Negativity engulfs climate summit

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Buenos Aires Herald, Paris, France

With the upbeat speeches of the presidents on the opening day long gone, the nitty-gritty of negotiations for a new climate agreement has begun.

But the talks are now the subject of a much less optimistic tone amid growing concerns from environmental groups and even the French government.

Observers inside the closed-door meetings at the climate change summit on the outskirts of Paris expressed yesterday a growing frustration over the slow pace of negotiations, an opinion shared by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who has asked countries to move faster.

“My message is clear: we must accelerate the process because there is still a lot of work to do,” Fabius, who is presiding over the negotiations, said at a press conference. “Options for compromise need to be found as quickly as possible. Governments gave us an unambiguous mandate, and we must succeed.”

After a high-profile opening event featuring more than 150 world leaders on Monday, delegates are now trying to agree on a 51-page draft that would become the new climate change agreement, with an overall objective of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

Protestors with a giant silver balloon that symbolizes carbon emissions stand behind a banner at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Le Bourget near Paris

The deal would come into effect in 2020, replacing the current climate deal known as the Kyoto Protocol. But long and heated discussions over which countries should commit to curbing their emissions and specifically what should be the changes for developed and developing countries leaves the deal still far from agreed upon.

“The deal is not going to be what we need but we have known that for a long time. People are putting a lot of pressure on global leaders to act on climate change,” Bill McKibben, one of the founders of 350.org, an international grassroots environmental organization, told the Herald. “The agreement will lead to a 3.5-degree-Celsius ceiling, nowhere near what we need.”

Delegates are expected to produce an updated draft text today that will be further refined on Friday and then examined by the French government over the weekend. The text would then be released next week, allowing negotiations to continue, coinciding with the expected arrival of ministers of each country.

The draft still has many of the so-called “square brackets” that represent phrases or issues for which a consensus hasn’t yet been reached. The proposed mechanism of five-year reviews after the Paris summit is one of those issues in which countries would have to account for the progress made toward fulfilling their emission targets.

“The statements of presidents added a political momentum for the process and showed they want an agreement. The question is how ambitious it will be,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy at the Union of Concerned Scientists association, said yesterday. “Progress has so far been uneven. There’s a gap between what’s on the table and what we need to happen for the temperature not to grow more than two degrees (Celsius).”

‘Not aid, nor charity’

As days go by, funding is becoming one of the key issues of the climate talks. Developing countries are asking for support in adapting to the effects of climate change and aren’t willing to steeply curb their own emissions, claiming that’s the role of developed countries, due to their historic responsibility for producing pollution through their economic development.

South African Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, speaking on behalf of the G77 + China, released a statement yesterday saying the group is “deeply concerned” about the claims of developed countries at the summit, which are asking emerging economies to take a stronger role because of the higher economic growth they have seen over the last few years — an argument the G77 considers to be contrary to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“We find ourselves confronted with a simplistic narrative that the world has changed since the UNFCCC was implemented, due to the dramatic economic development gains of some of our members,” the press release read. “This narrative serves (the) narrow interests of developed countries and says little about reality.”

Developing countries are already making significant contributions toward the global effort through the implementation of climate actions, the G77 argued, claiming the financial resources provided by developed countries aren’t “aid” nor “charity” and that developed countries have a responsibility due to their “historical emissions.”

“If the world has really changed so much, we ask why it is that after all these decades all our members remain developing countries with little or no voice in global decision-making processes and institutions?” the group questioned.