Saturday, February 14, 2015

Climate Talks Draw Praise, Herald Hard Slog Ahead

The low-level round of climate talks was held in Palais des Nations, Geneva. (Credit: United Nations/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The last round of big-ticket annual climate negotiations, held two months ago in Lima, ran a day and a half past schedule, and it eventually produced a four-page accord that was crafted to help form the basis of the planned Paris agreement.  The document, however, was short on actual accord.  It delayed virtually all important decisions until later meetings, and required countries to do very little when it comes to taking climate action — other than to vaguely describe how they will outline, later this year, the steps they plan to take to protect the climate beyond 2020 under the Paris agreement.

A compendium of disagreements that couldn’t be resolved in Lima, by contrast, was 37 pages long.  That document was stuffed with different options for resolving the prickliest issues that delegates hope to have worked through before the Paris meetings end near the end of 2015.  Main areas of disagreement relate to financial issues, questions about legal force, and how responsibilities for taking climate action will vary between rich and poor countries.

The main purpose of this week’s meetings in Geneva was to refine the options in that document, and to do so well ahead of the Paris meetings.

What’s Good About The Negotiating Text?
It’s long and comprehensive.

“The Lima Draft has now been transformed into the negotiating text and enjoys the full ownership of all countries,” Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework on Climate Change, said in an upbeat statement.  “The text was constructed in full transparency.  This means that although it has become longer, countries are now fully aware of each other’s positions.”

What’s Bad About It?
It’s long and unwieldy.

"The Paris Treaty threatens to become an empty shell,” Greenpeace climate official Martin Kaiser said in a statement.  "In Geneva, the countries failed to grab the bull by the horns and negotiate difficult issues like financial aid for vulnerable countries and the phasing out of coal, oil and gas. . . . At the same time, these Geneva talks were not a complete loss.  Policymakers drafted some reasonable long-term goals for emission reductions."

What Next?
Because whittling down the text ahead of Paris will be such a tedious and contentious task, as many as three additional sessions of low-level climate negotiations might yet be held prior to the Paris talks.  The next round of meetings is planned in Bonn, Germany during the first half of June.

Read more at Climate Talks Draw Praise, Herald Hard Slog Ahead

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