UN climate talks falter in extra time
WARSAW, Poland (UPDATE) – UN negotiators made a last-ditch push on Saturday, November 23, to end a gridlock in climate talks meant to yield a roadmap towards a historic 2015 pact to stave off dangerous global warming.
The belligerent negotiations were to have closed at 1am Manila time on Friday, but 17 hours later, diplomats were still shuttling to and fro in a bid to find consensus.
The same issues that had divided negotiators at the start of the talks on November 11 remain unresolved now, said delegates.
They argued over apportioning carbon emissions curbs that will limit global warming to a safer 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), and over funding for climate-vulnerable poor countries.
"I urge you to carefully consider the implications of not capturing and finalizing this important work in Warsaw," conference president Marcin Korolec of Poland told a stock-taking meeting around 6pm Philippine time on Saturday.
Gathering delegates from more than 190 nations, the annual negotiations are meant to lay the groundwork for a historic deal that, for the first time, is to bind all the world's nations to curbing Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
But several bleary-eyed negotiators used the opportunity to raise their dissatisfaction with the process.
"My country Bangladesh, and least-developed countries in general, lost the battle," Bangladeshi envoy Quamrul Chowdhury told the gathering of the draft negotiating texts currently doing the rounds.
"Our expectations have been again shattered. We are saddened."
Envoys for the Group of 77 developing countries and China said they were "discouraged" by the state of affairs.
Europe, for its part, said the draft text on a roadmap to Paris had been a "delicate compromise".
The Warsaw round of the notoriously fractious annual talks have seen rich and poor nations butting heads for nearly two weeks over their respective contributions to the goal of limiting average global warming.
UN nations had agreed to sign a global deal by 2015 to meet this goal with binding targets for all countries to curb climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.
The pact must be inked in Paris in two years' time, and will enter into effect in 2020.
On current emissions trends, scientists warn the Earth could face warming of 4.0 C or higher over pre-industrial levels -- a recipe for catastrophic storms, droughts, floods and land-gobbling sea-level rise that would hit poor countries disproportionally hard.
Applicable to all parties?
A major sticking point was the insistence by some developing nations like China and India, their growth fuelled by fossil fuel combustion, to be guaranteed less onerous emissions curbs than wealthy nations.
Some want the new deal to impose "commitments" on developed countries, whose long history of emissions they blame for the current state of affairs, and seek only "efforts" from emerging economies.
European climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard accused a group of "like-minded" countries of opposing a "push" toward the 2015 deal by insisting on the rich-poor country firewall.
"It is not acceptable to the European Union, but I also think to really many others," she told journalists.
A group calling itself the Like-Minded Developing Countries – which includes China and India as well as Pakistan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela – took issue with what they called a "brazen attack."
"The EU chief is responsible for damaging seriously the atmosphere of confidence and trust in this process," said Venezuelan climate envoy Claudia Salerno, who claimed to speak on the group's behalf.
As emissions have continued to grow year after year, developing nations say their developed counterparts must have more responsibility for curbs given their long history of fossil-fuel combustion.
The West, though, insists emerging economies must do their fair share, considering that China is now the world's biggest emitter of CO2, with India in fourth place after the United States and Europe.
A draft text that negotiators were mulling over on Saturday underlined that the pact would be "applicable to all parties".
Money was another bone of contention.
Developing nations insist that wealthy nations must show how they intend to keep a promise to ramp up climate aid to $100 billion (74 billion euros) by 2020, up from $10 billion a year from 2010-12. (READ: Walkout in UN meet over climate compensation)
One proposal made on Saturday was for a commitment of $70 billion per year as from 2016.
But United States envoy Todd Stern retorted that if negotiations on the finance text were reopened at this late stage, "we will also have several changes we would like to see made".
Still struggling with an economic crisis, the developed world is wary of committing to a detailed long- or short-term funding plan at this stage.
The funding crunch lies at the heart of another issue which bedevilled the talks: demands by developing countries for a "loss and damage" mechanism to help them deal with future harm from climate impacts they say are too late to avoid.
Rich nations feared this would amount to signing a blank cheque for never-ending liability.
Observers said a compromise on this point may be announced soon.
Roadmap to 2015
As for a roadmap to 2015 that the United States, Europe and some others had expected to emerge from Warsaw, US envoy Todd Stern said Friday that countries should ideally submit initial emissions-cutting offers by about the first quarter of 2015.
But a draft negotiating text made no mention of any timeframe.
On Thursday, environment and developmental observer groups stormed out of the conference, saying the talks had produced little more than hot air since opening on November 11, and were "on track to deliver virtually nothing."
But there were some positives.
Jaczewska announced the UN's Adaptation Fund, which helps poor countries deal with the effects of climate change, had received pledges of US$100 million, "more than expected."
Other progress was seen in the design of a programme called REDD+, aimed at encouraging wealthy nations to fund forestation in poor countries. – Rappler.com