in 2011.
"We are doing things," Merega said, adding that "we need money to
do things, but don't want to be pressed to do A in B way in C
amount of time."

8. (SBU) Merega highlighted the agricultural sector, which is
responsible for 45% of Argentina's emissions, as particularly
complex to reform. She said that Border Tax Adjustments/carbon
taxes (BTA) are a significant concern for Argentina and that the
application of BTA by developed countries would significantly
hamper Argentina's agricultural exports. She insisted that BTA
violate Article 3 of the Framework Convention, going so far as to
read verbatim Article 3.5, stating that "measures taken to combat
climate change, including unilateral ones, should not constitute a
means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised
restriction on international trade."

9. (SBU) Merega stressed that reducing emissions from agriculture
was much more difficult than for other sectors, due to the
difficulty of disseminating technology. When asked whether the
proposal for a Global Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gas
Mitigation Research would help alleviate agricultural concerns, she
said that Argentina was more amenable to the original New Zealand
proposal than to the new joint U.S.-N.Z. proposal. Still, she
called the current proposal "very interesting" and "a good starting
point." Reforestation is also a sensitive issue in Argentina due
to opposing interests from the agricultural sector.

--------------------------

A LACK OF REGIONAL HARMONY

--------------------------

10. (SBU) Inside MERCOSUR, Merega said, environmental subjects are
"very messy," with no cooperation of note. She thinks that
generally, outside of the Caribbean countries, Latin American
countries share many positions but have different negotiating
tactics. She believes that Brazil is focused on its position as a
major player with China and India, not as part of Latin America,
while Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, and Bolivia form a separate block
with their own interests. As for the rest of Latin America, she
said, "we share positions, but have different perceptions."

BUENOS AIR 00001244 003 OF 003


--------------------------------------------- -----

COULD FINANCING BE A WAY TO GAIN ARGENTINE SUPPORT?

--------------------------------------------- -----

11. (SBU) When pushed as to where she sees Argentina fit in the
negotiations, Merega recognized that Argentina is not one of the
big players, such as Brazil, India, and China. "We do not feel the
same pressure Brazil feels, but we will see what happens in 10
years." She pleaded that Argentina does not have the technology or
budget to undertake significant mitigation actions. She noted that
Argentina is open to using international funding, which she
acknowledged does trigger reporting and verification requirements.
In her view, however, the existing system is sufficient and there
is no need for a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA)
schedule or a register. "Why should we be obliged to apply the
same standards when we are using our own funds?" she asked. Merega
initially gave no hint as to how the bridge could be gapped, but
when ESTHCouns suggested that the GoA might be more amenable to a
NAMA/schedule proposal if it were a condition for guaranteed
financing, she stated that this would be a possibility.

--------------------------------------------- -----

COMMENT: ROOM FOR NEGOTIATION, BUT NOT LEADERSHIP

--------------------------------------------- -----

12. (SBU) Our discussion with Ambassador Merega was notable for its
lack of tangible positive negotiating points and requests. Merega
dedicated many of her comments to complaints about the unfair U.S.
and EU negotiating positions and arguments that Argentina should
not have to make any commitments to mitigation. Our perception was
that the GoA has placed itself firmly in the G-77 camp, with few
ideas beyond traditional negotiating positions. Our impression was
that Merega was frustrated with the slow pace of progress with
climate financing, an issue of primary importance to Argentina
(reftel). Merega's inflexibility wavered only when she was
presented with the idea of concrete financing in exchange for
developing country mitigation commitments. It seems that this
carrot may be necessary for Argentina to consider "changing the
rules of the game." End Comment.

MARTINEZ
MARTINEZ

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