Environment

Paris climate talks go down to the wire

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shows of a bouquet which he received for his birthday from Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar following a meeting on the sidelines of the COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris on Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shows of a bouquet which he received for his birthday from Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar following a meeting on the sidelines of the COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris on Friday.   | Photo Credit: POOL

According to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, the success of the Paris conference now depends on the spirit of accommodation and flexibility of the West.

The euphoria created by the Leaders Event nearly two weeks ago of a smooth Paris Climate Agreement emerging by Friday has evaporated, and countries are crunching the most contentious parts of the pact, hoping to come up an agreed outcome by Saturday morning.

Amidst >demonstrations and campaigns at the CoP21 venue by activists, the multilateral issue that has gone to the wire is differentiation — the part of the agreement that will make obligations heavier for the developed world to both cut emissions and fund the developing countries, and give lighter responsibilities to developing nations.

The hope that the voluntary pledges made by 186 countries would make the Paris deal a simple and straight affair has been belied, as oil producing countries and their allies are opposing >the 1.5°C tighter temperature target over the 2°C favoured originally by many emerging economies. In UNFCCC parlance, this number is the ambition to be included in the deal.

How much money would be raised by the developed world by 2020 with $100 billion as the floor and how that is to be earmarked is also hanging fire, as is the question of addressing loss and damage caused by the historical emissions accumulated in the atmosphere, mostly due to “dirty fuel” past of the rich nations. The West has ruled out a regime of damage and compensation in the agreement.

>India is taking the line that developed countries are rigid, leaving little flexibility for alternative solutions. According to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, the success of the Paris conference now depends on the spirit of accommodation and flexibility of the West.

The Minister met Mr. John Kerry on Friday, their third meeting in Paris, to greet the U.S. Secretary of State on his birthday with a hurriedly bought 6-foot-tall bouquet. He also held talks with China and would be meeting French Minister Laurent Fabius, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and others. “Developed countries should come forward. Their attitude on flexibility is now 50-50,” he said, expressing happiness that the draft released on Thursday night contained references to the role of lifestyle in combating climate change, a position the Modi government articulated.

>>> Kerry finds India ‘positive’ at Paris climate conference

The world’s top greenhouse gas emitter, China, remains firm on differentiation. “Our unity is intact,” Mr. Javadekar said, apparently referring to China’s presence in various blocs of countries, not all of them with like views, and its special partnership with the U.S. on climate change.

Elsewhere in COP21, India faces criticism for trying to weaken the legal rigour of a five-year review mechanism and engaging in brinkmanship. On its reservations on periodic review of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), civil society organisations agree that the proposal remains vague on whether it includes finance and technology transfer.

“China and India say they have already determined their INDCs, and do not want to revisit it early. The only countries supporting the five year review are vulnerable states,” said the Climate Action Network.

China is being panned for its conflicting positions: between the high ambition speech made by President Xi Jinping at the leaders event at the start of the conference, and the stand taken by its negotiators. “But this agreement is not all about China and India, this is a multilateral agreement that must put the quality of its provisions above everything else,” said a CAN observer. Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Colombia, Gambia, the Marshall Islands and vulnerable island countries are among nations supporting a strong outcome in Paris.

Mr. Javadekar tried to counter this narrative. “I told the island states that if we stick to 1.5ׄ°C, the developed countries would have to come to net zero emissions soon and distribute rising quantum of climate funds. Are they ready?”

Saudi Arabia has also been blocking the 1.5°C target. Arabia represents the Arab region which along with the Middle East and North Africa is as much vulnerable to climate change as others. While it talks of a national shift to renewables, its approach to speak on behalf of the Arab world and block the 1.5°C target is not acceptable, said an activist.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Russia last night attacked the 1.5°C target, which is crucial to indicate that the world will shift away from coal, oil and gas.

The text of the Climate Agreement, however, is still open, and issues such as finance, loss and damage, and transparency are not yet wrapped up. The negotiators and Ministers will be spending another night in the French capital, which has low single digit temperatures, to come up with a consensus by Saturday at 9 a.m., when Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says he can present the deal.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 7:11:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/cop21-paris-climate-summit-indias-hard-bargaining-seen-as-brinkmanship/article7977339.ece

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