Ministers trooped into Katowice over the weekend as the climate negotiations moved into high gear on Monday.
On Sunday itself, the Polish presidency requested ministers from Germany and Egypt to try to resolve the wide differences that continued to hold between developed and developing countries on climate finance.
The presidency is expected to similarly request multiple sets of two ministers each - one from developing and another from the developed world - to try and resolve differences in other politically-sensitive parts of the Paris Agreement rulebook.
India's Union minister for environment, forests and climate change won't be in attendance as he returned to Delhi last week for a personal engagement. The Indian delegation is expected to be headed by the additional secretary from the environment ministry in the second week.
Late Saturday night, the first week of talks at the levels of negotiators concluded after hours of stalemate. The Africa Group and the Like-Minded Developed Countries shared their anger and anguish with the officials and hosts of the climate talks after several of their proposals were summarily dropped from the draft rulebook that was to be sent to the ministers for finalisation.
The Africa Group, along with the Like-Minded developing country group -- which includes India and China -- refused to negotiate on the basis of text that did not even contain their options on the table. As the negotiations hit a rough patch and got stalled, media was denied physical entry into even the negotiations that take place in open.
The UN secretariat did not respond to formal query by Business Standard on denial of entry to media during critical hours of the first week.
By practice, countries’ or groups’ proposals are put in draft decision texts within brackets. Brackets indicate lack of agreement or consensus among all countries on the proposals. These are then resolved by further negotiations and reworking of the language. Not having the proposal in the draft text to begin with puts countries at a disadvantage in later stages of negotiations.
But, the Africa Group and Like-Minded Developing Countries showed flexibility after the chairs of the negotiations and the hosts assured the groups behind closed doors that their positions on different issues would be addressed during the ministerial rounds of talks.
“We want to be constructive. We want to have a good robust rulebook. But we do not want it to come at the cost of rewriting the Paris Agreement. We have let it go forward to the ministers believing our red-lines (non-negotiable concerns) will be addressed. At the moment we are extremely unhappy with large parts of the rulebook. In some places it is worse than even the first iterations (of the draft rulebook). But we shall work with our partners on the other side to find the right balance,” said a developing country negotiator who attended the closed-door meetings on the way forward.
The Polish presidency assured heads of delegations on Monday morning that they would try to make sure that there was the least level of overlap during the week between meetings that the groups of ministers hold to ensure developing countries’ are able to participate in all. But, the Polish presidency also expressed their strain of managing four high-level (ministerial) level formal events through the week to be held in open besides the closed door meetings.
At the time of writing this report, the German and Egyptian ministers had asked the negotiators to continue working to further resolve granular differences on finance in the hope that only a few critical and politically-sensitive issues would remain for them to deal with.
“Work is going on both transparency related-issues as well as finance at the fine technical level. There is a lot to be done in the next two days. Even though the negotiations have entered the ministerial level, we are not a stage to leave it in their hands. It is unfair to developing country leaders to expect them to resolve the nitty-gritty of the rulebook.
Some of the big issues of the Paris Agreement rule-book that require resolution:
1. Scope of the Nationally Determined Contributions or targets
Will countries that want to put forth their targets for adaptation, finance and technology and not just mitigation - such as India - be allowed to do so under the Paris Agreement?
2. Review of climate finance information provided by developed countries
Would there be a formal review or assessment of the upfront information developed countries provide on how they shall deliver in future on climate finance
3. Common rules for transparency
Will the new transparency regime under Paris Agreement kick in for developing countries in 2024, 2026 or another date.
4. How to acknowledge the UN science panel report on 1.5 degree celsius
How will the gathered countries formally acknowledge and accept the UN IPCC report on keeping temperature rise below 1.5 degree celsius by the end of the century.
5. What happens to the Talanoa Dialogue
Will the quasi-formal dialogue lead to forcefully ratcheting up existing mitigation targets of countries without a linkage to climate finance and technology