48 hrs to go, all hands on deck at Paris climate change conference, some differences narrow

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that his country would double the money it offers to the vulnerable countries for helping them adapt to the consequences of climate change.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Paris | Updated: December 10, 2015 10:32 am
Participants at work at the conference in Paris. Reuters Participants at work at the conference in Paris. Reuters

After two days of ministerial meetings, negotiators at the climate change conference in Paris finally came up with a draft text that showed noticeable forward movement on a few issues like adaptation but disagreements on some other key subjects like “differentiation” and finance remained unresolved.

Countries now have just two days to stitch together a global agreement on climate change that will facilitate a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to keep the world from heating up beyond 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.

Watch Video: How Close Are Countries to A Global Agreement On Climate Change

US Secretary of State John Kerry added some excitement at the conference with his announcement that his country would double the money it offers to the vulnerable countries for helping them adapt to the consequences of climate change. He said this kitty, to be offered as grants as earlier, was being increased from $400 million to $800 million by the year 2020.

“We are prepared to do our part and we will not leave the most vulnerable nations amongst us to literally weather the storm alone,” Kerry said here.

Some progress was made on adaptation in the draft text as well with many provisions getting completely rid of the square brackets in which different options on any issue are enclosed. “Work is almost concluded on the major subject of adaptation to the impacts of climate change,” Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister who is presiding over the two-week conference, said while unveiling the draft text.

This draft text will continue to be negotiated upon and several more such drafts can emerge as negotiators try to narrow their differences.

Fabius said progress had also been achieved on technology development and technology transfer from developed countries to developing ones.

For developing countries, the most important unresolved issue remained that of differentiation. It refers to a principle called Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) enshrined in the 1994 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, sort of a Constitution for the ongoing negotiations. It seeks to put a greater responsibility for taking actions on climate change on a group of rich and industrialised countries whose emissions over the last 100 years is known to be the primary reason for global warming.

In the latest draft text, all the various options on differentiation have remained in square brackets as earlier, and would need to be resolved over the next two days.

Kerry said the US strongly supported the idea of differentiation in the agreement but it was also true that every country would need to contribute according to its capability in the fight against climate change.

“It is only fair to have a higher expectation from the developed countries. (But) No matter how much one half of the world does to clean up its act, if similar steps are not taken by the rest of the world, earth still has a problem,” he said.

Kerry had a bilateral meeting with Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday evening in which differentiation is said to have figured prominently. After that meeting, US President Barack Obama called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In New Delhi, the Prime Minister’s Office, in a statement, said: “The conversation focused on the ongoing Conference of Parties (CoP21) in Paris. Both leaders underscored their strong commitment to address issues related to climate change being discussed in the Paris conference through constructive engagement, without impeding the progress of developing countries. They agreed to stay in regular touch.”

The countries were given a few hours to study the draft text, after which the negotiations began late in the evening again.

“I have told everyone to be ready to work throughout this night,” Fabius said. A newer version of the draft is expected on Thursday morning.

The current draft text, at 29 pages, is considerably shorter than the previous one which was 43 pages long. The number of square brackets has come down by three quarters but these are still more than 300 of them.

“All the elements for a strong and equitable agreement are still in the latest, shorter draft. There is clearly an immense amount of work to be done here in Paris, but things are starting to come together. Over the next two days, we need countries to work together in solidarity to keep the ambitious elements in the agreement. It’s all hands on deck to get this done,” Jennifer Morgan, global director of Climate Program at the World Resources Institute said.

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