UN climate negotiators urged to lay foundations for new global deal

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 21 October 2014 16:15 GMT

A protester carries a sign during the "People's Climate March" in the Manhattan borough of New York on September 21, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

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Negotiators moving closer on sensitive issues, may not be far from consensus on many areas, minister says

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Government negotiators tasked with drafting a new global deal on climate change are moving closer on sensitive issues, and may not be far from consensus on many areas, said Peru's environment minister who will preside over December's annual U.N. climate conference.

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal urged delegates to "work constructively" at this week's negotiating session in Bonn "to prepare the substantive outcomes we expect" from the Lima conference in December.

The U.N. climate change secretariat said the Bonn meeting provides "the important opportunity to further develop a cohesive text of a new draft climate agreement".

"The elements must be clear" by the Lima conference, to serve as "the foundation for the construction of the negotiating text", it added in a statement.

The co-chairs of the talks have said the text must be ready by the beginning of April, to give enough time for it to be translated and circulated to governments well before the climate conference in Paris in December 2015, where it is due to be agreed.

On Monday, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said last month's U.N. climate summit in New York and surrounding events, including huge public demonstrations calling for climate action around the world, "have undoubtedly shifted the ground of possibility on climate change".

Governments and their negotiators are charged with charting a path to a solution for climate change that is nationally equitable and globally responsible, leaves no one behind, and has clear markers in the near and long term, Figueres added.

Pulgar-Vidal said negotiators in Bonn should define the information all countries are expected to submit by the end of March next year as part of their "intended nationally determined contribution" to a global climate deal. As part of this, governments are expected to reveal targets for cutting planet-warming emissions beyond 2020, when the new pact is due to take effect.

The information put forward in the contributions must be "clear, transparent and understandable", Pulgar-Vidal said.

NO TRADE-OFF

Some developing countries and many civil society groups also want to make sure governments' actions and investments in adapting to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather and rising seas, are included in their national contributions to a 2015 deal.

Harjeet Singh, international coordinator for climate adaptation at the charity ActionAid, said this would help raise the profile of adaptation in the climate change negotiations.

But other countries, including the United States and even some poorer countries, have opposed this inclusion, fearing it could detract from the pressure for every country to be ambitious on efforts to curb emissions.

Singh emphasised that treating adaptation as a key part of national contributions "should not be allowed to substitute" for emission-cutting commitments. "They are different fruits, but you want them in the same basket," he said.

Sven Harmeling, climate change advocacy coordinator for aid group CARE International, said there were fears that putting adaptation into national contributions could complicate or delay discussions on what information must be provided on mitigation efforts.

"This should not come at the expense of climate change mitigation. It is not a trade-off. They are two different things," he said.

Countries should be able to decide whether to include their adaptation plans in national contributions, and these should not be subject to the common timelines that are required for mitigation so emissions reductions goals can be easily compared and added up, Harmeling noted.

GLOBAL ADAPTATION GOAL?

Pulgar-Vidal said progress must also be made in Bonn on agreeing elements for the draft negotiating text for a new global deal.

One element many climate-vulnerable nations want in the text is a global goal on adaptation. It is still unclear what form that might take, but some have called for it to include details on the level of financial and technical assistance richer nations should provide to poorer ones.

"Adaptation must be a central component of the 2015 agreement and it should be addressed with the same level of priority as mitigation," said a recent submission from a grouping of Latin American and Caribbean countries, known as AILAC, and Mexico

"We appeal for an agreement on a global adaptation goal by which all Parties, according to their respective capabilities, commit to increase efforts to adapt to climate change impacts, reduce people's situations of vulnerability and move towards resilient societies, economies and ecosystems in the context of the actual increase in global mean temperature," it added.

CARE's Harmeling said a global adaptation goal should be linked with the level of warming expected in line with mitigation commitments, as that would determine how much financial and other support is needed to help vulnerable countries cope with climate change impacts.

Another key issue Pulgar-Vidal put on the table for Bonn is work towards "a concrete plan to deal with the pre-2020 period including actions to ensure compliance with existing obligations, and the implementation of policy options with the greatest potential". That plan is due to be established in Lima.

Under this strand of work, the UNFCCC has organised a series of meetings of technical experts this year, exploring policies that can raise ambition in fields from renewable energy and energy efficiency to urban and land use issues.

The meetings continue this week, focused on ways of deploying carbon capture and storage technology and on greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide.

(Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Laurie Goering)

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