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Paris climate deal held up over payment

The deal to combat climate change still has a major obstacle – the disagreement between industrialised and emerging economies over who should pay how much for the effort

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Paris by night: the UN climate summit has gone into overtime this evening, with two related issues holding up a deal. Pic: 1heart1tree.org

The Paris climate summit is going into overtime over two related issues that remain unresolved – who will pay how much to combat global warming, and how will the international community differentiate between nations rich, poor and those in between.

The second draft of the Paris agreement showed delegates from nearly 200 countries and thousands of observers that these crunch issues would probably not be resolved in open debate. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who is in charge of the UN climate summit, announced that all of Friday would be spent in informal discussions – bilaterally or in small groups. He wants a third draft to be ready by Saturday morning and adopted the same afternoon.

Most veteran COP observers feel this is the only workable process now, but they do point out the risk of countries left out of the informal negotiations making their feelings known in the final plenary session and throwing a spanner in the works.

Before that, it was a time for hard negotiations behind closed doors. From the information leaking out to the corridors, it appeared that by Friday evening there were two major issues left unresolved – emerging economies would accept ‘dynamic differentiation’ only if rich nations agreed to have their pledge of raising US$100 billion per year by 2020 within the legally binding section of the agreement.

A related issue also remained unresolved – the US wanted the reference to “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) to combat climate change removed from the Paris agreement. The US wanted this replaced by dynamic differentiation, which would mean that developing countries whose economies crossed a certain point – such as China and India – would have similar responsibilities as industrialised countries when it came to controlling emissions of greenhouse gases that are warming the earth.

Led by China and supported by India, developing countries objected to the removal of this clause on CBDR. China’s Vice Foreign Minister and deputy head of delegation Liu Zhenmin said he wanted to see CBDR “clearly stipulated and reflected in all the pillars”. India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has described this as a “red line” he cannot cross.

On the other hand, US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly told the Chinese and the Indians delegates that without the removal of this clause the Paris agreement would be challenged on Capitol Hill. US President Barack Obama called his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, one day after he had a long phone conversation with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the same subject. Delegates and observers in Paris awaited a resolution.

Scientists warn, businesses welcome
 
Meanwhile, scientists studying the agreement draft warned that much of the text was inconsistent with the goal of keeping average global temperature rise within 1.5C or 2C. The draft mentions “greenhouse gas emission neutrality” in the second half of this century. Steffen Kalbekken of the Oslo based Centre for International Climate and Environment Research said: “If the goal is 1.5C, by 2020 we may exhaust the carbon (emission) budget for it.”
 
Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre at University of Manchester said the draft was “practical only for the rich in the northern hemisphere; dangerous and deadly for the vulnerable.” He pointed out that 10% of the population was responsible for half the global greenhouse gas emissions.
 
The draft was welcomed by business and industry groups. Edward Cameron of We Mean Business said: “If countries adopt this draft, they will have the private sector as their business partner to implement it.” Nicholas Stern of the Grantham Research Institute found the “clarity of signal very good. This draft will make it clear that a low carbon economy will be profitable, while a high carbon economy will carry financial risks.”
 
Green groups divided
 
Environmental groups that have been tracking the negotiations for years were divided too. WWF and Greenpeace welcomed the idea of limiting average temperature rise to 1.5C rather than 2C. They also welcomed the idea of reviewing and ratcheting up national actions to control emissions.
 
But Krishnaswamy Srinivas of the New Delhi based think tank Vasudha Foundation pointed out that rich nations were not even talking of what they would do between now and 2020, the year in which the Paris agreement is supposed to come into effect. Harjeet Singh of ActionAid lamented that the issue of compensation and liability for the loss and damage caused by climate change effects had been dropped from the draft.
 
Sunita Narain of the New Delhi based think tank Centre for Science and Environment found the draft iniquitous. She said rich nations led by the US had exhausted their “carbon budget” and were now denying poorer nations “the space to develop”.

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