There was a second lesson. The US President-elect is not the same as a President. All concerns about Donald Trump announcing that the US would junk the climate change talks came to nought. Still, under instructions from Barack Obama, the US delegation continued to negotiate hard and tackle rough to further break down the wall of differentiated responsibilities between developing and rich countries. Other developed countries and allies worked hard alongside to do the same, as if the US were there for the long haul in the agreement. And so did some of the US’ newfound friends on the developing country side of the game.
If the UN framework convention (UNFCCC) is the World’s Constitution for fighting climate change that they all agreed to in 1992, the Paris Agreement is the equivalent of a law that these 196 countries came up with in 2015. In that case, the talks in Morocco this year were to kick-start the scripting of the rules to the Paris Agreement – a work that needs to be finished by the end of 2018. Then, the Paris Agreement, along with this rulebook, can be implemented starting 2020.
It’s a settled concept that rules are meant to facilitate the implementation of provisions of a law. But at Marrakech the developed countries, led by the US from the front, tried to use the rule-making process to subvert the law – the Paris Agreement. They notched some substantial successes. Their belligerence came as a surprise to many ill-prepared developing economies, including India. And, it exposed the brittle nature of the bonhomie world leaders had claimed between developing and developed countries after signing the Paris Agreement last year.
One of the biggest victories the rich nations were able to score at Marrakech was in getting their report on climate finance acknowledged into the formal negotiations, despite developing countries claiming that it had used dubious accounting methods . Though the acknowledgement was not as black and white as the developed countries began by asking, the fact that it got inserted at all was shocking enough for most developing countries. This OECD report could now become one of the bases for defining climate finance. The OECD countries had tried this last year at Paris as well and failed. But, they got away with it at Marrakech.
For example, for developing countries one of these priority issues was to have a process for setting a new collective quantified goal on climate finance. For developed countries it was to have a common time frames in which countries revise their targets periodically under Paris Agreement. The US and other developing countries were able to get this priority listed at a higher level than rest though India and China fought hard that their priorities do not disappear entirely at Marrakech itself. “We lived to fight another day on these,” explained one negotiator speaking metaphorically.
India at Marrakech
But at Marrakech India had to also deal with the fact that the BASIC group had become less coherent than ever before. It comprises of South Africa, Brazil, China and India and stumped the EU in 2009 by becoming the group of big developing economies that collectively bargained with the US at Copenhagen to shape the new climate regime. But, South Africa drifted somewhat away from others in its national interest even before Paris Agreement. At Morocco, Brazil did so more dramatically, demonstrating that its national interest and political alignments at climate talks had turned closer to those of the US rather than those of other emerging economies in the BASIC group.
Key results of Marrakech Climate talks:
1. Rich countries could now dictate the definition of climate finance for flows under Paris Agreement starting 2020.
2. The road map for rich countries to provide US $ 100 billion annually starting 2020 looks more dubious than before.
3. No space for deeper emission reductions or increased climate finance by rich countries before 2020.
4. Adaptation Fund for poor countries to continue under Paris Agreement but choked by conditions that will be imposed in coming years.
5. Principles of equity and differentiated responsibilities remain on table but no progress on operationalizing them in the Paris Agreement rulebook.
6. The entire rule book for Paris Agreement to be finalised by 2018 for the pact to be operationalized by 2020.
7. India’s call for ‘Climate Justice’ finds no placeholder.