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Paris talks drag, threaten to stretch beyond Friday

Under stress, Indian team engages in tough negotiations and bilateral with the US

Climate Change Talks

Nitin Sethi  |  Paris 

Paris climate talks

The night had ended with negotiators going back home at around 6 am on Thursday morning but the day dragged slowly as the French hosts delayed the release of second re-iteration of the Paris package text. Its release was slated for 3 pm Paris time but news filtered out that it was likely to only be put out by night. The day was used by countries to negotiate bilaterally and for the French to hold meetings with many.

Union environment, forests and climate change minister Prakash Javadekar and his team had a second bilateral meeting with the US secretary of state, John Kerry as differentiation and transparency continued to be bone of contention between the two. A slip up late night during negotiations on climate finance, which could have caused embarrassment to India when the results showed up eventually, was fixed through fire-fighting, as the Indian team, under immense pressure continued to engage on the one issue left for them to bring home as a possible victory – a continuation and operationalizing of the principle of differentiation in the Paris agreement.

Two other developing countries in the G77+China group of 134 nations said that their heads of states too had been feeling the pressure from developed country partners with national capitals getting calls. “This is high stakes, there are political decisions for sure to be taken but there are serious concerns of arm-twisting as well as manipulation at this stage,” he said.

Several negotiators Business Standard spoke to from the group said the hosts were trying to narrow down differences on differentiation and climate finance before they produce the draft for Thursday. “This has triggered the hectic bilaterals that the US and others are holding. US is sticking to its guns on demolishing the firewall and providing a strong signal to its industry that its created investment opportunities through this deal,” another negotiator said. “The talk of decarbonisation as a long term goal and symmetry across developed and developing countries on transparency issues is part of that signal to markets that the US is seeking,” he added.

“Well if you see this is a deal the US so desperately requires as legacy for outgoing President Obama and of course the French hosts would want a deal at all costs. But when you say a deal at all costs, you ignore the fact that someone surely is going to pay the price for it. Developing countries need to be clear what is the price they pay and if they gain anything in the process,” he added.

Overnight too, in the closed door Indaba meeting between ministers, Singapore had warned the developed countries that they should not create a scare about bifurcation (reference to differentiation as it exists between historical emitters and rest in the UN climate convention) and other issues but try to offer compromises. The Singapore minister’s advice, appreciated by India was lost as rhetorical demands of doing away with differentiation in the name of a dynamic self-differentiated agreement based only on emission reduction requirements and not finance or technology carried on.

Singapore’s minister asked the developed countries, “Stop invoking the spectre of bifurcation and firewalls. Those are the standard negotiating tactics.” He noted that developed countries were refusing to engage with ideas that had already been agreed upon before. “We already decided that we would work on INDCs (pledges given under the Paris agreement).” He tried hard to convince the developed countries to provide constructive proposals rather than block and threaten others. “You talk of mitigation pledges needing to unconditional. Are you trying to scare people or encourage people to voluntarily come to the system.”

Under the accepted decisions of 196 countries all were asked to volunteer targets under the INDCs or pledges. Developing countries, which do not have legal obligations to cut emissions under the convention did so on a nationally-determined and voluntary basis. But now the developed countries have asked that these be turned unconditional – not dependent on finance and technology which the convention requires them to provide.

At the time of writing the French presidency of the climate talks was yet to come out with the second iteration of Paris Package. It was clear, yet again, that ministers and negotiators would be locked inside Le Bourget, the airport-turned- convention hall, all night on Thursday. The chances of the meeting closing on Friday 6 pm Paris time had dimmed.

First Published: Thu, December 10 2015. 23:35 IST