How realistic is the EU negotiating position?

Going into the COP working on Latvia, we made sure we knew where the EU stood in terms of the Kyoto Protocol.  In October of this year, the EU adopted a resolution that emphasized its preference for “a single global and comprehensive legally-binding instrument” in the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) track and confirmed its “openness to” a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol “as part of a transition to a wider legally binding framework” in the KP track.  From our very first impressions, we got the sense that this position was designed to emphasize that Europe has made its commitments and it is now looking for other parties to step up and meet them at the same level.

We concluded in our report that “EU support for a second commitment period is, therefore, much more of political tool than a policy one.”  Its efficacy as a bargaining chip is low, as most other signatories have already expressed their opposition to a second commitment period due to its coverage of only 17% of global emissions and the fact that major emerging economies are excluded. Moreover, the EU position creates the impression that the EU has set its stance and is expecting all parties to step up to the table and accept the solution that it has proposed (and when that doesn’t happen at least the EU can say it tried).  We did not think the EU stance would inspire other parties to compromise.

Fortunately, the latest round of discussions yesterday afternoon show that the EU position is much more nuanced, realistic, and goal-oriented than we expected.   The top EU negotiator noted that the EU is very interested in exploring various options to reach a middle ground with the other parties.  A second commitment period of Kyoto may still be improbable, but it is not the end game.  In the LCA track, the EU has expressed its desire to launch “negotiations on a legally binding treaty between all parties, to be concluded in 2015 at the latest” (as per this shaming, but very informative ECO report). And while the top negotiator admitted that “whatever comes out of Durban is going to be piecemeal,” the statement indicates that the EU has adopted a pragmatic approach that is much more likely to yield results.

But how much leverage does the EU have among the other parties and can it entice them to follow its lead in the LCA track?

We’ll have to wait and see.

For Latvia, the EU’s willingness to compromise may lead to a plan that significantly reduces rollover of AAUs (or maybe even removes the possibility of rollover altogether).  While this may reduce a significant source of mitigation financing for Latvia, the reasons behind the compromise may lead to a more comprehensive solution that will be more favorable to addressing the issue of climate change.  Good for Latvia, good for the EU, and good for the planet.