Climate negotiations at Katowice hit a rough patch with the Africa Group of Nations, representing all African countries boycotted talks at the negotiator level. They did so after the US and other developed countries went back on even the proposals they had agreed to over the first week at Katowice over rules for climate finance and global stocktake under the Paris Agreement.
Even as the Polish hosts arranged pairs of ministers to take over talks, the negotiators from 197 countries were tasked to reduce the differences between them till Tuesday evening.
But, on Monday evening, the African Group of Negotiators decided to not engage at the negotiators’ level on climate finance. Then, the contagion spread to other rooms with developed countries picking the same strategy of sliding back from positions they had taken earlier to reach compromises.
“We did not walk out. We boycotted the ‘informals informal’. It is a strong word I know. But that word correctly represents our anger and frustration with our developed country partners. Forget reducing differences they are not even sticking to the compromises they made last week on climate finance and global stock take,” said one African negotiator.
The negotiator-level discussions were held under an arrangement called ‘informal informal'. Climate finance refers to a package of decisions that the Katowice talks have to take to operationalise the flow of funds from rich nations to the poor under the Paris Agreement. The global stocktake refers to the mid-course review of country's targets under the Paris Agreement to see if they stack up well against the climate action required to keep global temperature rise in control.
An Indian negotiator confirmed that the talks had seen developed country negotiators backtrack instead of trying to bridge gaps.
All groups, including the AGN group, and others did continue to engage at the ministerial level though in the hope that the impasse would be broken when the ministers take over the talks entirely starting Wednesday morning.
“It is a waste of time at this stage if the developed countries are asking us to only engage on their proposals and do not want ours to be even part of the conversation what is the use of sitting in these rooms through the night?” another African negotiator said.
Another developing country negotiator said, “They do not want a Paris Agreement. They want a Paris Reporting Agreement for the developing countries. There is no money on the table, there is low ambition but they want to put higher and higher burden on developing countries to report to them about our economies. We did not sign a reporting agreement at Paris.”
At the ministerial level, the African Group, as well as others, reiterated their red-lines on climate finance. “The ministers heard us, the presidency heard us and so did the executive secretary of the UNFCCC. We have made it amply clear, we are not here to discuss only proposals that the developed country partners present. It cannot be that the starting point is just their proposals. A bridge requires us to start with two sides that are far apart,” he added.
By Monday night the Polish presidency had also asked the minister of Marshall Islands and Canada to try and bridge the gaps on global-stocktake at their level. By Tuesday it was expected to set up similar groups for almost all areas of the Paris Agreement rulebook.