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FACTBOX-What's at stake at this year's U.N. climate talks?

by Reuters
Monday, 25 November 2019 14:45 GMT

A dog is seen next to climate change activists while they participate in a protest to demand that Spain's next government takes action on climate issues, in Madrid, Spain November 8, 2019. The placard reads: "The earth is hotter than us." REUTERS/Jon Nazca

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Representatives from nearly 200 countries meet in Madrid from Dec. 2-13

By Nina Chestney

LONDON, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Representatives from nearly 200 countries meet in Madrid from Dec. 2-13 to flesh out rules for implementing the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.

Here are some of the sticking points:


Article 6 of the Paris Agreement concerns rules for market-based mechanisms to combat climate change. It would set the scene for a global emissions trading system to cut the cost of curbing emissions and boost governments' commitment.

There have been more than three years of talks on Article 6. Consensus was not reached at U.N. negotiations last year, so it rolled over to this year.

The article calls for "robust accounting" to avoid "double counting" of emissions reductions.

Double counting occurs if a country pays another to lower emissions but counts those lower emissions toward its own emissions cut targets, undermining the integrity of the agreement.

This could be avoided by creating an accounting rule to ensure that emissions reductions generated in one place cannot be counted both by the country generating the cuts and by the country using them towards its own Paris Agreement target.

The article also includes a new market-based mechanism. Some countries argue credits from the old system should be carried forward as they don't want to them to expire and be wasted.

Others say this would bring huge amounts of cheap permits to the market, reducing the need to cut emissions.


Existing pledges to curb emissions are nowhere near enough to avert catastrophic warming, say scientists. Countries are under pressure to improve their pledges by the end of next year.

That includes steeper and faster emissions cuts, raising the already agreed $100 billion a year of climate finance by 2020, and working to build on that amount afterwards.

Last week, Chile called for more nations to join an alliance that is increasing action by 2020 and aiming for net zero emissions by 2050.

A U.N. summit in New York in September saw few new proposals from governments. Instead there was a flurry of pledges from business, pension funds, insurers and banks.


Last year, a small number of economically powerful countries refused to "welcome" the findings of a U.N.-commissioned report, which said keeping warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius would require unprecedented changes.

This undermined the report, whose findings are seen as crucial for small island states most vulnerable to climate change.

A compromise on how to include the report in the Paris Agreement was found earlier this year but many countries are still disappointed it still includes no targets for how to keep temperatures below 1.5 C.

"We must not permit even a whiff of denialism in the multilateral process. We must use the IPCC special report on 1.5 to operationalise the Paris Agreement," Lois Young, chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, said earlier this year.


Governments have agreed to address the impact of climate change on developing countries but there is no detail about liability or compensation, a bone of contention for many poorer countries.

Nations also differ about what the mechanism should cover - past events or future events too.

Sources: UNFCCC, World Resources Institute, HSBC, Reuters news

(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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