The Bonn climate change negotiations produced a third and more balanced draft for the Paris agreement by Friday afternoon. The document stretched to 33 pages, brought back all countries’ concerns on board but left substantial differences intact.
Laurence Tubiana, ambassador of the incoming hosts of the climate negotiations, France, expressed her reservations gently: “The negotiators did not make any compromises here. They wait for the final moment. This is not what I had hoped for going into Paris.”
The draft accepted by all to become the basis for negotiations in Paris leading to the agreement had more than 1,500 pair of brackets. Text within brackets in such a draft implies that all the 196 countries do not agree to it. Removing a bracket requires either deletion of the text or finding an alternative that everyone can live with by the end of the day. But observers remembered that the draft before the ill-fated 2009 Copenhagen meet, often remembered for the dramatic collapse in the crunch hours, ran up to more than 300 pages.
One of the reason the final draft out of Bonn retained so many differences was the refusal of developed countries to deal with some of the most contentious issues. Over the past four days, the developed countries kept advocating that troublesome issues be left untouched by negotiators for the ministers to resolve in Paris — a move that India and other developing countries strongly objected to.
It meant lobbing the most trenchant technical and legal issues in the lap of ministers, aware that the developing world’s political leadership would be less prepared than their equivalents from the North to deal with the details. With the developed world unwilling to engage, the differences remained embedded within brackets in the third and final draft to emerge from Bonn.
Even as a more balanced draft for Paris agreement emerged from Bonn, the distrust within the developing countries who are members of the G77+China for the two co-chairs of the negotiations, one from the US and another from Algeria reached a new high. On Monday when talks began, the G77+China group had used the analogy of racism under apartheid while alleging the co-chairs were biased. The group had assessed the co-chairs’ first draft of the Paris agreement heavily favouring the developed countries (particularly the US) and then they found the co-chairs asking developing countries to justify their concerns before permitting alterations in the draft. The relations soured further during the week. On Thursday night, the co-chairs tried to conduct a stock-taking meeting for all countries without the presence of 134 countries from the G77+China group. It set off an unprecedented diplomatic row.
Even as the co-chairs tried to justify the move, Venezuela’s negotiator Claudia Salerno rushed in to throw a stern warning at the co-chairs, “We are disappointed with this. We have seen this move. There is never a good second part to a movie. This will be a really nasty Copenhagen opportunity,” she said, alluding to the failed Copenhagen meeting in 2009 when many developing countries feeling betrayed had rammed the conference to failure.
On Friday morning, the G77+China chair South Africa picked up where Venezuela had let off, “You cannot wish the Group away. We are not an inconvenience to be ignored in order for you to keep to your schedule. Just as climate change might be an inconvenient truth, the G77 and China will not be sidelined to a footnote in a text. It seems as if the Group needs to remind you that there will be no agreement in Paris without the full participation of the Group.”
The harsh words seemed to have worked as the co-chairs compiled the third draft in a more balanced manner, developing countries’ negotiators assessed. But the distrust had reached such wafer-thin levels that the G77+China proposed the UN climate convention’s secretariat, and not the two co-chairs, fine-tune the draft before it is taken up again at the Paris meeting starting November 30. Other countries too agreed and it was decided that the secretariat would prepare a technical paper and identify streamlining options which would be an editorial exercise at best over the draft 196 countries had agreed to at the closer of talks in Bonn.
The one victory that G77+China could certainly go home taking credit for was the decision that civil society members would be welcomed back as observers to the first half of the talks at Paris. After having blocked the move for days at Bonn, the co-chairs finally accepted the developing countries’ consistent demand that the civil society groups be allowed back in. A small victory in terms of substance but one that won them rare accolades from the global green movement representatives assembled at Bonn.