UN Climate Talks Hit Slump After Clash Between Developed, Developing Nations

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Firstpost, India

Something as simple as defining the difference between 'developed' nations and 'developing' nations is threatening to slow progress at COP24.

On Week 2 of the annual UN climate summit, negotiators from several developing countries expressed their concern about lack of progress on the rulebook of the 2015 Paris Agreement being finalised and wondered if there would be a consensus on finding ways to implement its provisions before the COP comes to an end. It is scheduled to end on December 14, but no previous summit has finished on time.

"Developed countries don't want the distinction any more and argue that the lines between developed and developing nations have blurred since it was introduced in 1992 (at the start of the UN Framework Convention). They also argue that they have equally vulnerable populations as well as aspirations to develop," said a negotiator from a developing country.

A view of the COP24 summit venue where delegates representing nearly 200 countries are gathered this week to hash out plans for mitigating the impacts of climate change / Credit: Kelly Smits

While this sentiment has been gathering steam over the past few years, it has been made explicit and loud this year, he said.

The main objective of the conference is to finalize the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement. The rulebook will contain guidelines and processes required to implement the provisions of the agreement.

Developing countries contest this, saying that the burden of mitigating climate change cannot be placed equally on all countries. "The slow process makes us think whether we can finalise the rulebook in the next three days," said the negotiator. There is palpable anger amongst negotiators from African countries and Indonesia as developed countries are pushing hard to water down the differences between developed and developing countries.

“Do they want to go back to the basics and redefine who’s who? If that is the case, I am sure the next two days will not be enough,” said another negotiator from a developing country.

The head of the Indian delegation, A K Mehta,  acknowledged the slow process. “It has been extremely slow so far. It needs to be expedited. With only a few days remaining, we can only hope we can get a breakthrough,” he said.

The UN's climate chief Patricia Espinosa expressed her confidence about finishing the job they set out to do, saying “It's within our grasp to finish the job of COP24". COP observers and civil society organisations from India, though, painted a bleak picture and are far less confident.

More than 100 ministers are in Katowice to ensure that scientific findings of the recent IPCC special report have a political blessing. “Many political divisions remain. Many issues still must be overcome. Let’s complete the Paris Agreement Work Program and, by doing so, immediately unleash the power of the Paris Agreement itself,” one observer said.

Representatives of ActionAid International here in Katowice said that developed countries have a historic debt that they need to pay.

“Rich countries much recognise that they have long enjoyed the fruits of industrialisation that is responsible for the climate crisis. Developing countries are now paying the price of the pollution caused by rich nations in the form of devastating cyclones, droughts and sea level rise,” said Harjeet Singh, Global Lead on Climate Change at ActionAid International.

“Countries in the global North have a moral and a legal responsibility to support developing countries to make their economies greener and tackle the impacts of climate change. But they are now refusing to provide the finance needed to repay their historic debt,” he added.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a think tank based in New Delhi and a COP observer said it is better not to have a rulebook than to have a weak one.

“Considering that the Paris Agreement itself is a weak regime, having a weaker rulebook will make it inconsequential. This is something that the world cannot afford. It would a better choice to have no rulebook here at Katowice than have a weak, ineffectual rulebook,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the think tank.

“The process of operationalising equity has become a serious bone of contention between developed and developing countries. Developed countries are opposing an ex-ante review of their financial commitments and operationalisation of equity in GST. In fact, there is not even a consensus on what ‘finance’ should mean,” read a press release from the CSE.