The two-week annual climate conference being held at Lima has reached its half-way stage.
What has been achieved in the first week?
The climate talks have never delivered any result in the first week and there have been no decisions here as well. Parallel sessions are being held on a wide variety of issues including the basic elements of the climate agreement that is expected to come into being in next year’s meeting at Paris. A large number of technical and administrative sessions are also held.
So what has been the progress made?
The most important discussions have been focussed around INDCs, or Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions, which is the main building block for the future climate treaty. Each country has to report by next year what it intends to do to contribute to the fight against climate change. Various options on the kind of actions that can be included as ‘contributions’ have been discussed. There are differing views on this and countries are far away from convergence. The discussions on these will become more intense in the second week. The main points of contention on INDCs are the following
# Inclusion of Adaptation, finance and transfer of technology: European Union, Japan and some other countries are of the view that only actions that help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be counted as ‘contributions’ in INDCs. Almost every developing country, including India, however, wants adaptation measures also to be counted. These countries also want efforts on providing money or transferring technology to poorer nations to be included in INDCs. This will help in holding the rich countries accountable to their promises on ensuring financial and technology flows. The tug-of-war has just begun and this battle is likely to continue till the very end.
There is a fair chance that the developing countries might win this battle.
# Commitment Period: The other disagreement is about the time period for which ‘contributions’ are committed. On this, India is on board with the European Union in asking for longer commitment periods, at least ten years, starting from 2020. China is also in favour of a 10-year commitment period. The idea is that longer commitment period would ensure better predictability of actions, better actions, and more stability to investments being made. The United States, however, wants five-year commitment periods so that countries can make quicker review of their actions and enhance their ambition or change their plans if required.
# Ex-post Review: Since the INDCs are ‘nationally-determined’ and voluntary, the level of ambition in making ‘contributions’ is likely to be low. There is a distinct possibility that the total ‘contributions’ of all the countries might not be adequate to keep the global temperatures rise below 2 degree Celsius from 1850 baseline which is what science says is must to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change. Countries do not agree on what must happen in such a scenario. Some countries want an assessment of each country’s INDC to see whether these are in line with the global 2 degree target. India and the United States strongly resent any such provision, saying such an exercise will negate the ‘nationally-determined’ nature of the ‘contributions’.
So how are these differences being sorted out?
Small contact groups have been made where negotiators are trying to reach a middle ground. Meanwhile, a draft text on INDCs has been prepared which is being discussed by all the countries at a larger forum for agreement on other, non-contentious, issues.
What is expected in the second week?
Negotiations are known to get speeded up in the second week of the climate conference. An agreement on the definition and structure of the INDCs is the least that the countries want to go back with. Next week will also have the high-level segment in which ministers and political leaders participate. India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar will attend the ministerial sessions.