COP21: Urgency increases as core issues remain unresolved

10th December 2015

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  • Adaptation ,
  • Mitigation ,
  • Carbon Trading ,
  • Management


Catriona Laird

Negotiations over a global deal on climate change carried on late into the night after a new draft text failed to resolve wrangles over finance and differentiation.

A revised text was produced yesterday afternoon, but campaigners and observers warned that, although considerable progress had been made on many issues, time was now running out on the most difficult. Michael Brune, executive director of US environmental campaign group the Sierra Club, said: "There are reasons to be mildly and conditionally optimistic. But we're disappointed that there are so many things to sort out. We're one and a half weeks in and there's still disagreement on many issues."

Jennifer Morgan, global director of climate at the World Resources Institute (WRI), said: "We haven't seen anyone give way on any of the issues that are nearest and dearest to them, it's still very much in flux."

Who provides finance to pay for the impacts of climate change continues to be contentious. However, Celine Charveriat, advocacy and campaigns director at Oxfam commented that good options remained in the text, such as a recognition that it should be provided in the form of grants rather than loans. Secretary of state John Kerry announced that the US would double the amount of grant-based finance it provides for adaption by 2020 to $800 million a year.

Differentiation is the other major sticking point and is inextricably linked to climate finance. Under the Kyoto protocol principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, developing countries are not obligated to pay for damage caused by climate change since they are not responsible for it. However, as the economies of some have become stronger, pressure has increased on them to also be donors.

The G77+ China negotiating bloc is resisting this even though several developing nations with "strong" economies are already contributing financially. For example, China announced $3.1 billion in climate finance in September.

There was progress in the revised draft on some issues, such as stronger wording on adaptation, capacity building for developing countries and technology. This impressed many commentators. "The text is much cleaner at this point than I thought it would be," said Michael Jacobs, senior adviser at the New Climate Economy project.

A meeting of all parties to the negotiations was held in the evening. French foreign minister and COP21 president Laurent Fabius suggested that, to save time, work should begin immediately on translating text on issues that had been resolved. The whole document needs to be translated into the six official languages of the UN before anything can be signed by parties. Fabius has set a deadline of early Thursday afternoon for parties to come up with the next revision of the text.

Meanwhile, work contiuned on finessing the draft text on market mechanisms, such as carbon pricing. Some countries, including Saudi Arabia, are not happy with the text agreed by ministers on Tuesday. Businesses are still keen to see market mechanisms included in the text, according to a survey by EY. Almost half (48%) of the more than 100 executives polled by the consultancy's climate change and sustainability services practice were in favour of carbon pricing. More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents said carbon pricing would have a strong positive impact on innovation, which they believed would trigger initiatives beneficial to performance and not just compliance. However, just over a quarter (26%) said that carbon pricing would have a negative impact on carbon emissions for their organisation. There was a clear demand for improvements to existing carbon pricing schemes, with 63% saying that current approaches to carbon pricing need to be rethought.


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