South Africa stunned the UN climate change negotiations on the first day of the talks at Bonn, Germany, on Monday by saying that the two co-chairs and some developed countries' attitude to developing countries was akin to apartheid.
The blunt attack, rare in international diplomacy and UN multilateral negotiations, was pointed particularly towards the co-chair from US, Daniel Reifsnyder. It came after all developing country groups criticised the co-chairs for producing a draft Paris agreement that favoured select developed countries and then refusing to add their concerns.
The battle between developing countries and the co-chair turned acrimonious, stretching more than a couple of hours, before the two co-chairs gave in to the demands of the G77+China grouping. They accepted a proposal from Malaysia that all countries be allowed to re-insert their proposals to the text without debate and arguments from others.
It was finally decided the draft agreement would be reworked with insertions of proposals from all aggrieved countries. Negotiations over differences would then be figured out over the next four days by the heads of delegations from 196 countries gathered at Bonn.
Paris Climate Change Agreement: First draft ignores India's demands
At the time of going to press, the two co-chairs had said the proposals would be inserted without any discussion or argument. After this, the delegation heads would sit with the co-chairs to decide how the negotiations would occur over this redrafted Paris agreement. The negotiators were to gather at 4 pm Bonn time to see their proposals being re-inserted.
Heated arguments were expected as the G77+China block of countries had concluded over the weekend that the co-chairs' draft was in favour of the developed world, primarily the US. The grouping included the Association of Small Island Countries, the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island Developing States besides Like Minded Developing Countries and the Africa Group. The Bonn talks is the last round of UN negotiations before 196 countries meet in Paris in November to hammer together a global climate change agreement.
By Monday morning, civil society and environmental groups gathered at Bonn had almost unanimously echoed similar views at press conferences, tweets and statements, referring to the co-chairs' draft Paris agreement as “#UStext’’.
At the opening session on Monday, the co-chairs stuck to their guns. They, along with the US and EU, said developing countries should first discuss their concerns in an open-ended oral argument and then it can be decided which ones would be taken on board. Developing countries called this a stalling process.
South Africa responded with anger after the co-chairs refused to yield to 134 countries’ collective demand. They said the G77 was being asked to justify additions to the ADP draft (the draft Paris agreement), which is like in the apartheid struggle where oppressed had to justify why they were equal and had the right to vote.
Speaking for the G77+China group, it told the two co-chairs, “Seems you are arguing with us and negotiating with us rather than facilitating.”
Speaking to Business Standard from Bonn a senior negotiator from the LMDC group, of which India and China are prominent members, said, “The analogy I would give is: you push someone off the boat and while she struggles in the sea, ask her to justify why she should be allowed back in. This is what the co-chairs and some developed countries wanted. The argument was not over process, it was about all countries having equal rights at the UN negotiations.”
Malaysia said, “You can't have a two-wheel bicycle with one wheel removed and then wonder why it can't move. The draft is unbalanced and excludes the concerns of many.”
Another negotiator from the LMDC explained the developing countries' perspective: “The co-chairs were to summarise all countries’ positions. They had to note where there was consensus and where it didn’t exist. Parties (countries) were to then negotiate further at Bonn to bridge the differences. Instead, they gave us a document in which the co-chairs decided what the compromises would be and these were mostly compromises that developing countries were told to accept.’’
Meena Raman from Third World Network, an observer group at the Bonn talks, said, “Developing world (all 134 countries as one) was speaking in a united voice had to justify why their views had to be included. This was unacceptable. Developed countries wanted evaluation of developing country proposals while theirs have been put on the table by the co-chairs. The co-chairs were acting partisan.”