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Syndicated: New Zealand’s Role at COP17: Concluding Unscientific Postscript

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.

The below post was originally posted on the Adopt a Negotiator Project.  It is therefore intended for overseas readers.

To the NGO community, New Zealand was one of the villains of COP17.  But, I’m not sure if this reputation is wholly deserved.  The trouble is, even if it is not, this reveals a fundamental failure in the New Zealand negotiators’ messaging: if New Zealand was a lamb, it appeared to too many to often as a lamb in wolf’s clothing.

Even a month after the end of COP17, I remain uncertain about the role played by the New Zealand negotiators. Two quite opposite interpretations seem possible. On one hand, New Zealand’s actions could be interpreted as deliberately compromising the integrity of the negotiations for short-sighted national economic interests (Scenario A).  But, on the other, New Zealand’s negotiating stance could be interpreted as pragmatic attempts by a small State to bring about a deal that would bring in more of the key emitters (Scenario B).  In truth, I suspect that New Zealand’s negotiators fell somewhere in the middle, with both good intentions and bad (Scenario C). Continue reading

Syndicated: Clean and Green Aotearoa New Zealand?

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.

The below post was originally posted on the Adopt a Negotiator Project.  It is therefore intended for overseas readers.

When you picture New Zealand, the odds are good that you picture an untouched waterfall, straight out of Lord of the Rings. I have camped at the base of the waterfall you’re probably thinking of.

That’s not a real picture of New Zealand. Native bush and national parks make up a small part of the country – and the government has hinted at mining within our national parks. Over a third of the country’s population lives in Auckland, a suburban sprawl with about half the public transport of a small European town.

New Zealand’s environmental policy is a contradiction, and its international stance is the same. The government recognises a “clean and green” brand as the core of our tourism – but much of our GDP comes from intensive dairy farming, which infects our rivers with runoff and accounts for around half the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Generally, New Zealand professes to take a “centrist” and “cooperative” stance in negotiations. Underlying this, however, is a very self-interested negotiating strategy.

In the Kyoto Protocol track, New Zealand stresses transparency and balance. As a member of the Umbrella Group, a loose affiliation that aims to promote cost effectiveness and flexibility within the Kyoto Protocol system, New Zealand is willing to consider a second Kyoto commitment period subject to several conditions.

New Zealand seeks a successor agreement by 2020. It hopes to negotiate a mandate to agree, either at Durban or more probably a subsequent COP.

In climate financing, New Zealand stresses the importance of governments leveraging private finance to secure or exceed the US$100 billion 2020 target.

Agriculture and forestry are both crucial issues for New Zealand.

When it comes to practically implementing technology transfer and providing adaptation and mitigating funding, New Zealand focuses on the Pacific. Unusually, some 70% of funding provided by New Zealand each year is used for adaptation projects, with the balance devoted to mitigation. For more states, the opposite is the case.

Overall, New Zealand presents two quite different faces in the negotiations. Unlike other States in the Umbrella Group, which overtly attack the core of the Kyoto Protocol and openly assert a “hard-ball” strategy with developing States, New Zealand plays a subtle game. It takes contradictory positions and stalls talks, but maintains a commitment to the outcome it jeopardises.

It’s going to be an interesting ten days. Our delegation, the New Zealand Youth Delegation, meets the negotiators daily. We can sometimes ask to meet a specialist in a certain topic, but we never know which of the negotiating team we’ll get to talk to. Three of us will be blogging here on Adopt a Negotiator: Jonathan Williams, Rachel Dobric, and me. All our posts will be in the New Zealand category.

Devonport, Auckland

Originally posted by me on Adopt a Negotiator.  All photographs and intellectual property in this post solely mine unless otherwise stated.

Syndicated: Fossil of the Day Roundup

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. Continue reading

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