9:38am GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
I understand that Angela Merkel has just finished a speech to the German parliament in which she announced that members of the Euro currency zone will work towards fiscal union. This involves surrendering sovereignty over national tax rates and borrowing.

What on earth has this got to do with UN talks on climate change in Durban?

I suggest that this decision will strengthen the argument of those who say that the "pledge and review" approach to cutting emissions is doomed to fail.

When the Eurozone was established, member countries pledged not to allow annual expenditure to exceed revenue by more than 3%. It worked for a while but, as soon as the going got tough, even the big boys like France and Germany said they might just have to break the rules for a teeny while. The smaller players lost control altogether.

In fiscal union, the Eurozone will be bound by treaty to agree tax and borrowing levels and stick to them.

Insert carbon emissions for fiscal expenditure and you have the same choice. The Americans favour a carbonzone doomed to fail whilst advocates of the Kyoto Protocol and a legally binding agreement know what will work in practice.
10:18am GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
Friends of the Earth press briefing in session. Chair Nnimmo Bassey says:

if we head for the kind of temperature increase that we're being told, then Africa will be roasting and that is quite unacceptable

I'm sure this is a line that campaigners should be taking. My work on OneWorld's country guides repeatedly finds projections of temperature rises for inland Africa far in excess of the so-called average. We must stop talking about 2 degrees and talk about 1 degree in temperate zones and something much higher in the tropics.
10:32am GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
more from Friends of the Earth briefing....

Bobby Peek of the Groundwork NGO in South Africa has confirmed that the Durban authorities have given permission for the Day of Action march to go ahead tomorrow as planned.

A journalist had referred to rumours of problems on that front.

Peek said that the thousands of people marching in Durban will be marching on behalf of millions around the world whose lives are affected by climate change.
10:43am GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
We're now into the press briefing by the Climate Action Network.

Keya Chatterjee of WWF US has confirmed news that the Alliance of Small Island States and the Least Developed Countries have put forward a text which proposes to get a legally binding agreement ready within the next 12 months.

She contrasts this with the US stance which is not to bother about an agreement until after 2020.

The NGO network will be pressing for a proper sense of urgency in response to the proposal by the most vulnerable countries.
11:01am GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
in the Climate Action Network briefing a journalist asked if the NGOs have a compromise position they would support to bridge gap between US post 2020 and vulnerable countries 2012 position (for a binding agreement)...

Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace Germany said Yes!

He outlined a timetable starting with a 2nd period of commitment of 5 years under the Kyoto Protocol running in parallel with negotiations for a comprehensive binding agreement to be agreed by end of 2015 and in force by end 2017. He said:

it's pretty clear that some parties, specifically African countries, will not be happy to leave the conference without that

"We need to get the attention of heads of state," he said.
11:34am GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
Martin Khor, Director of the South Centre, is talking at the press briefing of the Third World Network. He's focusing on the elephant in the Durban room:

the central issue here is whether certain developing countries are no longer developing and have to take on the same obligations as developed countries as a condition of the US to do something

Martin reports that he heard the US delegation say yesterday that it would require "symmetrical obligation" as the condition for joining a legally binding agreement.

His response is to remind us of the league table of per capita carbon dioxide emissions. China's emissions are 5.5 tonnes per capita per annum which is 77th out of 218 countries, Brazil is 122nd and India is 138th with just 1.5 tonnes per capita.

Martin's core point is that it is impossible for these countries to engage in emissions reduction of comparable ambition to the US without denying their people the right to living standards of comparable quality to the US. 
12:07pm GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
In their briefing just concluded, the Third World Network has supported its case - that the US and other rich countries are asking too much of the so-called "major emitters" like India and China - by repeated reference to a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Lim Li Lin stressed how important are the results of this June 2011 paper which concludes that the pledges put forward by developing countries exceed those on offer by the historic polluters.

I cannot imagine a more formidable panel to discuss the Kyoto Protocol and its future than Chee Yoke Ling, Lim Li Lin and Martin Khor - all of them veterans of the legal dotted lines of these conferences.

Putting these three in the same room is akin to creating the atomic nucleus of the 15,000 ordinary mortals inside a UN climate conference. No wonder that not a single journalist dared to ask a question when it was over.

If I had the luxury of snatching a ten minute coffee-break in the Durban corridors and the indulgence of seeking out two ladies for a little genial banter, Ms Chee and Ms Lim would be the dream team.

But on second thoughts maybe not. I would freeze out of fear that casual mention of the Kyoto Protocol would turn my sugar lump into gelignite.
12:27pm GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
US delegation is due to brief press in 5 mins. Will Pershing show up this time?

I'll guess that he's going to push the line that US has met its fast start finance commitment for 2010-2012. He seems to be conducting a media campaign along these lines.

Al Jazeera's headline yesterday:

Climate Funds Pledged for Poor Countries

with gushing text with quotes from Pershing about US contribution. How did he swing that one?.

And how can he make the promise when US Congress has not approved its budget for 2012?

Let's see. 
1:21pm GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
he did mention the heroic fulfilment of US promises on fast start finance but only in passing - that was yesterday's story. (Pershing did however express confidence that the issues surrounding the Green Climate Fund will be resolved in Durban)

Today it's all about negotiations with the EU on its "new" proposal to press all parties into discussions now to agree their eventual full participation in a legally binding agreement on emissions reductions. Jonathan Pershing, deputy special envoy for climate change and head of the US delegation said:

some countries want it; some don't want it. The major emerging economies have indicated strong resistance to taking on legally binding obligations. In that case the US is also unable to consider legally binding obligations

Which means there haven't yet been any discussions in Durban with the EU about its roadmap, as Pershing conceded.

