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Lima climate talks: An insider tells of anger among most vulnerable countries

Lima climate talks: An insider tells of anger among most vulnerable countries

At 4 am on the morning of 13 December – about 12 hours after the UN climate meeting was supposed to end – a group of frustrated negotiators from the least developed countries (LDCs) gathered in a small room to discuss the text of the final resolution, produced without their consultation. Many points the world’s poorest countries had objected to remained in the document.

“We were not even consulted before the document was presented and we are embarrassed by the way meetings have been conducted in Lima,” said one LDC negotiator. “Negotiations are done behind closed doors among powerful countries and their allies, which is not fair,” said another.

Those countries worst affected by climate change were so sidelined that they only saw the document after it was distributed in the plenary for consideration.

Negotiators from around 190 countries gathered in the Peruvian capital for two weeks of in December for talks the UN hoped would be decide key elements of a global agreement to combat climate change. The UN wants a deal finalised in Paris in December 2015. However after fierce negotiations, the draft agreement was scrapped at the last minute and the meeting chairs produced a new text on the December 11 – just a day before the meeting was scheduled to close.

Deep divisions between developed and developing countries about how to divide the cost of tackling climate change remained as entrenched as ever at the UN’s Lima climate talks. Developing countries argue rich nations have an historic responsibility to fund our efforts to adopt low carbon technologies and adapt our economies to climate change because they have been the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. Rich countries want developing countries to commit to emissions control before finalising promises of money and technology.

After the failure to agree on the original text presented by the co-chairs of the Adhoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action — a mechanism set up in 2011 with a mandate to work out the Paris agreement — the Peruvian president of the UN climate change convention, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, asked ministers from Singapore and Norway to facilitate consultations through the night and agree the final resolution.

Ministers from powerful countries like China, US, EU and India were invited to the bilateral talks aimed to produce a consensus document, but not  a single negotiator from the 48 Least Developed Countries was invited.

Many negotiators raised questions about the transparency of the process during the Lima meeting.  One negotiator from a small island state whispered to me, “Everyone’s voice is heard but not acted upon in the so-called party driven process of the UN climate meetings, and the same has happened in Lima.”

An irritated Venezuelan negotiator questioned the impartiality of the meeting organisers: “Some countries were given more time than the countries to speak which is not fair,” the negotiator complained.

When the final resolution was produced for discussions late on Thursday evening, many people were shocked to find it resembled an alternate resolution that had appeared on the UNFCCC website, where it remained for seven minutes before disappearing suddenly.

“See how transparent the process is; they had already prepared the document that was supposed to be agreed upon and asked negotiators to discuss another document, while the decisions have already been set behind closed doors. This is really frustrating,” said another negotiator.

On the last day, things happened as usual at UN climate talks: all the difficult decisions that were supposed to be made in Lima were postponed until the next meeting scheduled for February in Geneva and a feeble document was agreed.

“Honestly speaking, the agreed document is so weak that even a few hours of virtual online discussions would have resulted in the same outcome, so what’s the point of gathering in person for two weeks and spending so much time and money? ” said a long standing negotiator from a LDC, venting his frustration as he left the conference venue.