US threatens to walk out of Paris pact over financial obligations

Talks go beyond deadline as developed countries block differentiation in revised draft

An artwork entitled 'One Heart One Tree' by artist Naziha Mestaoui is displayed on the Eiffel tower ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, in Paris

An artwork entitled 'One Heart One Tree' by artist Naziha Mestaoui is displayed on the Eiffel tower ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, in Paris

Nitin Sethi Paris
The chase for Paris climate agreement is going into overtime. French foreign minister Laruent Fabius, who is leading the negotiations, pushed back the deadline to Saturday after another round of all-night talks failed to yield any result till the original deadline of Friday 6pm. While making the formal announcement, Fabius expressed hope that the final package would announced on Saturday morning after negotiations on Friday.

On the night between Thursday and Friday, the rich and poor countries were divided by fractious arguments, leaving the organisers with no other option but to extend the deadline. Many negotiators across the divide speculated that the talks may get further extended till Sunday.

The night saw an ugly brawl as US Secretary Of State John Kerry threatened that developed countries would walk out of the agreement if they were asked to commit to differentiation or financial obligations. “You can take the US out of this. Take the developed world out of this. Remember, the Earth has a problem. What will you do with the problem on your own?” he told ministers from other countries during a closed-door negotiation on the second revised draft of the Paris agreement.

“We can’t afford in the hours we are left with to nit-pick every single word and to believe there is an effort here that separates developed countries from developing countries. That’s not where we are in 2015. Don’t think this agreement reflects that kind of differentiation,” he added. Making a veiled threat that the agreement could fail if the US was pushed for financial obligations, Kerry said, “At this late hour, hope we don’t load this with differentiation… I would love to have a legally binding agreement. But the situation in the US is such that legally binding with respect to finance is a killer for the agreement.”

  • Should developed countries have a legal obligation to pay for climate change
  • Should developing countries, that do not have historical responsibility for emissions, also contribute to the fund
  • Should burden-sharing be based on current economic capabilities or a combination of historical emissions and current economic capabilities
  • Should the actions of developing countries be linked to the provision of finance and technology or should they be treated at par with developed countries going forward
  • Should there be a periodic review of delivery of finance and technology by developed world or not
  • Should the long-term goal be to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degree by the turn of the century or should it be somewhere between 1.5 degree and 2 degrees
  • Should poor and vulnerable countries continue to hold the right to file for damages against permanent loss caused to them because of climate change

Kerry left the room right after his short intervention even as other US delegates stayed back. At this point, delegates from some of the countries pointed out that the session was meant to exchange views and not to threaten and leave.

Business Standard confirmed Kerry’s remarks and other statements made during the night by speaking to multiple negotiators who were present in the meeting.

Kerry’s intervention was followed by developed countries collectively refusing to agree on a roadmap about their financial obligations towards poor countries.

In the past, developed countries have failed to deliver their commitment of providing $100 billion annually by 2020 as a part of their historical responsibility.

In a recent report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development claimed that the rich world had delivered $62 billion by 2014. But developing countries, including India, pointed out severe accounting flaws including inclusion of high-interest loans as climate finance, which is seen as a reparation cost.

Developing countries have been demanding a roadmap for delivery of the $100 billion climate finance. They also want to fix the accounting rules in Paris so that developed countries don’t get away with misrepresenting the facts. This issue was partially reflected in the second revised draft of the Paris agreement. This proposal got the developed countries in a knot. One after the other, they took the floor demanding that developing countries should also pay for climate change.

“Kerry’s statement against differentiation and legal obligations was shocking. They (developed countries) see this is an opportunity to walk away from their obligations. At all costs the developed countries want the rules rewritten in departure from all the principles and provisions of the convention,” said Meena Raman of Third World Network, an observer group.

India, China, Argentina and many other developing countries intervened through the night pushing for differentiation as well as explicit financial obligations from the rich world. The talks remained inconclusive and the French foreign minister announced the extension.

First Published: Dec 11 2015 | 11:50 PM IST

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