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Climate diplomats regroup after rocky start to key talks

Published on October 20, 2015

Talks on a climate rescue pact got back on track Tuesday after an acrimonious start to the final negotiating session before world leaders open a UN summit to seal the deal.

The 195-nation discussions took a procedural detour Monday when developing countries accused rich ones of “apartheid” tactics, and claimed their core demands had been summarily excised from a blueprint.

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will preside over the year-end Paris climate summit, urged negotiators Tuesday to advance.

“To have success in Paris, progress must be made in Bonn by Friday,” he told journalists on the sidelines of the five-day technical huddle.

After a late-night sprint to reintroduce omitted passages, the G77 bloc of developing nations — housing the vast majority of the global population — said Tuesday their key concerns were addressed.

The revised draft, expanded from 20 pages to 34, managed to “correct imbalances”, South African climate envoy Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko said on the group’s behalf.

This paved the way for delegates to resume their core work of line-by-line text bartering.

“The majority of delegates seem happy with the agreed way forward,” said Amjad Abdulla, chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States at high risk of climate change-induced sea-level rise.

“I think we all understand that it will mean some long hours this week, but producing a party-driven text that all countries feel ownership of is a prerequisite for success in Paris.”

While nearly a day-and-a-half was lost to the initial standoff, Cuba’s chief negotiator Pedro Luis Pedrosa said at least “people really started listening to each other”.

“Now I have the impression that people, every delegation, is very much aware that now we don’t have more time. Either we get it right, or we don’t get it (an agreement).”

Added Alix Mazounie of the Climate Action Network NGO group: “The crisis we had yesterday was actually very important to refocus the attention of all parties on what this agreement needs to deliver to those most in need, especially on financial issues.”

Missing wording on finance for developing nations was at the core of objections from the G77, which include developing giants China and India.

– Averting disaster –

Poor nations are demanding funding commitments from the rich world for their transition to less carbon-polluting energy, and for shoring up defences against climate change-induced sea-level rise and storms.

Fabius arrived in Bonn Tuesday to meet negotiators and assess the progress made ahead of the November 30-December 11 UN conference.

The five-day meeting must craft a workable blueprint for a pact meant to crown more than two decades of fraught climate negotiations.

It will serve as a working document for ministers and heads of state who need to take the tough political decisions needed for the Paris summit to succeed.

A key pillar of the pact will be a list of national pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

But scientists warn that pledges submitted by more than 150 nations so far place Earth on course for warming closer to 3 C — a world of dangerous rises in sea levels, superstorms and the spread of disease.

The Paris agreement, due to take effect in 2020, will be the first to commit all the world’s nations to climate action.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday lamented the “frustrating” and “slow” pace of negotiations, and warned: “We don’t have any ‘plan B’ because we don’t have any ‘planet B’.”