The national stadium of Warsaw is brand new but the game being played there has now become familiar, fogyish and frustrating. The name of the game is Climate Negotiations.
The game is being played by 195 countries for the last two decades. They keep on talking and talking, passing the ball without making goals and without heeding the scientific whistles and yellow or red cards from civil society. The meeting in Warsaw was no different except for the backdrop.
First, the host country, well known for its history of path-breaking scientists like Copernicus and Marie Curie, is now recognized for its refusal to break its path from its 90 percent coal-fed electricity generation. In a sheer show of its resolve to continue on its path, it arranged an international summit of coal producers parallel to UN climate meeting and even managed to get a top UN official on climate change to deliver the opening address.
Second, during the meetings from Nov 11 to 22, at least three extreme climate events occurred across the globe, devastating large populations. Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines was followed by a tornado in the US mid-west and cyclone Helen in the east coast of India as the meeting closes.
Third, there is growing suspicion that the fossil fuel lobby has financially supported the climate event in Poland with huge advertisements of those companies all over Warsaw, including their logo on the 'welcome pack' for delegates.
The meeting also had a backdrop of total failure of fulfilling the agreed targets of emissions-reduction as well as past promises of financial contribution for the developing countries.
In May 2013, atmospheric concentration of CO2 reached 400 ppm-unprecedented in the human history-up from 355 ppm in 1990. The goal of stabilizing CO2 emissions is grossly missed. The emissions over the last two decades from the developing countries, not needed to take legally binding targets as per the terms of the Kyoto Protocol have gone up steeply. Developing countries now account for nearly half of the global emissions and China has become the largest emitter of CO2, taking over from the US.
According to a report by United Nations Environment Programme, the gap between annual emission reduction required to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius and the expected annual emission levels - even assuming that the countries meet the pledged targets - is a staggering 12 giga tonnes annually. And every year such gap is widening due to inaction by the developed and developing countries.
The delegates entered into negotiations in Warsaw having backtracked and reneged on almost every promise given in the past. They are now expected to make speedy progress on drafting new post-Kyoto agreement, to be finalized by 2015 and kick off implementation by 2020. They also have the responsibility of continuing the implementation under extended Kyoto Protocol and speedy agreement on the draft of a post-2020 Protocol to regain lost ground. They were, therefore, were expected to be strategic, cooperative, determined and disciplined. Instead they have, over last two weeks, resorted to tactical, divisive, liaise-faire and clannishly self-serving practices.
The issue of climate justice and equity that India has been raising at several meetings still continues to be the country's central negotiating point.
NGOs representing civil society were so frustrated and fed up with the pace and nature of the negotiations that they, numbering about 4,000, walked out on November 21, saying the negotiations are "washed out" by fossil fuel lobby.
There has been no meaningful progress on key matters on revised targets and the timetables for the pre- and post-2020 period. Developed countries are reluctant to agree on targets at this stage. They are keen that China and India and other emerging economy countries also take up the targets.
The tug of war among the major economies continues while the least developing countries (LDC) in Africa and small island countries nervously and helplessly look on.
Some good news came when Norway announced continuation of its $40 million assistance for preventing deforestation and land degradation.
But that is simply a drop in the rising seas.
(23-11-2013- IIT aluminus Rajendra Shende is the founder and chairman of Pune's TERRE, an environmental think tank promoting sustainable development. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)