Small Steps Forward in Warsaw

פורסם: 28 בנוב׳ 2013, 12:07 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 28 בנוב׳ 2013, 12:07 ]
November 27, 2013

Last weekend, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) wrapped up its 19th Conference of the Parties (known as COP 19) in Warsaw, Poland. The conference was the international community’s latest attempt to build toward meaningful solutions to climate change and brought together 190 nations to develop a roadmap for international climate action through 2015. The primary objective of the conference was to prepare for COP 21 in Paris in 2015, when current plans call for a major new global deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol. This deal would serve as a binding agreement on emissions reduction and climate action for the international community and go into effect in 2020. Numerous setbacks at COP 19, however, slowed and shifted much of the preparatory work to next year’s COP 20 in Lima, Peru. Despite this, there was also some significant progress, particularly in climate finance, that left observers with cause for optimism going forward.

To prepare for the 2015 deal, negotiations at COP 19 focused on the key topics of finance, equity, and loss and damage (L&D). The latter proved a particularly contentious issue as developing nations pushed for L&D, including provisions for compensation and reparations, to be added alongside mitigation and adaptation as a pillar of the UNFCCC. Developing nations sought a binding agreement committing richer countries to bear the brunt of financial responsibility for climate impacts. Richer countries, meanwhile, resisted this move and wanted to delay further L&D discussions until after 2015. This impasse led China and the G77 group of 133 developing nations to walk out of L&D negotiations at one stage. Negotiations later continued, ultimately leading to the creation of the Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage, which will address the issue within an adaptation framework for at least three years.

Climate ambition was also a driving force in the talks. Countries were expected to outline their targets for reducing climate pollution in detail, but many developed countries resisted doing so. In part, this was because of concerns about related costs and economic impact, and in part because they were reluctant to define these targets unless large carbon polluters like China and India did the same. Developing countries were equally hesitant to provide clearer targets without wealthier and higher emitting nations taking the first step.

Yeb Sano Philippines Climate Change COP19

Meanwhile, parallel external events were adding both urgency and controversy to the talks. Just before COP 19 began, Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines with devastating force, killing over 5,000 people.[1] Naderev “Yeb” Saño, the Philippines delegate, began a voluntary fast in protest of climate inaction for the duration of the COP. The move spurred a lot of support around the world, including a cross-platform petition calling for swift emissions reductions and adequate adaptation and mitigation financing. The petition has exceeded 700,000 signatures.[2]

Closer to the negotiating chambers, Poland’s decision to host the International Coal and Climate Summit at the same time as COP 19 publicly undermined any sense of its commitment to reducing emissions. This feeling was heightened when Polish Minister of Environment Marcin Korolec—acting as COP president—was dismissed from his government post during the conference for inadequate focus on developing shale gas. Australia was also making headlines—and drawing strong criticism—for the outright reversal of its commitment to climate action as Prime Minister Tony Abbott introduced bills to reduce the nation’s celebrated carbon pricing scheme and abandon emissions reduction goals. At the same time, Japan announced it was also cutting its own reduction targets from 25 percent to 3.8 percent below 2005 levels, due to renewed reliance on fossil fuels in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.[3]

These events, however, did not stop the frenetic finance discussions underway, which continued well into overtime on November 23 with several key results. First, negotiators agreed to include language from the 2011 Durban Platform calling on developed nations to mobilize increasing levels of climate aid for the Green Climate Fund with a goal of reaching $100 billion annually by 2020. The fund provides essential support for developing nations to transition to clean and low-emission fuels and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Several developing nations pushed for an interim commitment of $70 billion, but were unsuccessful.

Instead, negotiators agreed on a compromise plan for all nations to make contributions—rather than commitments—to reducing emissions, adopting language at the behest of China and India stating that developing and developed countries would pursue different solutions based on their respective responsibilities and capabilities. This was a point of contention until the bitter end, because developed nations regarded this differentiation as having been resolved at COP 17 in Durban.[4] Though there is still no complete finance roadmap, many delegates considered the agreement to be a step forward.

Alongside this plan, delegates from Norway, the U.S., and the U.K. committed to contributing $280 million to the Biocarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, a public-private program run by the World Bank with the goal of helping limit deforestation.[5] In addition, contributions from Germany, Switzerland, Norway, and other European nations enabled the Adaptation Fund to reach its $100 million fundraising goal.[6] The fund was created to finance adaptation projects in vulnerable developing countries that are parties to the Kyoto Protocol and has been instrumental in funding more than $190 million in resilience projects in 28 nations. [7]

While these are only small steps forward in addressing the complete picture of climate change, they are still important ones. The real opportunity for progress comes in two years at COP 21, where the UNFCCC will chart a new path forward after Kyoto. Expect a major battle between developing and developed nations’ interests and between climate deniers and advocates that will need all of us to play our part in building widespread support for bold action. Stay tuned.

[1] “Philippine typhoon death toll rises above 5000,” USA Today, November 22, 2013.

[2] “Stand with the Philippines,” Avaaz Community Petitions, November 25, 2013.

[3] Ari Phillips, “Japan ditches pledge to lower emissions in midst of U.N. climate talks,” ThinkProgress, November 15, 2013.

[4] Fiona Harvey, “As the Warsaw Climate Talks End, The Hard Work is Just Beginning,” The Guardian, November 25, 2013.

[5] “Norway, UK and USA come together to pledge approximately $280 million to sustain the world’s forests,” United Kingdom Department of Energy & Climate Change, November 20, 2013.

[6] Cathryn Poff, “The Adaptation Fund surpasses $100 million fundraising target at COP19,” Adaptation Fund, November 22, 2013.