The two-week talks in the Thai capital failed to produce strong commitments by rich countries to cut emissions, apart from Norway's offer to up its target to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. Similarly, there was little movement from developed countries towards committing resources to funding climate mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries.
"Bangkok is still miles away from Copenhagen," the European Commission's head climate negotiator, Artur Runge-Metzger, told reporters in Brussels yesterday (12 October). Nevertheless, he pointed out that Bangkok had cut down and streamlined the barely legible 180-page draft agreement.
"You'll never make a deal before the last night in Copenhagen," the EU negotiator said, adding that it is now clear to negotiators that Copenhagen will not be able to deliver on all the details. These would have to be filled in over the course of next year, he explained.
Progress was, however, made on adaptation and technology transfer measures, where voluntary agreements and incentive mechanisms were debated.
Runge-Metzger described the discussions on adaptation as "relatively constructive". But he expressed concern that future progress could be hampered by disputes among the G77 developing countries, which have different interests. He pointed out that there is still no consensus over what the definition of 'most vulnerable countries' should be, with developing countries arguing that they should all be eligible for funding.
So far, the only figures currently on the table are those suggested by the European Commission, which said that the overall financing needs of developing countries would climb to €100 billion a year by 2020 (EurActiv 11/09/09). But poor countries said the estimate was woefully inadequate, calling for at least double that amount.
Bickering over technicalities
The latest talks were overshadowed by disagreements over the legal form of the future agreement.
Developing countries lashed out at the EU, claiming that the bloc was "killing Kyoto" by clearly expressing for the first time that it wanted to have a single agreement. This could happen either by amending the Kyoto Protocol or producing a totally new agreement in Copenhagen.
The EU envisages that the new treaty would build on those aspects of Kyoto that have worked best, like target-setting, establishing common accounting and monitoring frameworks, and introducing compliance systems.
The Kyoto Protocol was divided into two tracks, only imposing legal obligations on developed countries. The EU has stressed that this time around, rich nations must also adopt substantive measures.
Moreover, they accused the US of seeking to do away with the Framework Convention by wriggling out of the "common but differentiated responsibility" principle. The US, which has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, has sought to put both developed and developing country reduction commitments into one document that would have to be inscribed into domestic law, de facto scrapping the Kyoto Protocol (EurActiv 17/09/09).
Developing countries, however, are keen to keep the Kyoto Protocol.
"There is a sense [...] that the US is not going to move anywhere, so let's at least lock in the other developed countries," said Runge-Metzger.
UN climate chief Yvo de Boer warned that the question of legal form should be dealt with at the end once the substance of the agreement has been thrashed out.
As Bangkok closed, the UN warned that time to show ambition is running out, as only a few negotiating days remain ahead of Copenhagen. Negotiators will meet again in Barcelona in early November.
"Negotiators have three weeks back in their capitals to receive guidance from their political leaders to complete their work," said the UN's de Boer. "Bold leadership must open the roadblocks around the essentials of targets and finance that the negotiators can complete their journey," he added.
For the EU, the meetings of finance and environment ministers on 20 and 21 October respectively will be crucial to agreeing the missing bits of the EU's position, to be endorsed by EU leaders the following week. Most importantly, ministers are expected to finalise their approach to funding, giving their opinion on the Commission's blueprint.