After four days of deadlock, negotiators made rapid progress on the final day of the Katowice climate change conference in finalising a rulebook for the 2015 Paris Agreement, but a few crucial issues, mostly close to the heart of the developing countries, was holding back a final agreement.
Issues still unresolved included those relating to the governance of a new market mechanism for trading of emissions, and to the flow of finance from developed to developing countries. A number of developing countries expressed strong resentment over the fact that their concerns over differentiation and equity, two guiding principles of climate negotiations, had not been adequately addressed in the various provisions of the latest draft agreement text.
The disappointment was aptly summed by Mohamed Nasheed, former president of Maldives, and once a star campaigner on climate change, when he talked about ‘rebelling’ against the continued sidelining of the concerns of small island states.
“We are deeply unhappy with the way these talks are going. We are, therefore, rebelling against extinction and if necessary we will rebel against the negotiations,” Nasheed said at joint press conference addressed by representatives of Least Developed Countries and small island states.
Nasheed, however, said the small island states were not “walking out” of the negotiations, but his comments gave rise to conversations that these countries could veto the provisions if put up for vote. Under the UN system of negotiations, decisions have to be taken by consensus.
Many observer groups, civil society organisations and some developing country negotiators had also slammed the composite draft text agreement that had come out on Friday morning, the first time in the two-week negotiations.
“There are several things in there which will be unacceptable to the developing countries. These relate to our concerns on differentiation and flexibility. As of now, it seems loaded in favour of the developed world. But I do think we will be able to resolve it finally,” a negotiator from a developing country said.
Civil society groups were more blunt. Meena Raman of the Third World Network, one of the several observer organisations here, for example, said the current draft seemed as it was dictated by the developed countries, particularly the United States. “Many concerns of the developing countries are not there. The imprint of the United States is very very clear,” she said.
ActionAid, another observer organisation, described the text as a “washout”.
But there were others who saw the text as a “significant progress” from where the negotiators were at the start of this week.
“There is some significant progress on a number of issues. Some concerns have remained. Negotiations are going on. We are very hopeful that these would be sorted out,” A K Meta, the head of Indian delegation, said.
“We are expecting to get one more improved text to come out and that can be turned into the final agreement, which we hope would be a very robust agreement, to the satisfaction of everyone,” Mehta said.
“I think we are quite close to the final agreement,” he said.
Late in the evening, as the conference went past its scheduled closing time, it seemed Mehta’s optimism was a bit early. Negotiators and ministers could be seen huddled in small groups, sometimes on common pathways, discussing their differences, and trying to find a suitable language agreeable to all. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has been playing a major role here in pushing the countries towards an agreement, cancelled a scheduled press conference in the evening, possibly because he was still involved in discussions.
Countries in Katowice are negotiating the rulebook of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The rulebook would contain the processes, modalities and institutional structures that would help in implementing the provisions of the Paris Agreement.
Amitabh Sinha is in Katowice at the invitation of the Global Editors Network.