Sense of deja vu as slimline climate deal expands again

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 19 October 2015 20:43 GMT

An employee sleeps in the record section room of the Central Telegraph Office in Mumbai, India, on July 10, 2013. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

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Trimmed negotiating text reopened - with some 65 additions proposed

Anger among developing countries that key proposals had been slashed from the latest draft version of a new global deal to tackle climate change drove the first fractious day of talks Monday in the last round of negotiations before the key Paris talks that begin next month.

At the opening of talks in Bonn, South Africa's delegate Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko – speaking on behalf of a group of 134 developing nations – called the text "extremely unbalanced and lopsided" to the extent it "jeopardised the interests and positions" of poorer states.

But dissatisfaction with the recently issued proposed draft package for Paris, distilled to 20 pages by the talks' co-chairs from a much longer text, was not confined to the G77 and China group of developing nations.

Laurence Tubiana, France's envoy to the U.N. negotiations, said her country also found the text lacking ambition "on all elements", from emissions cuts to the process for reviewing them and measures to adapt to more extreme weather and rising seas.

The least-developed countries want reinserted a G77 proposal on addressing losses and damage from the effects of climate change that can no longer be avoided, such as stronger storms and desertification.

Other developing countries want firmer commitments on adaptation to climate change and how to pay for it after 2020, when the new deal is expected to take effect.

"If we construct the Paris climate deal on the terms of the United States and other rich nations, many of the people in the developing world won't survive the impacts of climate change," warned Harjeet Singh, climate policy manager for international charity ActionAid.

In response to the complaint, the American and Algerian co-chairs agreed to let countries put forward proposals to insert "must-have items" into the draft text on Monday.

They were asked to exercise "restraint". But by the end of the day, some 65 shelved proposals had been wheeled back out, according to the latest tally on the U.N. climate secretariat’s website.

How the resulting expanded text will be compiled and used as a basis for negotiations was still being mulled over Monday evening. The co-chairs suggested spin-off groups that would get down to work on different sections of the text on Tuesday.

They offered to put together a revised version of the text, including the proposals made on Monday, by midnight. But the G77 was still discussing whether it should be a simple compilation or a further edited version, and was planning to communicate its decision later in the evening.

One thing is clear - time is not on the side of the negotiators.

They have only until the end of this week to produce a new text that lays out clear political choices for ministers to grapple with before and during the Paris conference, which begins on Nov. 30.

Tubiana said countries had a "clear sense of responsibility on time management", and urged negotiators in Bonn to correct the weaknesses in the proposed text to produce a more ambitious and balanced version.

Peru's environment minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who chaired last December's U.N. climate talks in Lima, said countries had two choices: throw away what was in front of them, risking a repeat of the failed 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, or work constructively for a "fair, ambitious and pragmatic" outcome in Paris.

Tubiana said the second option was the one that would be under discussion in Bonn.

Liz Gallagher, a climate diplomacy expert with London-based consultancy E3G, dismissed accusations reported by some media that the crafting of a slimline text by the co-chairs was a U.S. effort to sideline developing countries in the negotiations.

"It's not just a north-south thing," she said. "Pretty much everybody dislikes and likes bits of the text."


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