Info Service on Climate Change (Oct15/03)
Much is expected of the important Paris climate conference, but so many huge differences remain among the countries and time is running out
(A shorter version of this article was first published in The Star, 26 October 2015)
In just over a month, the UN Climate Conference will open in Paris on 30 November.
Much is expected of it, as a new international agreement on how to deal with climate change will be established there.
But the members of the UN Climate Convention (UNFCCC) are still very far from seeing eye to eye on the content, structure and legal nature of this agreement .
Expectations are high because the climate change situation continues to be in severe crisis, or has even worsened.
This crisis is marked by the highest average global temperatures, the months-long serious haze caused by forest burning in South East Asia, heavy rainfalls causing floods in many parts of the world, as well as typhoons and cyclones.
Against this backdrop, a negotiation session was held last week in Bonn, aimed at making progress on the text of the agreement that will hopefully be concluded in Paris.
But there were so many differences on so many issues that it would take a heroic effort to reach a deal in the two weeks in Paris.
The Bonn session showed that the developed and developing countries, or the North and South, are still split on the key issues of mitigation, adaptation, finance, and technology.
Most importantly, they are deeply divided on what are the respective responsibilities and obligations of the North and the South in the new agreement.
The Paris agreement will come under the UN Climate Convention. According to this Convention, established in 1992, the developed countries are obliged to undertake more obligations, including in reducing Greenhouse Gases and in providing finance and technology to developing countries.
Developing countries also have obligations to take mitigation and adaptation actions. It is also recognized that poverty eradication and economic development are their top priorities, and the extent of their climate actions depends on the level of financial and technology support they receive.
The Convention’s provisions and structures were built on this equity principle, including the notion of “common but differentiated responsibilities”. All countries have to take actions, but the richer countries have to do more.
In recent years, the developed countries have sought to change the nature of the Convention. Led by the United States, they want to remove the differentiation between developed and developing countries, so that all countries are obliged to take on the same types of mitigation commitments.
Moreover, they want to very much loosen the obligations of the North to provide funds or transfer technology to the South. They want developing countries to make the same commitments as them to cut emissions, and to de-link this from the funding or technology they receive.
The developed countries have made proposals that the new Paris agreement incorporate these ideas. But this is tenaciously opposed by the developing countries who argue that accepting this would be tantamount to overthrowing the existing Convention as it contradicts the main tenets of the UNFCCC.
And the Paris agreement comes under the UNFCCC, so it has to be in line with and not go counter to the principles and the provisions of the mother body, which is the Convention.
The developing countries were fighting an uphill battle last week in Bonn as the two Co-Chairs of the committee preparing for Paris issued a draft of the Paris agreement that was very lop-sided in favour of the views of developed countries.
The draft of the Co Chairs, an American and an Algerian, was supposed to be the basis for negotiations. But it faced a storm of criticism from developing countries’ groupings including the G77 and China, the Africa Group and the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC).
The criticisms include that:
Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa, speaking for the G77 and China, said the Co-chairs’ text “seems to attempt to rewrite, reinterpret and replace the Convention. It is extremely unbalanced and lopsided, to the extent that it jeopardizes the interests and positions of developing countries.”
developing countries insisted that countries be allowed to insert
their own proposals into the Co Chair’s draft, so that it could better
reflect their views.
The key findings of the study include:
Russia: INDC represents zero contribution towards its fair share
The Bonn negotiations last week and the very significant findings by the NGOs show how important but complex and difficult it is to get a good Paris agreement.
Such a good agreement must be ambitious enough to keep the world’s temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius, and it must be fair so that countries feel they are not being bullied to do more than their just share.
It also means the powerful developed countries have to step up to the plate and take the lead in cutting their emissions adequately and according to the “fair shares”, but also providing the means to developing countries to take sufficient climate actions.
developing countries, assured by the serious actions of developed
countries, and by their firm commitments on finance and technology,
will be confident to make ambitious pledges on mitigation and adaptation.