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UN climate talks head for conclusion amid bitter divisions

Polish Presidency calls for final meeting to start as tensions rise between developed and developing nations

(Pic: UNFCCC)

(Pic: UNFCCC)

By Ed King in Warsaw

Exhausted negotiating teams are attempting to pull together an agreement at UN climate talks in Warsaw, nearly 24 hours after the meeting was set to close.

Just before 3pm, the Presidency of the summit called for envoys to gather at 330pm for what is supposed to be the final meeting of the two seek summit, known as the Conference of the Parties.

A huge huddle of negotiators gathered moments after the announcement to barter over positions. Some have not slept for four nights; one official from a developing state told RTCC she did “not trust myself to make sensible decisions.”

This is where any final deal will be thrashed out, although the forum is usually used for rubber-stamping texts, rather than engaging in debating the basics of any agreement.

LIVE: Watch a webcast of the final plenary now

Diplomats from nearly 200 countries have spent the past few hours debating what could be included in what many call a ‘roadmap’ towards a legally binding global warming treaty in 2015.

A new text was released this morning, but in the past few hours representatives from India and China have said it “lacks balance”.

In what has proved an explosive intervention, China’s deputy negotiator Su Wei raised tensions by suggesting that only developed countries should have to make binding greenhouse gas emission cuts.

This appears to run contrary to the Durban Platform agreement in 2011, which clearly outlines the creation of “another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties”

Su Wei’s comments were greeted incredulously by US lead negotiator Todd Stern, claiming the intervention was “astonishing.”

“I feel I’m going back into a time warp. That’s Bali. And I think most of us understood we did something quite different when we signed up to the Durban Platform,” he said.

“We agreed to prepare some kind of legal agreement – an outcome with legal force – applicable to all parties. And it is surprising to me at this late stage that we would be suggesting commitments were just for developed country parties or that China would seem to be suggesting it would not assume commitments in the new agreement.”

Jake Schmidt from the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council described the row as the “beginning of the proxy fight” for the Paris agreement.

“A key underlying concern under all of this is the need to mobilise much greater resources, and deal with a loss of trust in this process. It will be key for developed countries rebuild that trust by coming with more mobilisation of resources.”

China’s intervention goes to the crux of the main dispute at this summit: which countries will make the largest effort to address climate change?

Since 1992 developed nations have been held responsible under the UN for making greenhouse gas emission cuts and providing funding to help poorer countries cope with global warming.

But in the past two decades the world’s emerging economies of India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico have grown exponentially, placing this division or ‘firewall’ under the spotlight.

According to the US Government’s Energy Information Agency (EIA), energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from developing countries will be 127% higher than in the world’s most developed economies by 2040.

Stern added: “It is surprising to me at this late stage that we would be suggesting commitments were just for developed country parties or that China would seem to be suggesting it would not assume commitments in the new agreement.”

“It is what I thought I heard, and I hope I’m wrong…”

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