The World Economic Forum's Dominic Waughray, Senior Director, Head of Environmental Initiatives is at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and blogs his impressions

The past couple of days have been extremely difficult for those queuing to get into the Bella Centre. The weather has been extremely harsh; there have been security lock downs all around the congress centre and a heavy police presence has raised everyone’s blood pressure. Admissions for observers became heavily restricted and dependant on the white badge that only your head of delegation could give you. Yet as a head of delegation I couldn’t get into the Bella Centre to collect my white badges that allowed us to get in. Why? Well, you guessed it – because I didn’t have a white badge.

A perfect catch 22. You need to get in to collect your white badges to get your delegation in. But if you don’t have a white badge, you can’t get in to get your white badges. Luckily one of us, Tom, had got himself a white badge courtesy of a Catholic delegation he had also registered with. Our missionary was duly dispatched into the mêlée to sort us out, while we went back to the nearby Crowne Plaza to warm up. Couple of hours later, not only were we all inside, but we had also became extremely popular as we had an envelope full of precious white badges.

Many people were less fortunate and queued for hours in the cold only to be disappointed. It’s hardly a surprise that the angrier of these tried to overpower the fence, causing the police to respond with force. These are the Bella Centre protests that have been on the news. Yet everyone who is registered as an official observer does have the right to be able to access the centre.

Moving inside the Congress Centre and, despite the suspension of proceedings for a while which was initiated by some developing countries, the latest text from the Long Term Group on Consultative Action has arrived. This is the main text (and its addendums of course) that the ministerial teams are now grappling with.

You will see that many brackets still lie around the key issues (brackets means still to be agreed upon); especially on the rather fundamental issue of targets: see p.4 section 2 which has brackets around temperature targets; reduction targets for developed and for developing countries.

So, a lot still needs to be done. But much of it is now political rather than technical, and requires leadership rather than detailed negotiation. Clear and strong targets are an essential part of any robust outcome from Copenhagen, so we must remain hopeful some of those brackets do disappear and more ambitious numbers replace them. As Yvo de Boer said in tonight’s press conference “the next 24 hours really are crucial”.

Other interesting points of substance

The rise of the climate and trade issue. Note the brackets on p.4 section 5 in the text showing the need to elaborate something on trade measures: this could prove to be a much talked about entry, as it is my understanding some major developing countries would like an explicit reference in the agreement to forbid any climate related border tax adjustments, a mechanism of course which can be found currently asleep in the Waxman Markey bill.

As we both warmed ourselves up in the Crowne Plaza lobby, James Bacchus explained to me how in his view the trade and climate issue is a major policy architecture problem fast approaching and of great pertience to many multinational and large industrial companies. (Jim is a former congressman and former chairman of WTO). We discussed how complaints to the World Trade Organisation could be triggered not only by the deployment of border tax adjustments, but also on countries citing other countries giving unfair domestic subsidies to particular industries (for example, either to help fossil fuel/high emitter incumbents cope with tighter GHG policies, or indeed to help them develop new low emission investment technologies).

One can quickly see how a logjam of cases for the WTO to make judgements on could emerge; a tit-for-tat logjam that would soon snarl up market-based progress to an international low carbon economy. And that’s not mentioning how this new workstream could deflect the time and attention of WTO officials away from fixing Doha. Given that a range of other think tanks, industry bodies and companies have also raised this topic with us, the trade and climate issue may be something we pursue more substantively into 2010. We will certainly be having a session at the 2010 Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters on it and I would welcome any feedback on how you think we might best go about looking at this issue.

Finance. Note also the section on finance in the draft tect (p.8 especially section 37) which refers to the role of private and innovative sources of finance. This is interesting. It reflects to some extent a recognition of much of the work that has gone on over the last several months within the Forum Task Force, UNEP FI, the International Investor Group on Climate Change and several others organisations and initiatives. These groups have consistently promoted the fact that the public finance on offer will simply not be enough to solve the climate finance challenge and private investment will need to be attracted into low carbon infrastructure investments at a dimensionally different scale, in developing countries in particular.

The kind of text in the draft agreement (un-bracketed so no one seems to disagree with it) is exciting: it could be a gateway that enables the Forum, for example, to host a substantive private-public platform into 2010 to bring pension funds, fund managers and development banks etc together to develop new low carbon investment mechanisms for developing countries. This was a core recommendation of the Low Carbon Economy Task Force (download the full report, section 3).

The draft text as it stands enables a clear connect between the UNFCCC framework and such innovative public private work in the investor space. 2010 could see an interesting confluence between the Forum’s work on green investing, energy poverty, financing for development and low carbon growth; a connection that could trigger dimensionally larger investment platforms for developing countries. All of this potentially from a small bullet point in a draft text…

Forests and Land Use. Note that Section 27, p7 (again, with no brackets) introduces the forest and land use dimension, in the form of REDD+ (policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to Reducing Emissions from deforestation and forest Degradation in Developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries)

This is an important issue, as much of the abatement potential to 2020 can be found in the avoided deforestation and land use change space. If the REDD+ section remains, 2010 will require a push of public finance to get forested nations “ready for REDD+”. To ensure that these policies and the projects they inspire are able to attract in as much private finance as possible (as the REDD+ space cannot be sustained into perpetuity by public finance alone), new public-private initiatives will be needed that can work with forested nation governments to develop smart polices and a high volume of bankable project deal flow. Done right and the financial flows could be very large. Done wrong and it will be a development, business and abatement opportunity missed.

This is why on Monday evening the World Economic Forum hosted a major dinner in Copenhagen on avoided deforestation and land use change. Reacting to the potentially huge economic opportunity we think REDD+ offers, we are developing a substantive partnership in this area, in order to provide a platform of very practical policy and project development to help a few key forested nations get REDD+ right. We have started to build a partnership with parliamentarians and legislators from forested nations through GLOBE, leading scientists through the Terrestrial Carbon Group and NGOs through WWF as well as with a range of our Industry Partners and agenda council experts.

Currently Shell, Zurich Financial Services and PWC are working with us to help build the partnership, with about 10 or so Forum partner companies behind that. We believe this will be a vehicle attractive to many from the financial services, mining and land use arena and also to companies less well represented at the Forum such as paper and pulp manufacturers.

Their is also interest at the project level from our Young Global Leaders community too. The Minister of Environment from DRC and Governor Eduardo Bragas of the Amazonas Region were among the guests at dinner, which also included the renowned scientist Tom Lovejoy (who introduced the term biological diversity to the scientific community in 1980). Pavan Sukhdev who is the chair of the Forum’s ecosystem and biodiversity global agenda council was also present. Special thanks should go to Shruti Mehrotra an Associate at the Forum, who pulled the event together, along with Tom Watson of the Forum and colleagues from GLOBE and the Terrestrial Carbon Group.

I wanted to talk also about another excellent event on public-private finance, but I shall leave that until tomorrow.

As the Bella Centre is locked down now, I actually returned home today Geneva. So I will be blogging just three more times: tomorrow and Friday on what I am hearing from our sources still there in Copenhagen and on the inside. Saturday, we expect the final text to be posted in the early hours of Saturday morning so by Saturday evening we hope to have gained a considered perspective on it, from those in the know, which I will post. That will be the final COP 15 posting.