At the end of November, a two-week long UN climate conference will commence in Doha, Qatar. For Emi Hijino, preparations began a long time ago. As Sweden's assistant chief negotiator, she works on three levels – nationally, regionally (EU) and globally (UN).
"Today I received the draft of the EU environmental ministers' conclusions regarding what they are seeking to achieve in Doha. This needs to be gone through and agreed on the administrative level. I know that a number of my colleagues will encounter problems. What we fail to agree on will end up on the ministers' table at their meeting in October."
It is still the beginning of September. The large windows in the elegant conference room at the Ministry of the Environment welcome the fine weather. Outside, the waters of Riddarfjärden can be seen glittering in the sun. In less than two hours, Emi Hijino will have her next meeting, this time with the Swedish environment representative in Brussels.
"The Swedish position is co-ordinated by number of ministries – Finance, Industry, and Foreign Affairs. The climate issue is not only about the extent to which emissions must be reduced but also how the poorest countries will adapt to a new climate, how they can be helped in order to develop technology and how they can be supported financially."
When Emi Hijino, or the Swedish chief negotiator and climate ambassador Anna Lindstedt, negotiates in Brussels, Swedish instructions must be sanctioned by all the ministries and be ready for the EU level.
"The instructions are my most important tool. They lay down Sweden's position and have been prepared for different scenarios. If Germany puts forward the proposal then that is the negotiation mandate that applies. Climate negotiators are of course well-informed people with their own views. Opinions held in the corridor are of course at times completely different from those put forward at the negotiating table. That's the attraction of the job," states Emi Hijino. "That you differentiate between yourself as a person and the facts as they stand."
"I explained to my elderly grandmother that my job is to be the extra brain of the ministers not their extra heart."
Difficult to schedule the working day
In effect, her primary task is to work with the Environment Minister to prepare and brief. Urgent measures need to be taken frequently.
"You never know what the working day will look like when you arrive at the office. There could have been a news report on the radio that morning that requires a statement by the Minister and I need to prepare it."
A great deal is done whilst travelling. Despite the fact that she and Anna Lindstedt usually split international negotiations, Emi Hijino estimates that she is out travelling up to 100 days a year. The UN, for example, has four negotiation meetings each year. That alone amounts to 6-7 weeks. Then there are all the preparatory meetings. Prior to Doha, for example, Swedish delegations will visit New York, Bali and Seoul during the autumn. An important matter to be prepared is the legally binding Kyoto Protocol, the first period of which concludes at the end of December this year.
Sweden has been a driving force within the EU in lobbying for a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol for a further period, from 2013 to 2020.
"That is also the EU standpoint at the present time. On the UN level, Sweden always negotiates through the EU."
The Kyoto Protocol lays down that EU countries must reduce their emissions by 8 per cent and Japan by 6 per cent. The majority of developing countries are also included in the agreement and although they can benefit from the transfer of technology, they have no commitments regarding reduced emissions. These include major economies such as China and India. The USA has never ratified the agreement and countries such as Japan, Russia and Canada have announced that they do not wish to be included in a new period. This means that only a fraction of the world's countries will undertake to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions through to 2020, which in effect means that the agreement will be of hardly any significance to the climate – not in the short term at least.
"However, it is of vital symbolic value to the developing countries if the Kyoto Protocol continues. The thought is that the industrialised world should assume this responsibility for yet another period during which time they can reduce their emissions."
Agreement length important
The Kyoto Protocol is entwined by a complex set of rules governing how to measure, report, trade in emission rights and so on.
"A great deal is agreed on at the climate negotiations in Durban in 2011 although there remains a lot to be resolved in Doha," says Emi Hijino, who continues.
"One aspect is the length of the agreement. The EU is in favour of eight years whilst the smaller island nations that risk being wiped out if the sea level were to rise are included in an alliance that wants five years. They quite simply do not want to lock the agreement into a low level of ambition. The EU said that it is prepared to go along with an up-scaling point in the middle of the period."
Emi Hijino states that the new Kyoto Agreement rules will also establish a good foundation for forthcoming major global agreements.
"I believe that we should regard it as a transition to something new."
After a couple of days' overtime, a package agreement was reached in Durban, including an extension of the Kyoto Protocol. The most prominent and important step forward at the meeting, however, was the adoption of what is known as the Durban Platform. The Platform means that the 194 UN member states must agree by 2015 at the latest that a global agreement will come into effect in 2020, i.e. in conjunction with Kyoto.
This is the most important issue now. The challenge is to involve the major countries. The key to this is an agreement that they feel makes comparable demands on them. Nor must they leave the negotiating table without feeling that they can explain this to their citizens.
Dynamism in negotiations has changed
What is fair? China, India and the developing countries talk about historical justice – that they should have the chance to build up their countries before being subject to overly strict demands.
"There is still considerable interest from countries such as China in keeping the developing country circle together so that it becomes an 'us and them' discussion. Nevertheless, we have begun to detect an opening. In Durban, for example, the EU allied with the island nations, Africa and certain countries in South America to exert pressure on China and India. Consequently, the dynamism in the negotiations has changed. It is no longer correct to talk about an industrialised country/developing country problem. Certain countries must assume greater responsibility.
China and the USA together account for over 40% of the world's emissions. What these major powers do is of course important. In China, a great deal of work is being done nationally on the climate issue and it can be said that they are willing to assume greater responsibility internationally although the question is when. A great deal is also being done in the USA, mainly on the state level – federally they have an upcoming presidential election to think about.
What impact will this have on US involvement in the climate issue?
"It's difficult to say. Romney was really quite a climate progressive politician before he began running for president. Now he says that climate issues are not something that he intends to focus on. Obama is felt to be more progressive," she says.
"However, whether the USA becomes a party to a climate agreement is not decided by the president but by Congress. What is required there is not just a majority but a large majority. That will be difficult."
Success in climate matters is not synonymous with US involvement in the UN or indeed the UN climate agreement at all. With the present rate of emissions, the Earth is heading towards an increase in temperature of 4-6°C," explains Emi Hijino.
"What Doha must deliver, apart from Kyoto and the future agreement, is to show that we are on the way to achieving the UN objective of limiting global warming to 2°C above the pre-industrial level. We cannot afford to wait until 2020," says Emi Hijino.
In Sweden, we have a great deal of faith in multilateral collaboration and the UN. In many other countries, such as the USA, there is a lot of feeling about being tied to supranational agreements.
"The UN must fall into line with the political reality in which we live and the work needs to be supplemented by other initiatives – collaboration and projects that are not about countries making commitments to reducing their emissions by X or Y."
There is the willingness to do something. At the Copenhagen Conference in 2009, – often described as a fiasco – the seed was sown for the list where the majority of UN member states have now stated by how much they are prepared, on a voluntary basis, to reduce their emissions through to 2020. Both the USA and China are involved although with figures that are too low if the 2°C target is to be achieved."
Emi Hijino is still hopeful.
"I have met so many people with knowledge and expertise that I believe that we will solve this. But we must stop holding back and waiting for someone else take the first step."
By: Lasse Nicklason Photographs: Svenne Nordlöv