Warsaw Climate Change Talks


WARSAW, Poland- The G77 and the China bloc of 132 countries walked out of the Nineteenth Conference of Parties (COP19) talks held in the Polish capital of Warsaw when Europe, Australia and the United States wanted to revert the recompense question of devastating climate events until after 2015. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference was emotionally charged up following the advent of catastrophic typhoon Haiyan, with frustrating discussions on word choice and the “loss and damage” issue. As a result, the conference went into 38 hours overtime.

The November 11-22 the Warsaw Climate Change Talks commenced with a fervent appeal by Yeb Sano, Philippines representative, to stop “this climate madness” and urged for a strong agreement after the devastation of typhoon Haiyan. He fasted throughout the talks, and later on, he expressed exasperation, as there had not been a “meaningful outcome.”

The rich countries deferred to respond to the question of who should pay compensation for severe climate events, and representatives of some of the world’s poorest countries staged a walk out during talks on “loss and damage.” For the developing countries represented by G77 and the China bloc, this was a red line issue and they wanted a new United Nations institution set up to oversee the issue of compensation.

Connie Hedegaard, European Union Climate Commissioner, said Europe understands its importance for developing countries, but she warned they needed to be cautious about creating a new institution. She ruled it out, as it was not feasible to have a system with automatic compensation whenever extreme cataclysmic events happen around the world.

Subsequent bilateral discussions resulted in a new international mechanism called the “Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage Associated with Climate Change Impacts.” It does not address the issue of recompense, and consigns the issue under an adaptation framework for three years, with a built-in review for 2016. This was the result of an intensely fought concession between the U.S., Nicaragua, Fiji and the Bahamas. It was eventually considered as an acceptable interim outcome agreeable to both sides.

Another hard-fought battle was over one word in paragraph 2b of the pathway document. The original text used the word, “commitments” by all parties. However, in a plenary session, representatives from China and India said they could not agree to the choice of word.

“Only developed countries should have commitments,” said China’s lead negotiator, Su Wei.

Delegates and representatives, after an hour of discussion, agreed to change the word, “commitments” to “contributions.”

Developing countries bargained for climate financing to existing funding mechanisms before they were willing to discuss about post-2020 carbon emissions reductions. Several developed countries, including Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland committed $100 million to boost the Adaptation Fund in order to make available financial resources for developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

In addition, Japan pledged $16 billion to assist developing countries decrease emissions over the next three years, while Sweden promised a $45 million commitment to the Green Climate Fund when it “becomes operational with all the necessary arrangements and standards in place.” The (United Kingdom) declared that it would organize a “global summit” on climate finance in the spring of 2014.

Albeit the deeply polarizing moments, there were, however, a few positive agreements reached, such as the UN REDD+ program. Norway, the U.K. and the U.S. joined the World Bank in launching the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes. The three countries together pledged $280 million–$135 million from Norway, $120 million from the U.K., and $25 million from the U.S.–as part of their combined efforts to support forest landscapes and cut climate change. The fund intends to provide incentives to developing countries that are taking active measures to reduce deforestation under the REDD+ program.

President Korolec said in a closing press release, “I am proud of this concrete accomplishment. We are all aware of the central role that forests play as carbon sinks, climate stabilizers and biodiversity havens. Through our negotiations we have made a significant contribution to forest preservation and sustainable use, which will benefit the people who live in and around them and humanity and the planet as a whole. And I am proud that this instrument was named the Warsaw Framework for REDD+.”

During the Warsaw Climate Change Talks, Korolec, the Polish minister and host of the meeting, was demoted from environment minister to climate envoy due to a Polish cabinet reshuffle. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon noted this unusual development.

“I was told by my staff that it seems to be the first case of a president of a UN meeting being demoted,” said Ban.

Although the conference was bitter sweet, Korolec maintained a positive attitude.

“Warsaw has set a pathway for governments to work on a draft text of a new universal climate agreement, an essential step to reach a final agreement in Paris, in 2015,” he said.

The UN Secretary-General extended his invitation to governments, leaders representing the businesses and finance sector, NGOs and civil society organizations to the climate summit in New York on 23 September 2014. The New York summit is expected to complement the UNFCCC negotiations.

“I ask all who come to bring bold and new announcements and action. By early 2015, we need those promises to add up to enough real action to keep us below the internationally agreed two degree temperature rise,” exclaimed Ban.

– Flora Khoo

Sources: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, British Broadcasting Corporation, The Guardian, Brookings, Reuters
Photo: Janek Skarzynski


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