COP 21: Early Disappointment?

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ABS-CBN News, Paris, France

PARIS, France — As the deadline looms, representatives of governments from more than 190 nations scramble to create a framework to confront, and deal with, ever-worsening climate change. The result of the negotiations here has been described by some as a “blueprint for saving humanity.” Now, it’s crunch time.

With each release, the draft is getting shorter and shorter. But even though a final agreement is still a day or two away, activists, green advocates and other observers, are already sensing disappointment.

One of the most vocal groups at COP21 are Indigenous Peoples (IPs). Joan Carling, a member of the Kankanaey tribe in the Philippines, heads a delegation of IPs from Asia.

“We are in the front line. We are the most affected by the impact of climate change, even though we have the smallest footprint. We are the ones nurturing and protecting Mother Earth, because of our lifestyle, culture and identity, and yet climate change is affecting all of this,” says Carling, secretary-general of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).

Carling is alarmed that a reference to human rights is in danger of being removed from the preamble of the Paris agreement, saying that it is a fundamental principle that should be recognized in climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

She also thinks the deal should be ambitious in setting a lower limit to global warming (at 1.5 and not 2 degrees celsius by 2100) since the current impacts of climate change are already disastrous. Insiders say a 1.5 cap is looking increasingly unlikely.

“If we have weak deal, then we are looking at doomsday, so to speak. It’s an issue of justice; it’s an issue of equity. Those who have the means will be able to survive. But those that don’t have the means will be those that suffer. We will be erased from the planet,” Carling said.

Meanwhile, think tank Ibon International insists that there should be a clear differentiation between the responsibility of developed and developing countries when it comes to mitigating and adapting to climate change. They raised a red flag over the position of the US and its allies that seems to blur this distinction.

“It undermines the very principles with which the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was founded. Common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC) lies at the heart of the Convention, and it means all 192 Parties that adopted the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 subscribe to this guiding principle for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The Convention also spells out that developed countries have a responsibility to provide financing, technology and capacity development to those countries that have contributed the least to, and yet are facing the worst impacts of the climate crisis,” Ibon International said in a statement.

The United States did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Other key issues that need to be resolved in the final moments of negotiations include the concept of loss and damage, which sets responsibilities on historic carbon polluters to compensate countries that are constantly hit by climate-linked disasters.

Developing nations are also keen on setting exact amounts and clear mechanisms to climate finance. This refers to monetary assistance from rich countries to help poorer nations reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.