UN climate talks turn hostile over money

At stake is hundreds of billions of dollars that would need to start flowing from rich to developing nations from 2020. However the developed nations have yet to fully commit to the financing deal.
Channel NewsAsia 4 Dec 15;

LE BOURGET, France: Angry developing nations warned on Thursday (Dec 3) that increasingly tense UN talks aimed at averting catastrophic climate change would fail unless a bitter feud over hundreds of billions of dollars was resolved.

Negotiators from 195 nations are haggling in Paris over a planned universal accord to slash greenhouse-gas emissions that trap the Sun's heat, warming Earth's surface and oceans and disrupting its delicate climate system.

Taking effect from 2020, the pact would target emissions from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas - the backbone of the world's energy supply today - as well as from the cutting down of rainforests.

The question of finance to help developing countries make the shift to cleaner energy sources is "make or break", said South African negotiator Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, who spoke on behalf of the G77 group of 134 developing and emerging countries, plus China.

"It has to be clearly understood that finance is critical," she told a news conference.

At stake is hundreds of billions of dollars that would need to start flowing from rich to developing nations from 2020. However the developed nations have yet to fully commit to the financing deal.

With frustrations at the conference mounting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the world's leading economies to honour the financing pledge they made at the last major climate summit six years ago.

"I have been urging the developed world leaders that this must be delivered," Ban told reporters at UN headquarters in New York. "This is one very important promise."

Of the US$100 billion to be mobilised by 2020, US$62 billion has been raised so far, he added.

More than 150 world leaders including President Barack Obama launched the talks Monday, seeking to build momentum for the tough negotiations ahead with lofty rhetoric about the urgency of the task.

But after three days of grinding discussions over a hugely complex 54-page draft pact, bureaucrats unveiled a document just four pages shorter and with vast stretches of text yet to be agreed.


By the end of a day of frustratingly slow negotiations, tempers frayed.

"I am deeply concerned. I'm out of words. I have been doing this for many years, and this is just not right," Bolivia's Juan Hoffmaister, representing the G77 and China, told fellow negotiators at an evening session.

At the heart of the dispute is a demand by developing nations that the rich shoulder the most responsibility for fighting global warming because they have emitted most of the greenhouse gases since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

But some rich nations point out that developing nations, particularly China and India, are now big polluters.

Norwegian negotiator Aslak Brun said they were grappling with "very hard lines on all sides".

"Pointing fingers at this point in time saying: 'you are to blame and we are the good guys', it doesn't help us. Collectively, we just have to really speed up," he said.

Ministers from around the globe will descend on Paris Monday to try to transform the draft prepared by diplomats into a universal accord to avert planetary overheating. The conference is scheduled to end on Dec 11.


French Environment Minister Segolene Royal said she was still confident warring sides would come together by Dec 11. "It is normal for it to take a day or two for negotiations to get into gear," she told AFP. "It is unthinkable to imagine failure."

At the core of the talks is the goal of limiting average warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Scientists warn time for action is running out, issuing ever-louder warnings that steadily growing carbon emissions will doom future generations to rising seas and worsening floods, storms and drought - a recipe for hunger, disease and homelessness for many millions.

James Hansen, one of the world's foremost climate scientists, warned in an interview with AFP that even capping warming to 2°C was a massive risk.

"2°C warming above pre-Industrial would put us at least at the temperature of the last inter-glacial period. Sea level was six to nine metres (20-30 feet) higher then," he said. "If we let ice sheets become unstable, the world may become ungovernable because the economic consequence would be so great."

- AFP/ec

Rich nations' fossil fuel subsidies exceed climate aid 40 to 1: researchers
Chris Arsenault PlanetArk 4 Dec 15;

Wealthy nations spend 40 times as much money subsidizing fossil fuel production as they contribute to the Green Climate Fund to help poor countries adapt to global warming, a research group said in a study released on Thursday.

Eight industrialized nations - Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States - spend a combined $80 billion a year on public support for fossil fuel production, but have pledged only about $2 billion a year to the Green Climate Fund, Oil Change International said.

"Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies could be a massive double win," Alex Doukas, the group's senior campaigner, said in a statement on the research analysis.

"It would stop a huge waste of public money that's driving the climate crisis, while at the same time freeing up money that can help poor countries adapt to the impacts of climate change and make the shift to renewable energy."

The research was released during negotiations between 195 nations in Paris over a new climate deal, expected to lead to an agreement next week.

Developing nations have been calling for more support from wealthy countries so that they can produce clean energy, accelerate their economic growth and reduce poverty while keeping carbon emissions in check.

(Editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

Backchannel climate meetings in Paris could decide the fate of the world
Meetings of climate negotiators in ‘informal informals’ – small ad hoc groups talking outside of official sessions – could be key to reaching Paris agreement
Fiona Harvey The Guardian 2 Dec 15;

In huddles in corners, sitting on the floor in corridors, crowded around smartphones at cafe tables around the sprawling conference centre in Paris where crunch climate change talks are ongoing, a new form of meeting is taking place.

These are the “informal informals” - groups of negotiators meeting outside the conventional apparatus of plenary sessions in large halls in order to facilitate a deal.

These meetings are intended to tease out and resolve the remaining differences over the detailed wording of the text of a possible Paris agreement. Often, they will work on a single paragraph at a time, reworking the wording and attempting to forge consensus in small groups that they can then feed into the larger process of negotiations.

The informal informals are seen as a key - and novel - strand of the talks. In previous UN negotiations, proceedings have been hampered by the cumbersome process of presenting all 195 countries with long texts - sometimes scores or even hundreds of pages - every word of which must be approved by consensus.

By allowing for these smaller, ad hoc meetings, the French hosts and the UN are hoping to lubricate the process of reaching an agreement.

While these informal meetings are taking place, another strand of negotiators have broad oversight of the whole package of details that will make up any agreement, attempting to steer it through to a deal, and a third strand are working on some of the important issues that will make up the package, such as financial assistance for poor countries, commitments on greenhouse gas emissions, and mechanisms for ensuring countries are accountable for meeting their targets in a transparent way.

Negotiators say that the French, who have put a massive diplomatic effort into the last year of preparations, are acutely aware of the risk that any agreement will be foiled not by a lack of political will to forge a deal, but by being bogged down in the unwieldy details of the text. That was a key problem at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, and the hosts are determined not to repeat the mistakes made there.

The two weeks of talks, aimed at drawing up a new global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions that would kick in from 2020 when current commitments run out, kicked off formally on Monday. Negotiators met in back rooms while an unprecedented 150 world leaders took to the stage to emphasise their commitment to tackling global warming. In a sign of things to come, their initial meetings carried on late into the night, with some ending only at midnight.

By this Thursday, they are expected to come up with a draft text that will be further refined on Friday, then examined by the French team over the weekend. On Monday, that text should be released again for the negotiations to continue - hopefully, with the removal many of the notorious “square brackets” which denote phrases or issues over which agreement has not been reached.

At that point, the French will decide whether to entrust the ministers of each country with the task of coming to an agreement immediately, or demand further work from the facilitators before doing so.

The process of UN talks was first developed in 1992, when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed, and the emphasis is on consensus and transparency. This process can seem arcane and unwieldy, but the task of forging a lasting treaty on the climate among all world governments is so complex that little can be done to change it.

Among the remaining unresolved issues at the talks are the proposed mechanism of five-yearly reviews after Paris, at which countries would be expected to take stock of their progress towards their emissions targets, and potentially ratchet up those targets if circumstances permit.

Some countries which have set emissions targets for 2030 have reservations about the latter, though most are happy with the notion of a stock-taking exercise.

This, and mechanisms for ensuring transparency and accountability in reaching emissions targets, along with the target of providing finance from the rich world to poor countries that will be most affected by climate change, are likely to be the subject of many formal meetings and “informal informals” in the coming days.

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