The US head was back on top form, at his most convincing in persuading us to believe that the Cancun agreements represent a major breakthrough on climate change. "We reject the notion that action is dependent on legalities," he said. More progress can be made by focusing on what is politically possible.

As for his famous remark that there are infinitely many paths to reach the goal of stabilising the climate, Pershing seems unrepentent, despite the criticism it has attracted. Indeed this comes across as something of a pet subject on which his thoughts rattle off at such speed and duration that I lost the thread. Sorry about that.
5:18pm GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
During this morning's press briefing with Friends of the Earth International, Bobby Peek, director of the Groundwork NGO in Durban, discusses the aims of the Day of Action march taking place on Saturday.

Bobby Peck at COP17  

Video by OneWorldTV

5:20pm GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
In a press briefing this morning, Martin Khor of Third World Network explains why developing countries are worried that the proposed constitution of the Green Climate Fund will expose the Fund to risks associated with the private sector.

Martin Khor in COP17 Press Conference.mov  

Video by OneWorldTV

9:29pm GMT, 2 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
The European Commissioner for Climate Action warms up for her arrival in Durban next week with a little romcom language...
CHedegaardEU: Why r u so modest? EU alone in KP2 wld cover 11% emissions.Join us in the real battle in Durban:putting pressure on those who don't commit
9:56pm GMT, 2 Dec update from Adam Groves
If all of these updates from the corridors of the UN Climate Talks are getting a bit much, watch this video from occupyCOP17 - taking place just outside the conference centre. Africa's rural women provide the beautiful singing and inspiring speeches...

Occupy COP17: Demanding Action in Durban  

Video by OneWorldTV

12:57am GMT, 3 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
Following on from Adam's video of yesterday's activities outside the Conference Centre in Durban, there are good photos (including that below) of the Rural Women's Rally and the Survival Rally on the Occupy COP17 site.

The best article is by Alex Stark of the Adopt-A-Negotiator team (juxtaposing the plight of the protesters with the UN Youth event inside the Conference and also with the US position in the talks), and the best quote (thanks to the AlertNet blog) by Ambassador Ronald Jumeau from the Seychelles:

If we go under, Durban goes under…. I (stay) on the beachfront and from what I see from my hotel window, when the storm surges come to cover our islands, they will cover the low-lying part of Durban. The conference in Durban cannot condemn us to doom without dooming itself. So our message is a message of all the people of Durban. During COP17 you are all small islanders. So don’t save us. Save yourselves. We are one and the same.

These Friday actions were a warm-up for the main Global Day of Action march due to begin at 9.00am. My colleagues hope to bring you video footage and reports on this page as the march progresses.
Live Update

Image by Occupy COP17

1:15am GMT, 3 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
We hear repeatedly that the Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding agreement to control greenhouse gas emissions and should therefore be preserved at all costs.

One thing has always baffled me about this. If the legally binding status carries such weight, how is that Canada and others have been allowed to overshoot their commitments?

I understood that the rules dictate that any excess emissions are carried over into the second commitment period, making life more difficult for offending countries.

Is this why Canada and Japan are refusing to countenance a new commitment period? Will their excessive behaviour go unpunished?

Here's a welcome piece by Bloomberg on the subject suggesting that Canada has overshot its emissions target to a value of $6.7 billion - and that by giving notice to quit the Protocol early, the government may indeed escape the penalty altogether.
1:27am GMT, 3 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
Another quick note on the Kyoto Protocol. One of its 1997 architects, the former British deputy prime minister, now Lord Prescott, resurfaces from time to time brandishing his climate change credentials (which are genuine).

He's suggesting in the Guardian that the Protocol be suspended until a more comprehensive long term agreement can be sorted out. This would be a way of ensuring that the many operational virtues of the existing regime can be maintained.

In typical fashion, Lord Prescott offers little evidence that he has fully thought through the idea. My concern is that the only parties who might feel comfortable with it are the businesses hoovering up carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism, an instrument of the Protocol.

However, if the Durban talks go badly, putting the Kyoto Protocol into suspended animation might then be seen as the least-worst outcome.
2:03am GMT, 3 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
We've heard next to nothing about India in this opening week of the Durban climate talks. Later today the delegation holds its first press briefing, just at a time when the media may be distracted by the protest march.

This report in the Hindustan Times brings an impressively well-informed picture of a recent cabinet discussion of the Durban strategy to be followed by environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan. It doesn't sound great news for the conference.

China by contrast has put out conciliatory smoke signals. Reuters reckons that the lead negotiator, Su Wei, said yesterday that China might be willing to sign up to a legally binding agreement as part of the European Union roadmap.

In the US press briefing, Jonathan Pershing had excused his refusal to contemplate such a move on grounds that China would never sign up.

On top of that, there are reports from China that the government might even consider an absolute target for carbon dioxide emissions as opposed to its current pledge to improve energy intensity. This sounds far fetched and distant in time but it was apparently acknowledged by Su Wei in Durban.

There's a possibility of choreography here, positioning China as the deal-maker and isolating the US.

If you want to get a real sense of the gulf between the European and US positions on the roadmap towards a legally binding agreement, read the first page of Meena Raman's report on Wednesday's informal consultations about mitigation.
2:15am GMT, 3 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
At this halfway stage of the Durban climate talks, the various working groups and committees should be close to producing draft texts for plenary discussions on Saturday.

These are the texts with lots of bracketed clauses which have to be thrashed our by ministers next week.

There are plenty of reports of "discussions continuing into Friday evening," which imply difficulties. One draft that has got through in time is that for REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), according to the Center for International Forestry Research.
2:18am GMT, 3 Dec update from Bill Gunyon
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