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Final hours at COP21: What Paris climate talks have accomplished so far?   
Paris, France

Final hours at COP21: What Paris climate talks have accomplished so far?  

Will the last-minute compromise that more than 190 countries hope will put the climate talks on track for a new global agreement? We will find out soon as negotiators wrangled over the final form of the deal that is expected to come out in the last few hours. 

Now that we’ve reach the final hours of the two-weeks United Nations climate summit in Paris, here are some quick developments--on both the state of the formal talks and on the overall mood inside Le Bourget, France climate summit venue.

A critical "clean" draft text came out Wednesday afternoon with significantly reduced options on many of the key questions after days of negotiations. At the center of the proposed deal are a set of pledges from countries to cut their emissions.

The new negotiating draft was finalized after Secretary of States John Kerry delivered his speech here on Wednesday on which he assured that the US is committed to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate impacts. Kerry, in his speech said the US will increase the amount of money it provides for climate adaptation to more than $800 million from $430 million by 2020. It will be included in the Green Climate Fund that rich countries are raising to meet the $100 billion a year by 2020 fund.

“ This moment demands we do not leave Paris without a durable ambitious climate agreement,” Kerry said in his speech. “ There are countries we know for which climate is an existential threat. We have a moral responsibility today to adapt and prepare to those impacts.”

Lead negotiators said they are confident that a deal could be reached in time to meet the Friday deadline set. But the new draft leaves key issues unresolved such as the aim to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius or the 2 degrees Celsius cap. It does not also resolve the question of the long-term of the accord on whether to remove carbon emissions from the economy or just to reduce.

Philippine leadership shines in Paris climate talks

During the two-week meeting here, small island nations and low-lying countries led by the Philippines through the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) have been calling for a binding agreement that would limit emissions to a level that would avert temperatures rising to not more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. 

Philippines head of the delegation Climate Change Commission Secretary Manny De Guzman said the text shows a good sign that some contentious issues are getting resolved. He instructed the Philippine negotiators to be "flexible" but be on guard on its goal on below 1.5C, support on finance, technology and capacity building.

The good thing about De Guzman’s leadership here at the climate talks is that he made sure that all Filipino members of the civil society groups and the media are invited during the Philippine delegation meetings and discussions.

“ Secretary Manny just wanted to make sure that there is transparency. He wanted this time to involve everybody who are here in the process of the negotiations,” La Vina said.

“ This is a historic moment for us. We wanted all of you to witness this historic moment. We are pushing for ambitious goal here as a country,” De Guzman said.

During Wednesday evening’s meeting or the so-called Comite de Paris, Secretary De Guzman said that while the Philippines welcome the proposed negotiating text on the table, there is a way where countries can improve more on several contentious issues.

In his powerful statement posted by La Vina, he said: “ We cannot go back to Manila with such a weak text that condemns many of our people to hardship, even death.” He was referring to the benchmark of ‘below 1.5 degrees global temperature rise cap, which is being supported by 112 countries mostly from the small island countries.

“ We cannot, in good conscience, be party to a decision that constrains our survival and implies mass violations of human rights when there was an option to do otherwise,” he said. “By necessity, that means we also require an agreement that makes the under 1.5 temperature goal possible, with a mitigation goal that ensures full decarbonization by 2050, and an ambition mechanism that ensures immediate ramping up of INDCs.”

De Guzman also said the Philippines “ would like to have good and strong language on human rights, including rights of women and indigenous peoples, and ecosystems integrity. A reference to these in the preamble is not sufficient for us; we need to have these references in the operative text such as in the current Article 2.2.” For the Philippines, “Ecosystems integrity” is important.” The current language, excludes other important ecosystems, like freshwater ecosystems. 

Perhaps, he said, the phrase “and other ecosystems” can be included to ensure we capture all ecosystems. Also, paragraph 11 has to include a stronger language; not simply “Noting” but rather “Ensuring” ecosystems integrity.

Another point he stressed is that the Philippines will continue to work with our colleagues on adaptation, finance, technology transfer, and capacity building.

On adaptation finance, we want to emphasize strongly the need for adaptation finance, pre and post 2020. We need quantitative goals for that.

On capacity building, beyond the creation of institutions, we want to emphasize the importance of providing urgent and adequate support to developing country Parties for nationally-determined, country-driven capacity development needs, actions, and priorities. It is for this reason that we regret the loss of reference to finance for technology development and capacity building previously in Article 6.12. “We hope we can restore these references,” he stressed.

On Loss and Damage, evolving and strengthening the Warsaw Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM LD) associated with Climate Change Impacts is vitally important to the Philippines, as this would ensure that its people will survive and thrive.

“ In this regard, the Warsaw International Mechanism-Plus (WIM-Plus) must be institutionalized, strengthened and given an operational role in the Agreement to guarantee this, De Guzman pointed out.

Furthermore, De Guzman said it is essential that the approaches to address Loss and Damage ensure the recovery, restoration and resilience of communities, livelihoods and ecosystems adversely affected by slow-onset events, extreme weather events, and other climate change impacts.

“ Loss and Damage is more than solely risk transfer, although the creation of a Climate Risk Pooling Mechanism to distribute economic and financial risks is a welcome development for the Philippines,” he added.

Engaged climate activists

“Typhoon Haiyan should not be forgotten as it showed the lack of adaptive capacity of developing and vulnerable countries like the Philippines,” said Rodne Galicha, Aksyon Klima Pilipinas steering committee member who is currently observing the climate negotiations in Paris.

“We laud the position of the Philippine delegation on the latest draft text of the agreement as we assert our demand for additional adaptive capacity and compensation from historically responsible nations, factoring in loss and damage due to adverse climate change effects should be agreed upon,” continued Galicha.

Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas network member Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), said that “the delivery of adequate mitigation for keeping us below 1.5 degrees will also not be meaningful unless there is finance that is delivered.”

"Why don’t they just put money up front to increase mitigation actions? Because the less you mitigate, the more you have to adapt… The more they delay and refuse to put in financing now… at the end of the day, someone will pay. And if they refuse to put up the money, it means we will pay in the South in terms of millions of lives, millions of people displaced and eventually the entire world will pay if we delay actions on climate change,” Nacpil added. 

Whether the Paris accord will actually be a success and acceptable to all countries, that is still far from certain.

But there is an upbeat mood here as there are no deep bickering, and all negotiators are really engaged this time to come up with an ambitious, robust, universal climate deal.

Now, countries have just less than a day to wrap-up and finalize the content of the climate agreement.