Climate talks enter extra time as negotiators go back to drawing board

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Paris | Published: December 12, 2015 3:38:42 AM

Meanwhile, on India's initiative, a reference to 'sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption' entered into the draft text for the first time, in the preamble.

After a glimmer of hope on Thursday night, came the despair of Friday morning, a cycle that has become so characteristic of the annual climate change talks. Just like the previous so many years, the Paris conference has gone into extra time, extended till Saturday, as the second successive night-long effort by the negotiators proved inadequate to reach the compromises required to forge an agreement that everyone is striving to get.

Just like Thursday, negotiators remained closeted in rooms throughout Friday, making another effort to bridge the differences. They are expected to come up with another draft agreement text on Saturday morning, 9 am local time in Paris, hopefully one that can translate into the final agreement.

A similar hope had been aligned with the draft text that had emerged late on Thursday night, with India, some other developing countries, and many NGOs expressing satisfaction at the progress made. Not everything had been resolved, but a number of India’s and developing countries’ concerns seemed to have been taken on board. It seemed with another night’s effort followed by a few hours on Friday morning, compromises could be found. But that was not to be. The UN negotiations follow the principle that nothing is agreed till everything is agreed.

In the closed room negotiations resumed at 11.30 pm on Thursday night, countries raised their objections to the text and were unable to come up with compromise language that could be agreeable to everyone. The maximum disagreements were over the issue of ‘differentiation’ and finance, which countries have been trying to sort out for the last several years now.

India took up the two provisions related to finance it had identified as ones it wanted removed. One of them said developed countries should “take the lead” in mobilising climate finance “as part of a shared effort” by all countries.

India was of the view that this line would make it incumbent on every country to join in the effort to mobilise climate finance. India, and other developing countries, have always maintained that it is only the developed world that is mandated to provide climate finance, and any contribution from other countries must be kept voluntary and out of any agreement.

The second provision tried to link development aid to countries in future to climate considerations. This was a provision that is likely to be opposed by most developing countries.

At the late night meeting, India sought the deletion of the first provision, and argued that the second provision was too “prescriptive”. India is also learnt to have objected to the proposal of a five-year cycle for review of the climate action plans that every country has submitted.

The European Union, US, Australia, New Zealand also opposed the finance provision but on completely different grounds, that they were too heavily loaded against them. These countries wanted the US$ 100-billion figure to be removed from the draft agreement text, because it could become legally-binding. They also insisted that a references which implied that mobilisation of financial resources was the sole responsibility of developed countries should also be removed.

Meanwhile, on India’s initiative, a reference to “sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption” entered into the draft text for the first time, in the preamble.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to impress upon all world leaders that bringing about lifestyle changes and reducing wasteful consumption was necessary to deal with climate change. France, Germany and some other countries have welcomed the idea though it is still to be concretised.

Civil society groups, in the meanwhile, are planning protests and gatherings to express their displeasure at the inability of the countries to agree to an ambitious climate deal. A giant red line is being formed on the famous Champs Elysee corridor from the Eiffel tower in the heart of Paris to signify the civil society’s red line on zero emissions, equity, and justice in climate agreement.

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