Too little, too late: Climate talks go overtime with underwhelming outcome

Posted on 20 November 2017

Photo credit: UNFCCC, 2017.

IBON International Updates # 4
Climate Justice

November 18, Bonn – The 23rd Conference of Parties (COP 23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) wrapped up its two-weeks negotiations early Saturday morning, hours behind its scheduled closing, which was suspended for several times as governments tried to find an acceptable compromise solution on hotly-contested matters. Fiji, as the first ever island state to hold the presidency of the COP, had its hands more than full as it strived to make Parties agree on the ways forward in implementing the 2015 Paris climate change accord.

The annual summit aimed to move closer towards agreeing on a rulebook to guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which saw governments submitting their pledges towards keeping global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and if possible, below 1.5 degrees. The negotiations also focused on designing the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue (which is now more popularly referred to as the ‘ Talanoa’, a Fijian term for an inclusive and transparent dialogue) in order to review progress in achieving the temperature goal that would inform the revision and improvement of countries’ contributions to climate action, including financing. Critical questions on where the world stood in terms of the reality and impacts of climate change, where it wants to go to address the problems, and how to get there will be raised at this dialogue.

The talks have been rocky from the start, as developing countries pointed to developed countries’ intransigence to commit to pre-2020 actions, which were crucial building blocks for implementing the Paris deal, which will start only in 2020. Rich countries countered this by saying they have almost already made good on their standing commitments to reduce emissions and provide finance, and as such the talks should delve on how to implement the new climate deal. This of course, was refuted by developing countries, who said that these supposed achievements by developed countries were made by double-counting development aid (official development assistance or ODA) and buying their polluting way out through carbon markets.

Negotiations on the Paris rulebook have been particularly difficult with regard to making sure that developed countries fulfill their historical responsibility towards providing finance and technology transfer, and that developing countries have a way to track what has actually been provided and not just promised.  There were intense disagreements on whether the Adaptation Fund (established under the Kyoto Protocol) would be carried over as well to the Paris Agreement, called for by developing countries, as the fund had been relatively successful and accessible at supporting initiatives at local level. The Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) set up in 2014 in recognition that huge losses and damages (both economic and non-economic) occur both from sudden (supertyphoon, cyclones, etc.) and slow onset (sea level rise, desertification, etc.) events till did not have concrete financial commitments.  The US, European Union, Australia and other rich countries blocked agreements on new financial commitments to resource the WIM, and as the talks closed, all that was agreed on was to

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