Days 10-11 Policy Updates: The Storm Before the Storm

By Nathan Thanki with input from Katie O’Brien, Anjali Appadurai, and others. Photos by Rachel Wells

In short, the negotiations are falling apart. We say that with utmost respect for the work being done by our negotiator allies and friends among civil society observers. It is not their fault. Nor is it the fault of the UNFCCC per se, though its Secretariat must shoulder some blame. The negotiations themselves are only as good as Parties make them. Some Parties, notably the US, Australia, Canada, and Japan, heavily influenced by a massive fossil fuel lobby, are making the negotiations bad enough for 800 members of civil society to walk out of the talks. Forming a broad coalition of brand environment and development NGOs, youth groups, Trade Unions, indigenous people, and members of social movements, we solemnly marched out at 2pm on Thursday wearing t-shirts stating “#cop19 polluters talk, we walk” and “#volveremos, we will be back.” They did not condemn the entire UN process, focusing on the irredeemable failure of this COP in particular, and promised to spend the next year strengthening and linking their movements and ramping up their national efforts before returning to the COP in Lima next winter.

Civil society walk-out

At 4 am Wednesday morning a new text on the high-profile and emotive issue of loss and damage came out. The text had deleted many of the elements of an earlier G77 proposal. A number of points related to disaster relief which are irrelevant to the fundamental issue of loss and damage were added. No language was agreed on finance, technology transfer and capacity building as part of the mechanism. All that remained was reference to knowledge sharing. Because the text was so weak, and because it would not set up a mechanism, nor actually address loss and damage, the negotiators for G77+China’s walked out of the discussion early Wednesday morning. Members of the G77 were clear that the text on the table showed a lack of commitment by developed countries to actually engage with the issue of loss and damage in a serious and meaningful way. Loss and damage has since gone to the ministerial level and the early signs are not good. South Africa has been conducting group bilaterals between the G77 and Norway, Australia, the US, and New Zealand on two issues: the form of the institutional arrangement and on how to move forward on enhancing support for any option. It is unclear whether the outcome will be one that the G77 can live with or not, but it is certainly not an outcome that civil society can accept given the pressing need.

Wednesday saw the opening of the High-Level segment as well as a High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance. On finance, many developing countries, including Fiji on behalf of the G77+China, Belize, Algeria, Colombia, Egypt, Peru, Morocco, Rwanda, Indonesia, Bolivia, India, Malawi, Kenya, Ecuador, Thailand, and the DRC made the following points:

  1. There is a pressing need for new and additional, scaled up climate finance, particularly for adaptation, which amounts to more than the $100 billion pledge

  2. Developing countries are already taking mitigation and adaptation actions at their own expense

  3. There is a need to address the imbalance between adaptation and mitigation finance

  4. There is a need to improve transparency and MRV of support

  5. There is a need to improve accessibility, predictability of finance

Many countries also called for a pathway to reach the $100 billion, with milestones along the way (ranging between $50-$70 billion by the middle of this decade. Almost all countries called for the GCF to become operational next year and for donors to make pledges in Warsaw, with Egypt demanding $10 billion be given by next year. Bolivia cautioned against private investment finance, which was being pushed by developed countries, saying that the GCF is neither a platform for business nor a bank. Finance was discussed as a crucial element of any 2015 outcome with many developing country Parties stating that an outcome without finance would not be possible. Switzerland implicitly challenged China to become a donor for post-2020 finance. Other developed countries took the opportunity to announce (without any evidence yet) their climate finance for this year and years to come. Germany promised 30 million euro for the Adaptation Fund, 50 million for the LDCF, and 30 million for the SCCF, the US said it had mobilised $2.7 billion last year, the EU said it had delivered 7.2 billion euro over the fast-start finance period, Switzerland said they had made 400 million Swiss Francs for the first 3 years of fast-start finance. The UK said it had given £50 million to the LDCF, £75 million towards REDD+ activities, and £140 million through an unspecified “adaptation programme.” In the face of this, developing countries pointed out that there was no way to know where money came from and where it ended up.

Walking through the plenary hallway

Thursday saw the opening of the High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on the ADP as well as a COP stocktaking plenary. In the ADP, the co-chairs put forward an updated draft decision Thursday evening, which Parties exchanged views on until the night. One point of contention was that some members of the Like Minded Group, led by India, had deleted a paragraph which contained wording on an “equity reference framework” (ERF) and which was supported by Africa Group and LDCs. India did not want a “two step” approach for developing countries, whereby a mitigation gap would be identified and then the ERF would be used to ramp up ambition. The ERF puts the principle of equity, already situated in Article 3.1 of the Convention, into a set of parameters. The paragraph which was deleted (which India was awarded the “Fossil of the Day” award for) puts the ERF into a package which also calls for action from all parties on not only mitigation, which is agreed, but also finance, capacity building, and technology transfer. India argued that this places an additional burden on developing countries. In response to critical interventions from other Parties, India said that it was they who had fought to keep a reference to equity in the Durban Mandate text, without help or support from NGOs or many other developing countries.

In the COP stocktaking, many developing country Parties spoke out in support of the civil society walk out. China said that it fully understood why so many walked out and expressed solidarity with those who were putting pressure on the process in order to secure a liveable future. China reflected on the past 2 weeks by saying that some developed country Parties had come to undermine the process. The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, agreed in Doha, remains an empty shell. Some developed countries were backtracking on previous commitments and others were signalling their unwillingness to take the negotiations seriously. Warsaw has seen no increase in emissions reductions, nor any increased support for adaptation.

In other matters, the Venezuelan government continued to meet with stakeholders about the social pre-COP to be held before COP20. They promise to reframe the negotiation process. The budget issue remains unresolved but will be worked on under the COP (not at a ministerial level) with a new facilitator. Worryingly, the topic of Framework for Various Approaches (FVA), which had been killed off in the SBSTA, was raised by AILAC, Papua New Guinea, and the Environmental Integrity Group during the CMP plenary and will go to some type of consultations.

We expect there will be a long final night ahead for those who venture back in to the Stadium, and probably also for those that don’t. Good luck all.

With infinite amounts of respect,

Further reading:

Civil society walkout












  2. (Thursday)

  3. (Wednesday)

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