U.N. climate deal set to rely on persuasion, not coercion

by Reuters
Thursday, 12 February 2015 17:54 GMT

Agreement on global warming due in 2015 is set to avoid tough penalties for nations that break their promises

* Paris accord likely to have weak rules on compliance

* Bolivia wants Climate Justice Tribunal

By Alister Doyle

GENEVA, Feb 12 (Reuters) - A U.N. deal to fight global warming due in 2015 is set to avoid tough penalties for nations that fail to keep their promises, relying instead on persuasion and peer pressure, delegates at climate talks said on Thursday.

The approach is a shift from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which originally obliged about 40 developed nations to cut emissions and foresaw punishments for non-compliance. But those were never enforced -- Canada and Japan, for instance, simply dropped out.

Officials from almost 200 nations are meeting in at the U.N. conference Geneva from Feb. 8-13 to work on a deal due at a summit in Paris in December to curb global warming.

"We are moving towards a system of institutionalised peer pressure," said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the U.S. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions think-tank. "It's an approach that is not trying to impose penalties."

Some activists at the conference said governments needed to be held to account, but many acknowledged that a less confrontational approach was more likely to succeed.

A draft text of about 100 pages includes many options for compliance, including that it should be "non-confrontational and non-judicial" in following up plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions linked to heatwaves, floods and rising sea levels.

Bolivia's left-wing government this week added the idea of setting up an International Climate Justice Tribunal to judge violators. That idea is unacceptable to most.

Mary Ann Lucille Sering, Secretary of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, said "moral persuasion" was vague but better than threats. "Every time you say 'if you don't do this I will sue you' then I won't do it," she said.

Still, Christiana Figueres, the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said developing countries needed assurances that the rich will keep promises for action, including rising financial aid.

But she noted that Paris deal will be built from nations' voluntary contributions to act. "This ... suggests to me that this (compliance system) will be less stringent than the Kyoto Protocol," she said.

French climate ambassador Laurence Tubiana said the Paris deal had to be built around a "rational expectation" of what was possible, rather than over-ambition.

But then there is a risk that some nations may simply offer to do too little to cut emissions.

"No one likes the idea of a total Wild West regime, where there no expectations, no rules, no standards," said Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.