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UN agrees pathway towards 2015 climate change deal

Just under 200 countries agree on basic steps towards a global emissions reduction treaty at talks in Warsaw


By Ed King and Sophie Yeo in Warsaw

UN efforts to develop a global emissions reduction treaty by 2015 remain on course after countries agreed on a roadmap at talks in Warsaw.

Just under 200 countries taking part in negotiations in Warsaw signed off a loose timetable for developed and developing nations to make clear what levels of greenhouse gas cuts they will make.

Described as a “compromise” by the UN body that runs the international climate change talks, the text stipulates that countries must meet in Bonn in March 2014 to start working on the finer details of the treaty.

“Warsaw has set a pathway for governments to work on a draft text of a new universal climate agreement so it appears on the table at the next UN Climate change conference in Peru,” said COP19 President Marcin Korolec.

WATCH: UNFCCC closing plenary session

Divisions between developed and developing countries had appeared so deep many thought the conference could end in failure, derailing any hopes of a deal scientists say is essential to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.

A large ‘huddle’ of negotiators minutes before the final session of was due to start appears to have proved decisive, resulting in two key changes in the text.

The word ‘commitment’  changed to ‘contributions, without prejudice to the legal nature’, while ‘those in a position’ to make commitments was changed to ‘those who are ready’.

The changes are believed to have been made to accommodate China and India, who were deeply opposed to accept what they see as binding controls on their economies.

Cheers greeted the announcement by the chairs that a consensus had been reached, although it’s likely the decision has simply postponed tough decisions for another few months.

Texts: latest COP19 decisions from UNFCCC

EU climate chief Connie Hedegaard told RTCC she was happy with the agreement, which she says ensures global participation and a clear timeline.

“All these different elements we have them in the text. Some of them you have to look for,” she said. “I think it’s not that bad to have another word – that’s what the big fight has been about.

“We’ve worked against this backtracking, It is equal for all – it is not the old firewall. That was the main issue – can we reinstall the firewall? That was absolutely key to the European Union – no we cannot. And that we have got.”

UK climate chief Ed Davey said the pathway from Lima to Paris was now clear, arguing the UK had met its “objective” in Warsaw.

“Would we have wanted more? Yes, but this was always going to be a foundation COP,” he told RTCC. “You’ve got to make sure we’ve got the nuts and bolts, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Leading NGOs, many of whom walked out of the summit on Thursday in protest at a lack of progress, appeared sceptical over what had really been achieved.

“ADP or not real losers at #COP19 are vulnerable countries. Who will clean up this mess? Without finance loss and damage, no Paris deal,” tweeted Greenpeace UK Political Director Ruth Davis.

Jennifer Morgan from the World Resources Institute told RTCC the deal was not perfect, but perhaps the best that could be expected given tensions at the talks.

“I think it’s something to build upon and it has some good hooks to get some transparency into the system.”

Others were more critical. “The actions that have been agreed are simply inadequate when compared with the scale and urgency of the risks that the world faces from rising levels of greenhouse gases,” said Nicholas Stern from the London School of Economics.

Loss and damage

The two-week meeting also saw the establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism to help poor countries deal with loss and damage from flooding, droughts and heatwaves.

After heated discussions Philippines negotiator Yeb Sano made the case for the ‘Mechanism’ to be created outside rather than under the UN body relating to adaptation.

“One word, ‘under’, will forever be the difference between two paths we take,” he said in an emotional address. Parties agreed on a compromise where the wording remained on the condition it is reviewed in 2016.

Other decisions taken include the Warsaw Framework for Reducing Emissions for Deforestation and Land Degradation (REDD), backed by $280 million from the USA, EU, Norway and UK.

On finance, there was little clarity on what new funding will be delivered between 2013-2020, but $100 billion was provided for the UN adaptation fund, and $150m for the Least Developed Countries fund.


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  • Guenier

    The idea that developing nations are now somehow obliged one day to “make clear what levels of greenhouse gas cuts they will make” is, quite simply, wishful thinking.

    China, for example, has agreed, according to Xie Zhenhua, its head of delegation at Warsaw, to “continue to step up with its effort in tackling climate change, and make sure that the commitment of reducing CO2 emission per unit of GDP by 40-45% from 2005 level is fulfilled”. Superficially, that may sound like a promise to cut emissions. Not so: as China’s GDP in 2020 is likely to be five times greater than it was in 2005, a simple calculation shows that a 40% reduction per unit of GDP would allow China to nearly double its 2012 emissions. As Xie is reported to have said last week (see RTCC article on 20th November), China’s “increased emissions was inevitable as the country goes through necessary industrialisation as it develops”.

  • AlanMacDonald

    No progress is being made.

    The reason is that there is no focus on the real problem.

    Today the climate change movement was where the inequality movement was a decade ago.

    There is no globally recognized, simple, and compelling attention
    (nor easy metric) to show where the real problem is and who is causing

    With economic inequality a decade ago there was already a simple and
    easy to understand metric which could point the blame squarely at the
    global problem of inequality —- this was the existing, but
    unpublicized figure of the GINI Coefficient of Income (and Wealth)
    Inequality —which is a simple 0 to 1 figure showing full equality to
    total inequality (US is 0.5 very unequal)

    When, ten years later, this simple data became available and
    publicized to all (not just economists and the CIA), the real effect,
    real diagnosis, and real blame of inequality started to be recognized
    and acted upon — particularly by Occupy.

    The GINI of Economic INEQUALITY had to be first known and then understood by the masses.

    I know this because I was ranting about the GINI Coefficient of
    Income/Wealth Inequality a decade ago, when the metric existed but was
    not published nor understood.

    As the UN and CIA figures for GINI of Economic Inequality got public
    traction, things like Occupy could use it to focus the problem and the
    blame not just on rich countries, but ‘the rich’ themselves — the 1%.

    However, today, the simple metric of a GINI of ‘Energy’ Inequality does not even exist.

    Yes, sure, the UN COP talk knows that ‘rich’/developed countries are
    vaguely the key to the problem of global warming because of their
    ‘country’ energy profligacy, BUT this is not the ACTUAL heart of the
    problem, any more than it was for Economic Inequality.

    To make ANY progress on the Global Warming/Energy problem there
    absolutely has to be the clarity of a simple and published GINI
    Coefficient of ENERGY INequality of countries and classes within

    The UN needs to drive this essential first factor of solving the Global Warming/Energy existential problem.

    Five years ago I implored Economist, Dean Baker (of FAIR) to build a
    GINI for Energy Inequality — which has not been done — but the UN
    should be the body that does this NOW.

    Best luck on this essential, but side issue to understanding where
    the ruling-elite’s Disguised Global Empire (DGE) is taking us and our
    world in this almost certain death-spiral.

    I have shifted my own efforts entirely to exposing, educating,
    and confronting the DGE itself, rather than working on any of the many
    problems it CAUSES — but I understand that many people are working on
    the ‘symptom problems’ that the Empire causes, of which ‘global
    warming’/energy/climate-destruction is perhaps the prominent ‘symptom
    problem’ caused by the DGE.


  • Mark Goldes

    Revolutionary new technologies will make a major contribution to slowing Global Warming. If mass produced fast enough worldwide they may eventually reverse it.

    Engines have been invented that need no fuel. They will generate electricity and make possible hybrid cars and propeller driven aircraft that need no fuel.

    They will exhaust cold air.

    See the AESOP Institute website to learn more.

  • Padraig Stilton

    Good news of a sort then?