Kate Mackenzie Stern upbeat(ish) after MEF climate meeting, but details still scarce

The Major Economies Forum held in Washington on Sunday and Monday doesn’t appear to have moved sentiment ahead dramatically, despite the MEF being touted as one of the potential alternative forums to the UN, which has been looking too big and slow since Copenhagen. And it’s also despite the US asking the 16 other major economies represented at the Forum to put forward ideas, assumptions, and preferences about how to proceed with the next formal round of climate talks Cancun talks later this year.

However US climate envoy Todd Stern at least managed to sound a more positive note than those leading the UN talks have managed of late.

There was a fairly upbeat mention of financing for developing countries’ climate change mitigation efforts, one of the crucial issues for the talks. The US had asked the attending countries to make presentations on their plans for meeting the ‘quick-start’ financing commitments of $30bn a year from 2010 – 2012, which was one of the breakthroughs at Copenhagen.

According to Reuters, US climate envoy Todd Stern told reporters after the meeting:

“There is an appreciation by everybody in the room it is important to make good on that commitment,” U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said of the two-day meeting that ended on Monday.

However there were few other details, which suggests that the questions of exactly how much, and how, money will be transferred remains unresolved. And this issue is all about details. A paper by Heinrich Böll Foundation, which is affiliated with the German Green party, in March canvassed the problems with both the quick-start and the 2020 financing plans, pointing out:

The Copenhagen Accord’s statements on climate finance also lack a reference to a financing baseline, a starting year or starting amount from which to reach the promised US$ 100 billion a year by 2020. Without the establishment of some sort of centralized global climate finance registry or reporting requirements to be overseen by the UNFCCC – which the Accord does not call for –it will be difficult to have transparent, comparable, verifiable and “measurable” accounting of whatever pledges (and how much of them) do eventually come in.

On other issues Stern, although his briefing isn’t online yet, was apparently trying to play down expectations. From Bloomberg:

There’s “no question” expectations for a treaty at Copenhagen exceeded what could be achieved, Stern told reporters today on a conference call. Support exists for a legal agreement to control emissions, though officials are aware this “might not happen,” he said.

There was also an optimistic note on the prospects for a legal agreement, reports Mother Jones:

“There is still considerable support for the notion of a legal agreement,” Stern told reporters following the meeting. “I think people would be delighted if that happened this year, but are also cognizant of the notion that might or might not happen.”

This, as we wrote last week after the Bonn talks, really is The Big Question for climate talks, because it includes the thorny issue of the commitments of developed versus developing countries, and how far each should go to reduce or curb their emissions.

Related links:

Developed-vs-developing nation tensions still going strong - FT Energy Source