Climate talks enter crucial stage: an uphill road ahead to climate fix

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Philippine EnviroNews, Paris

The climate change talks that began last week have reached the halfway point as negotiators from 195 countries agreed Saturday on a draft accord they hope will be the basis for a legally binding agreement to reduce global carbon emissions and avert catastrophic climate impacts. But major sticking issues remain.

 United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon himself wanted to see a robust, and transparent outcome of the climate talks, saying that political will must drive countries to address the issue.

 “Please make a decision before it’s too late. “ How many years have we been discussing and talking about this?” Ban Ki-moon told journalists here on Monday ministers from 190 nations deliver their speeches and promises on how countries can reach an agreement, while lead negotiators are holding closed-doors meetings sorting out the sticky issues. “We must take an action.”

 “ But we will have an ambitious level of agreement here in Paris. There is no doubt that all parties are aware on what kind of situation environmentally we are living in. We are living in a world where climate change are impacting all of us throughout the world. I count on all the leaders, that we should be one in addressing this climate issue,” the secretary general said.

The climate talks, also called 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21), made little visible progress the past week as there were still deep splits on sticking points, including funding for poorer countries, sharing the burden of curbing carbon emissions and intense division over how the agreement is worded.

 The world’s attention is turned towards the French capital since November 30 where more than 140 heads of state and lead negotiators converged and laid down their positions on climate change and called governments to secure a new global agreement to limit temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius.

 Where is the money?

 Perhaps, the biggest fight between rich and poor nations is the issue of climate funding. But does private money count? How much money will go to mitigation and to adaptation? In Copenhagen in 2009, rich countries agreed to commit $100 billion annually by 2020. But so far, developing countries say it isn’t close to that level given the urgent need for immediate action for poor countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

 The Green Climate Fund was created by the United Nations, and so far, it has pledges for $10.2 billion. It was designed to help 130 developing countries.

 “Promises made, must be delivered in order to build trust amongst countries,” said World Bank’s Vice President and Climate Envoy Rachel Kyte. “ There’s little trust often in the process. And there must be an understanding that finance is such an important part in facilitating such a deal.”

 According to the analysis made by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), climate finance flows increased from $52.2 billion in 2013 to $61.8 billion in 2014, signaling that there is a significant progress on the GCF.

 Albay Province Governor Joey Salceda, who has been a member of the Board of the GCF, said under his co-chairmanship, pre-requisites for operationalization and raising the initial resource mobilization of $10.2 billion is an achievement.

 “ The GCF fund has started disbursing funds and countries must take advantage of this especially from countries most threatened by climate change. But we need to put more money and build trust in order for it to be a success and rolling,” Salceda said.

 The blame game

 This week is going to be a week of compromise. Rich and poor countries are still bickering on the 1992 climate treaty which enshrined the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and distinct development stages of developed and developing countries.” It demands that rick countries who have polluted for longer must bear bigger responsibility in finding climate solution.

 China apparently is the world’s biggest carbon polluter, followed by the United States, the European Union and India.

Rich countries, they say, must lead in taking ambitious solution in emission reduction target, providing finance and technology transfer to support poorer nations. 

It’s also a matter of degrees

At the conference, the Philippines led the campaign for countries to adopt the Manila-Paris declaration, to push for a “below 1.5 degrees Celsius” global warming limit instead of the benchmark 2 degrees Celsius set by the UN. The debate is on how to include the goal in the final agreement: whether at the preamble of the agreement or on the actual text of the agreement. As in the past, Saudi Arabia and India are trying to block any reference to 1.5 degrees.

 The declaration, according to Philippine delegation spokesman Antonio La Viña, is the “strongest call to date” for full decarbonization of the world ecomy, the 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and zero emissions by mid-century in order to keep the planet on track for below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

“ We have laid down a strong voice and it is a matter for the ministers to decide now whether it would adopt the warming limit of below 1.5 degrees Celsius or below 2 degrees Celsius. But more and more countries have already expressed to support that long-terms goal for temperature limit,” La Viña said, adding that the challenge in the negotiations is to get big countries like the US, China, EU, India and Saudi Arabia in order for the below 1.5 degrees Celsius limit in the agreement.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum, is a non-negotiating block at the UN climate talks. It was formed in 2009 and is composed of 43 highly vulnerable to climate change. Philippines holds last year’s presidency and will be hand-over to Ethiopia next year.

“ We re-affirmed our solidarity as a group, as a leadership and advocacy group of vulnerable countries,” said Climate Change Commission Secretary Emmanuel De Guzman. “ We made re-assurance and we also expressed and conveyed to the next president of the CVF that we will initiate interventions during the ministerial level this week,” De Guzman, also the heal of the Philippine delegation said.

To date, De Guzman said more than 112 small islands and low-lying countries support the Manila-Paris Declaration.

De Guzman added, “ We would like to have a strong voice. The voiceless should have a strong voice through the incumbent president of the CVF. We will present our position and echoing provisions of the Manila-Paris Declaration.”

“ We are optimistic that there will be an agreement. As for the Philippines, we have a very ambitious national climate plans and we need to review our national policies to this new development framework. It would demand a lot for us so we need to entail cooperation amongst all sectors of society,” De Guzman added.

De Guzman said the climate deal in Paris is a historic deal as it would be the third major deal to be struck this year after the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development comprising 17 new sustainable goals.

La Viña, on the other hand, said other contentious issues that negotiators are still sorting out are on the inclusion of the” human rights” text in the final deal and scaling up of finance.

He added that placing “human rights” in the draft text was highly disputed as some countries did not want to see references that linked human rights and climate.