Global leaders and heads of states might have to assemble again this year, in Paris, just as they had done in Copenhagen six years ago, to make another attempt at forcing a breakthrough in the climate change negotiations that have been running way behind time to meet a December deadline to deliver an international agreement.
France, the host of the annual year-end climate conference, is toying with the idea of inviting heads of states and governments to Paris to provide the “political impetus” to the negotiations that failed to make much progress at a regular mid-year meeting of negotiators in Bonn earlier this month.
But France is also acutely conscious of the fact that the previous such move had backfired and Copenhagen meeting had ended in a failure.
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So, unlike Copenhagen — where Presidents and Prime Ministers of more than 110 countries had landed at the venue on the last two days of negotiations and held talks that led to much confusion and acrimony — France wants to call them much before the conference is scheduled. The aim is to provide a political direction and agree on the broad contours of an agreement that the negotiators can then flesh out.
“If we have difficulties with the negotiations — and we have seen in Bonn that things have not moved much on the (draft agreement) text — and (if) it is (likely) going to be frustrating very soon, we might try to look for some political impulse (to be) given by the heads of states and governments at some point, so that we (are able to) move the lines at the start of the negotiations. So, if we feel, and there is (such) a sense, we might have some kind of a meeting of heads of states and governments in advance of the (Paris) conference in order to make the negotiations to get some progress,” Pierre-Henri Guignard, the man in-charge of organising the Paris conference, said during an interaction with a group of Indian journalists.
“We have a feeling that if we do not get the (basic elements of) the agreement before we arrive in Paris, it will be very difficult to get the agreement in Paris. We need to have strong negotiations before Paris. We need the countries to provide the political impulse at some point, only then we can have a conference that delivers the agreement,” Guignard said.
He said he “really didn’t know” when exactly the meeting would be scheduled or how many Prime Ministers and Presidents would be invited.
“Heads of 196 countries? Not likely to happen. I don’t know. Really don’t know. But we would have all doors open, all situations are possible. We want to be very pragmatic, down to earth and ready to adapt to any situation. If the negotiations are not going forward enough, or fast enough, we would have to do something at some point,” he said.
The two-decade-old climate change negotiations are aimed at creating a global agreement to drastically cut down greenhouse gas emissions that, scientists say, are the reason for global warming. The rise in average global temperatures is projected to cause disastrous consequences for most forms of life on the planet, including human beings.
After the failure of the Copenhagen conference in 2009, countries had given themselves time up to 2015 to finalise the agreement, hoping to make incremental progress at the annual climate conferences in the subsequent years. But there has been a deadlock on several issues and progress has been painfully slow.
After two weeks of effort in Bonn this month, negotiators were able to slim down a 89-page draft agreement text only by five pages. Negotiators believe a draft text of over 20 to 25 pages would be too voluminous to successfully yield an agreement in Paris in December.
France, as the host country, has to make the maximum efforts to get the countries to resolve their differences and finalise an agreement that will face least resistance.
(Amitabh Sinha was in Paris as part of a group of journalists invited by the French government to interact with a few of its key climate officials and to see some of its programmes on environment, ecology and urban planning)
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