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Deadlocked Climate Talks Headed For Overtime

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Vishwa Mohan, Times of India

Countdown to reach outcome of Lima climate talks began on Friday with the final draft text, comprising all contentious elements, being on table before negotiators to prepare a roadmap for the global climate-protection deal in Paris next year.

The draft text, released on late Thursday night, carried all the points in one or the other forms which have been pushed by developed and developing countries separately in the past 11 days of the 20th edition of the Conference of Parties (COP 20) here in Peruvian capital.

It includes various options on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology transfer and capacity building which are to be decided during negotiation which may continue non-stop till Saturday morning (Peru time). 

The negotiations are going to be quite intense during final hours as the draft also includes the rich nations’ demand of ‘progress review’ provision and the clause on peaking year of greenhouse gases. India and most of the developing countries are opposing both the clauses while China had already announced its peaking year in its deal with the US. 

If this draft gets consensus, the developing countries will also have to pledge emission cut under nationally determined goals. The rich nations have been pushing for it, arguing that no country should have free pass any more. 

Final draft came just hours after despite US Secretary of State John Kerry said, “I know this is difficult for developing nations. We have to remember that today more than half of emissions are coming from developing nations, so it is imperative that they act too.”

This approach is, however, being resisted by India and other developing countries as they think it is nothing but an attempt to dilute the basic principles of the UNFCCC and it Kyoto Protocol where emission cut provision is binding on developed countries. 

An initial reading of the text revealed that the draft does not address differentiation between developed and developing countries as per the UN convention on climate change – a major bone of contention among Parties. The text gives an impression that the rich nations are mainly interested in mitigation exercises.

The absence of the provision on ‘loss and damage’ as a separate head will also be contested by poor countries. The provision is meant for compensating those nations who had already become victims of climate change and faced damage. The draft text carries this provision as part of adaptation.

The final draft text was released late last night after leak of an earlier version that led to waste of crucial hours during the penultimate day of the talks. Sometimes, such drafts are deliberately leaked in advance to test the ground and feel the pulses of the warring factions before hitting the negotiation table. 

Interestingly, the leak this time happened through putting up the draft version for few minutes on the official website. Though it was dismissed as an inadvertent error, the buzz around it was enough to alert countries’ delegation, civil societies and media. It was not clear whether it happened by design or default, it gave time for countries to do back-room consultations.

The outcome of the COP 20 will decided what all the countries will have to pledge by June 2015. It will eventually become the basis of the final climate deal in Paris late next year.

Meanwhile, the Friday night is going to be the toughest night for negotiations as they will have to junk various options before reaching the outcome. Though the parties wanted to finalise everything by Friday evening, the negotiation is expected to spill over to Saturday.

Sending the mood of negotiating countries over the contentious provisions of the draft text, the president of the COP 20, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal from Peru, urged the parties to move forward as he indicated that through-the-night talks would be needed.

“We will not accept to leave Lima with empty hands,” he told delegates.

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