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Climate Conference faces a crisis as differentiation is diluted in rulebook

US does want equity and Loss and Damage mentioned in the Paris Agreement rulebook

Nitin Sethi  |  Katowice 

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Participants of a global campaign to demand climate justice before the final session of the climate talks (Photo: reuters)

At 9 pm on Thursday the Polish presidency brought out its iteration of the Paris Agreement rulebook after two days of ministerial rounds. From then on the talks spiralled to a crisis. When countries met at 11 pm each group and several countries read out a litany of problems they saw in the new draft. The fundamental differences between the developing and the developed world remained as wide as they had at the beginning of the talks.

The US said it did not want equity mentioned in the rulebook, wanted all references to equity and loss and damage scrubbed from it and the reference to the IPCC 1.5 degree report also be taken out. It asked that the differentiated responsibilities proposed between developing and developed countries in all parts of the rulebook be also diluted. It additionally demanded stronger language to reflect that multilateral and other investments to developing countries would move towards only low-carbon infrastructure and growth.

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India, China and the like-minded developing countries, on the other hand, told the Polish presidency that it saw the draft rulebook deviated from the Paris Agreement and the differentiation between rich and poor countries had been diluted beyond the mandate provided by the pact. It noted that on transparency developed countries had been permitted to backslide while the developing countries were being asked to take more onerous reporting obligations.

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India’s chief negotiator, Ravi Shankar Prasad said in the closed door meeting that went on for four hours, “Why do we have apprehension about equity? It enlightens us to realities of the world. We are only asking for aggregate progress and assessment at a collective level not for individual countries (under the global stocktake mechanism). That should reassure all countries.”

He also said that the mid-course review of achievements under the Paris Agreement, called the global stock-take should look at gaps that had been created due to lack of enough action by countries. It should also inform countries how equity had been ensured or not and that it should be done on the basis of historical emissions and carbon space metrics. He said the lack of action should be measured not just for emission reductions but also for financial and technology-sharing obligations of the countries.

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Gurdyal Singh Nijar of Malaysia spoke on behalf of the like-minded developing countries, which includes India and China, and laid down a granular detailed list of changes it wanted to reflect differentiation better in the draft text.

He said, “We are implementing the Paris Agreement. It was negotiated in a very comprehensive and careful way. We are on the same page when we say we want to preserve the integrity of the agreement.”

He noted that Article 3 of the agreement was missing or existing in a very diluted form in the rulebook. “Differentiation seems to be eclipsed quite completely. Have to recapture and restore this,” he added.

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He ran through specific portions of the draft to note that in the name of differentiation in some places only small island countries and least developed countries had been given flexibility. Many developing countries see this as an attempt to divide the G77+China group and reduce the burden on the developed countries to provide resources for acting against climate change.

He also pointed out that the draft suggested the targets under the Paris Agreement should be only about reducing emissions (mitigation, in climate jargon) and not about finance, technology and adaptation. The latter set remained within brackets. He said that it was important that the targets cover all pillars of the Paris Agreement as provided in the pact.

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China’s minsiter Xie Zhenhua joined the LMDC group and also read out a long list of changes it said were essential for the negotiations to reach a conclusion. He noted that the draft rulebook did not provide sufficient differentiation, and the reference to the obligations of the developed countries to provide finance and technology had been diluted while developing countries were being forced to do so instead. He insisted that the finance developed countries provide be new and additional and not double accounting of existing financial flows under other obligations of the rich nations.

But the Umbrella group which includes the US also read out its list of issues with the draft though it expressed comfort with the progress that had been made in the new iteration of the draft. Many of the Umbrella group problems with the text required reducing the differentiation further between developing and developed countries. On one hand, it asked for dilution of how equity was being used to undertake mid-course evaluation of the implementation of the Paris Agreement. On the other, it asked that a review also include how global financial flows to developing countries had been restricted to only those development projects that provided low-carbon growth.

After listening to the presentations, the Polish presidency asked countries to come back on Friday morning for more consultations in a bilateral fashion. When asked it could not provide a clear answer on how progress would be made. Officially Friday is the last day of the negotiations but all delegates prepared to see it extended by at least one day if not more.

Several delegates from developed and developing countries also talked in the corridors after the talks shut at around 3:30 am on Saturday that the current negotiations could be suspended and reopened in six months again due to the impasse - an indirect way of saying the Katowice negotiations could collapse to failure because of the wide chasm that continued to exist between developing and developed countries till the last day.

First Published: Fri, December 14 2018. 16:19 IST