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Backroom Deal? Again? Bolivia Takes a Stance

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Cancún, Mexico -- It's crunch time! A draft text emerged this morning; heads of state and government have arrived and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is here. There are two days left for government leaders and their representatives to come to an agreement. Can they make progress? Can they find solutions? It seems most likely that there will not be an international legally binding agreement but will the foundation be laid for one? Will negotiations have moved closer to one? Or further away?

On one thing, people at the COP 16 seems to agree: another climate conference is possible!

Yesterday's late breaking news, revealed by John Vidal in the Guardian UK, was that Europe and small island Pacific states have proposed a new treaty for consideration.

This proposed agreement would commit developed and developing nations to reductions in climate emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol stipulates the former -- emissions reductions from developed nations, with the U.S. being the only developed nation not having signed on and refusing to do so. The Copenhagen Accord stipulates the latter -- emissions reductions commitment from developing countries -- particularly the fastest growing among them, China and India.

While this move could be read as an attempt to break out of the gridlock in which the UNFCCC negotiations are stalled, it has angered many developing countries, including Brazil, China and India. Drafted in 1997, implemented in 2005, and set to expire in 2012, the Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding treaty currently in existence. Its dissolution would allow developing nations off the hook with regard to emissions reductions.

Given that the United States has not signed on to the Kyoto Protocol and shows no intention to do so; and given that it has been seeking to ram through the Copenhagen Accord for the past year, showing disregard for the UNFCCC process in various ways, these countries are concerned that this treaty is an attempt to ditch the Kyoto Protocol, leaving nothing in its place to ensure commitments to greenhouse gas reductions, the cornerstone for averting climate change.

According to Vidal, sources close to the talks said that "a result would be that most of the elements of the controversial Copenhagen Accord -- the non-binding political agreement pushed by the US in Denmark last year -- would be put up for adoption by the UN, presenting a major victory for the US and other rich countries." Even using the backroom negotiations, in order to put the Copenhagen Accord up for a vote by the UNFCCC majorly thwarts the official process.

Mexico, eager to see an outcome from this year's talks, is working to draft a new text for presentation to negotiating countries. But that process, too, is troubled, since it has only asked four countries to contribute short texts.

Bolivia, meanwhile, sent an alert yesterday to the chairs of the parties of the COP. Pablo Solón told The Nation that he is filing the alter because "in the UNFCCC there is a process and you have to respect that process. We are not sure what the structure of the process is currently. It's necessary to have a formal and conclusive process of negotiations." Solón added that he expected that a text to be presented by Friday.

Solón stated "we do not want to go into any process of finger pointing. We want to find a positive solution." But he added, "There is a UNFCCC. There are discussions within the two official working groups. And they produce a text. It cannot be that the negotiating groups negotiate and come up with a text; and the informal negotiating groups negotiate and then come up with a different text."

"You can see it yourself in the agenda," Solón said, "that there are no meetings of the LCA working group." He added, "The Mexican chair stated that the formal process continued to take place, but if it continued to take place, we want to know where it was taking place because there are no other meetings."

Bolivian President Evo Morales arrived early this morning and addressed a press conference this afternoon, stating that if nations do not take action, they are committing ecocide.

President Morales heads on to the La Via Campesina camp this afternoon to address indigenous peoples and peasants and their allies, who have traveled here via caravan from throughout Mexico.

Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic, who has covered international climate change negotiations, most recently in Copenhagen and Bonn. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Grist, In These Times and The Nation.

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