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Business As Usual At UN Climate Talks

Nitin Sethi, Business Standard

EU asks for historical responsibility not be accounted for in the 2015 global agreement

Climate change negotiations started at Geneva on Sunday, working to draw the rough blueprint for the global Paris agreement, which will be agreed upon by the end of the year. The signs of solidarity over select issues, which had emerged in the developing country block, G77+China, at Lima last year, reverberated at the Geneva venue too.

On Monday several of the groups that fall within the umbrella of the G77 demanded that the ‘Loss and Damage’ track of negotiations be treated separately from the talks on the issue of adaptation. It was an issue that had rocked the Lima talks and the developing countries did not lose their chance to put it on the central table at Geneva.

At the same time, the European Union (EU) demanded that the preamble of the Paris agreement not have any reference to the existing provisions of the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change or to historical responsibility of the developed countries.

Developing countries, especially the poorest ones, want that a special mechanism should be central to the Paris agreement. They want this system to provide compensation for the losses and damage arising out of inaction to reduce emissions by the rich world. The developed countries have fought hard over previous years to keep it as a notional concept within the larger frame of how the world adapts to inevitable climate change, consequently nullifying any new liability or responsibility.

Country groups such as the Alliance of Small Island States, the Least Developed Countries and AILAC, the Independent Alliance of Latin America and Caribbean, all came together on the issue of loss and damage.

The EU, in contrast, took a hard-line at Geneva on Monday, wanting to reduce even its existing responsibilities by asking that references to historical responsibility, which exist under the UN climate convention, be dropped in the new agreement. With historically accumulated emissions of greenhouse gases being much higher for developed countries, the responsibility for reduced emissions and funds to fight for climate change in developing countries falls largely on their shoulders.

With issues of financial support from the rich to developing countries and loss and damage being a common rallying point for even the most disparate groups under the G77+China umbrella, India too aligned with the others on the issue. With its other partners in the like-minded developing countries’ group, which includes China, it reiterated that the Paris agreement must reaffirm the “decisions on the Warsaw International Mechanism on loss and damage and make these operational”.

The first few days of negotiations at Geneva are expected to see all countries add to the existing wish list of what the Paris agreement should look like. The wish list, or the ‘elements text’ as it is called in negotiating jargon, is expected to consequently bloat and enlarge before countries get down to trimming and fine-tuning it.

Countries and groups began inserting specific language that reflected their views in the ‘elements text’. At the moment these remain as options on the table.

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