Chasing Clarity
Only 10 More Days of Talks Before December’s Climate Summit…

…and there’s still a lot of work to be done. Negotiators wrapped up two weeks of talks in Bonn, Germany this week without much to show for their work. Attendants had hoped to pare down the draft text for this December’s climate summit in Paris which had grown to some 90 pages. But as so often is the case with these things, cutting out redundancies proved more difficult than the process of procedural accretion that grew the document into the bloviated mess it is today, as delegates only managed to cut a few pages from the document.

This isn’t to say that the Bonn discussions were for naught. Those involved claimed the meetings served to strengthen trust between delegates which, given the enormity of the task they’ll face when they sit down at the negotiating table less than six months from now, will surely be important. As the French climate delegate Laurence Tubiana put it, “there are three conditions to deliver a successful agreement in Paris: the first one is trust, the second one is trust, and the third one is trust … and that, I think, we have gained a lot.”

But chummy relationships between those in the trenches of these talks won’t change the basic calculus behind the seemingly intractable problems the Global Climate Treaty faces. The divide between the developed and developing world, in terms of responsibilities for and vulnerabilities to climate change, is as wide as ever. It’s very hard to see how Paris participants might construct a document capable of balancing the interests of such a diverse group of stakeholders, and nearly impossible to imagine such a treaty having the necessary enforcement mechanisms to prevent it from becoming a 21st century eco-version of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

The hurdles for the Paris summit are high, which makes it all the more important for discussions to gather as much momentum as possible before the final talks begin. But with just ten days of meetings scheduled before then, worrying signs are piling up about as quickly as the language of the working draft text.

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