Climate talks run into overtime as India, others reject first draft

The objections raised by the developing countries on Friday were the same that have plagued this round of talks since its beginning.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Lima | Updated: December 13, 2014 9:13:59 pm
Environmental activists wearing puppet faces representing, from left, Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi perform during the Climate Change Conference COP20 in Lima. (Source: AP) Environmental activists wearing puppet faces representing, from left, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi perform during the Climate Change Conference COP20 in Lima. (Source: AP)

The climate talks at Lima were on the brink of collapse on Saturday after two attempts to push through watered-down proposals were rejected by the developing countries, forcing the head of negotiations to summon the delegates for an extra day of work.

The two-week long negotiations were supposed to have ended on Friday evening with a decision on the kind of climate actions that countries could take in order to claim them as their “contribution” to the global fight against climate change. These ‘contributions’, the magnitude of which was to be determined by the country itself, and hence called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or the INDCs, are to become the backbone of a new international legal architecture on climate change that is supposed to be finalized at the next year’s climate talks in Paris.

In Lima, the countries were also to suggest the other features of this international legal architecture, so that they had a one-year time to negotiate on these and come to an agreement during the Paris conference. The architecture, if agreed in Paris, would come into effect in 2020.

Read full coverage: Express at Lima

But deep divisions in the positions of the developed and developing countries blocked any progress on Friday, and by evening countries had abandoned the formal processes to huddle in small informal groups and bilateral meetings in a desperate bid to forge an agreement. The talks went into extra-time, till the early hours of Saturday morning. But a new draft decision text, introduced at 2.30 in the morning, widened the rift further and gave rise to much distrust as a number of countries accused the head of negotiations of attempting to push unacceptable proposals down their neck as a fait accompli.

As country after country got up to say that they had not been consulted in preparing the draft text and protested against the half-an-hour time given to them to study the text and make amendments, the head of negotiations was left with no option but to close the proceedings for the day and ask the delegates to reconvene on Saturday morning.

Venezuela’s representative said the way countries were being asked to approve the text at the last minute, he was reminded of Copenhagen. At the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen, an agreement was thrust on the countries at the last minute, leading to much heartburtn.

Christian Aid’s senior climate change advisor, Mohamed Adow, blamed the co-chairs of the working group that proposed the draft for a shoddy job and non-transparent manner of working. “The co-chairs…have only themselves to blame for the shambles we now find ourselves in. They have been ineffective and allowed governments to stall the progress. The latest text…was left completely bare. By consulting with only the major powers like the USA and China and ignoring the African countries and other small developing nations, they have effectively redrawn the map of the world. What is offensive is that it is the countries that are suffering the most who have been sidelined from a process that should be helping them,” he said.

The developing countries pointed out several deficiencies the draft text, including the almost complete absence of any provision that would make developed countries commit funds to help the poor and vulnerable nations in dealing with climate change. They also complained that the text almost erased the principle of ‘differentiation’ enshrined in the Framework Convention (UNFCCC) under which the negotiations are happening. This principle, enshrined as ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibility’, or CBDR, makes a hard distinction between developed and developing countries and acknowledges very different expectations on climate action from these two groups.

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