The first week-long session of the climate negotiations has come to a close. So, what ended up on the agenda for the week? Short answer: lots and lots of talking. It was a pretty telling week, with the geo-politics of the negotiations clearly playing themselves out both in the open meetings, and behind (the often) closed doors.

The week began with a two-day workshop where both developed and developing countries presented their mandatory (developed) and voluntary (developing) emissions reduction actions. This made for very interesting viewing, not least of which was watching the USA (the one country isn’t part of the Kyoto Protocol despite being one of the biggest emitters in the world) having to defend their small (miniscule) voluntary pledge to reduce emissions. Fun times.

During the week, the very political issue of what to do about the Kyoto Protocol was openly discussed – this is particularly important as the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. So, if countries are to agree to a second commitment period, they are running out of time. This is likely to be a big issue in South Africa at the end of the year during COP 17 – will developed countries commit to further binding reductions, or will the future of the planet be left in the hands of ‘voluntary’ emissions reductions?

In the end, countries walked away with an agenda for the rest of the year and a promise to continue the discussion on the future of the Kyoto Protocol. “Does that amount to not much progress?” I hear you ask. Well, the importance of the agenda is that it sets up the priorities for 2011, and in the end a compromise was found. However, to have spent an entire week negotiating what will be negotiated for the rest of the year is (very) far from ideal.

It is critical that countries get down to building on the Cancun agreements at the next intercessional session in June this year, focusing on the key issues of emissions cuts, money and the legally binding agreement(s).

Although the agreements made in Cancun during COP 16 last year did move the process forward, COP 16 certainly didn’t do nearly enough to stop climate change – and that in the end, is what these negotiations must strive to achieve.