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Climate Negotiators Gear Up For War Of Words At Bonn Talks

Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Paris climate conference will not succeed without a different draft text, India’s environment minister warns.

“It does not inspire,” Prakash Javadekar, India’s minister for environment, forests and climate change, said cuttingly of the chopped-down version of the draft text for a new U.N. deal to tackle climate change, released last week.

“We should certainly have a different text for the Paris (climate conference) to become (a) success,” he told the Times of India in a recent interview.

Negotiators from India and the other 190 or so nations involved in cooking up a global agreement due in December will be submitting their suggestions to improve that text fast and furiously in Bonn next week at the final round of official negotiations before the Paris summit starts on Nov. 30.

As climate talks experts point out, the new text will annoy everyone in some way. Yet in spite its brevity, it still includes the major components countries had wanted to see, with the exception perhaps of forest protection and carbon markets.

“It’s a solid foundation to work from,” said Liz Gallagher, leader of the climate diplomacy programme at London-based consultancy E3G. “It’s quite likely that all countries will both love it and hate it, in equal measure.”

Javadekar did not specify what India didn’t like about the current draft, which was distilled by the co-chairs of the talks from around 85 pages down to 20 – or put on the “Atkins Diet”, as Gallagher quipped.

But India has been vocal in the past about the need for adequate financial and technical support for developing countries to cope with climate change and move to lower-carbon economies.

And New Delhi often reminds the international community that richer countries must cut down on their consumption and not expect poorer nations to put emissions cuts before economic development.


The chair of the least developed countries group at the climate talks tweeted his disappointment that a proposal by 134 developing countries on tackling loss and damage from climate change – the negative impacts of extreme weather and rising seas that are already happening – had been “ignored” in the new text.

The proposal called for an international mechanism on loss and damage to be included in the legally binding part of the Paris outcome and the creation of “a climate change displacement coordination facility”, to help those forced to leave their homes by climate impacts, among other things.

Others were relieved to see the issue get a section of its own in the proposed draft agreement, but noted that all the detail had been removed. The text notes that progress is being made on the controversial concept, but more discussion is needed on “content and placement”.

That and other discussions will kick off on Monday, with experts expecting countries to react to the new text at the beginning of the session and then get down to work on it line by line.

“Quite a bit was lost (from the previous version) that quite a few states care deeply about, so the question is how much of that they are willing to give up to make the process more efficient,” said Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre.

One of the biggest challenges, experts said, is how to ensure a binding process that would oblige countries to ramp up their pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions sooner than the mid-2020s, because current promises will only limit global warming to around 3 degrees Celsius – higher than the 2 degrees scientists say would avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

“We have not yet closed the ambition gap, and more is going to have to be done coming out of Paris. We need to come back to revisit the level of ambition relatively quickly,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Here are some other key things experts say are missing from the new draft text, which could provoke heated debate in Bonn:

– a clear goal to decarbonise the global economy, as G7 leaders have said is needed over the course of this century

– a commitment to allocate a certain amount or proportion of public climate finance for adaptation

– stronger language on the action governments should take to boost their efforts to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts before 2020, when the new deal is due to take effect, as well as the levels of finance and technology support to be provided to vulnerable countries in that period.


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