In November and December 2011, I attended the United Nations climate change conference (COP17) in Durban, South Africa. I will be periodically syndicating my blog posts from other websites here on the Solution. I’m doing this for two reasons. First, I want an archive of my work here, on my site, under my name. Second, as I will discuss in a forthcoming post, climate change is an animal rights issue. I hope that Solution readers will be interested, therefore, in my commentary on the climate talks.
Each day during COP, the Climate Action Network (CAN) awards the prestigious “Fossil of the Day” trophy to the State that did the most in the last 24 hours to block, disrupt, slow or weaken negotiations. Basically, it goes to the country each day that the big NGOs collectively judge to be the worst in the negotiations that day. At the end of the conference, CAN awards the “Colossal Fossil” to the State that earned the most Fossils of the Day.
New Zealand’s record at COP17 is, frankly, embarrassing. We came third overall in the “Colossal Fossil” stakes, beaten only by Canada and the United States.
CAN involves the youth NGOs in the daily Fossil of the Day ceremonies. Each year, one youth delegation takes the role of ringmaster and presents the award. This year, our friends in the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) had that dubious honour. When a country receives a Fossil, generally, representatives from that country’s youth delegation are the ones on the podium.
We collected entirely too many Fossils this year. Here’s a list.
First Place: Friday 9 December 2011
New Zealand won a golden Fossil on the last official day of COP17. It was awarded for the Hon Tim Groser MP’s statement that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol would be “actually an insult to New Zealand“. From CAN:
New Zealand wins the 1st place Fossil. The New Zealand government got a Fossil this week for severely mixed messages about its Kyoto Protocol 2nd Commitment Period stance. This time, it made it clear, describing Kyoto as ‘actually an insult to New Zealand’. The only insult is to the citizens of New Zealand and the rest of the world, who will have to suffer the costs of climate change.
Straight from the source:
I didn’t come here to negotiate with 10 young New Zealanders. What they’ve unfortunately bought without realizing it is the whole drum beat on KP, KP, KP, as if somehow they don’t understand that a deal that locks in only 15% of emissions is actually an insult to New Zealand.
As Vernon Rive, the lawyer and journalist who reported Tim Groser’s words, laterobserved, the New Zealand government is not likely to be worried by its Fossil awards. However, given that the Fossil reflects the perceptions of CAN’s 700+ member organisations, New Zealand’s third placing overall in the Colossal Fossil stakes may indicate that international NGOs will focus more attention on New Zealand in future negotiations. In other countries, the Fossil has received significant news coverage. Perhaps, at the least, continued pressure from NGOs may cause the New Zealand negotiators to be more careful with their wording.
Third Place: Thursday 8 December 2011
To quote CAN’s accompanying press release:
New Zealand takes 3rd place in today’s Fossil of the Day for hardening its stance on the Kyoto Protocol. In the last 24 hours, New Zealand’s previous conditional support of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol appears to have become outright opposition. However, New Zealand has declined to answer questions or otherwise clarify its position on this issue, leading to ongoing uncertainty.
A few members of NZYD were at the CAN meeting where the Network nominated and selected New Zealand. The final award was a composite of two nominations from different NGO members of CAN (NZYD gained observer status for CAN during COP17, but is not a member). It seemed to reflect a general perception from CAN members who had been observing the Kyoto Protocol negotiations that New Zealand was becoming more obstructive, though the NGO observers who had been present were unwilling or unable to provide specific examples.
Joint First Place: Monday 5 December 2011
(Video via CAN International)
New Zealand tied with Russia after NGOs alleged that it had acted inconsistently in Kyoto Protocol negotiations. To quote:
“New Zealand and Russia share the 1st place Fossil.
Russia earns the Fossil for opposing the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and for trying to carryover the hot air emissions credits into the same second commitment period, both at the same time, although it is hard to explain logically.
Meanwhile, New Zealand has been acting inconsistently in the KP negotiations. It has insisted that it could not constitutionally agree to provisional implementation of a second commitment period despite its internal policy stating that it can.
Further, the Government formally announced on 30 November that interim Environment Minister Hon. Nick Smith would be attending COP-17, only to change its mind on 1 December. New Zealand has also blocked discussions on carry over, wanting enough carry over to fully cover five years’ worth of LULUCF emissions.
Ultimately, this series of events has led to other negotiators describing New Zealand as ‘deliberately inconsistent’ and ‘problematic for a thousand reasons’, with its ‘extreme positions on a number of issues [making] it difficult to reach consensus on anything’.”
Third Place: Friday 2 December 2011
This one was for something different – not the Kyoto Protocol, but flexible mechanisms and forestry. To quote:
The 2nd place Fossil goes to New Zealand for proposing the most Flexible Mechanism imaginable with no oversight or review. Bring on the wild west. They want to be able to use any market mechanisms they wish with absolutely no oversight or international review! There would be no way to ensure that the units from one mechanism have not been sold two or three times to another such mechanism. This would likely unleash a wild west carbon market with double or triple counting of offsets and a likely increase of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
Originally posted by me on the New Zealand Youth Delegation website. All photographs and intellectual property in this post solely mine unless otherwise stated.