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COP19: Countries leave plenty of work to do before 2015 climate deal

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Kiran Sura, CDKN’s Head of Advocacy Fund, provides a round-up of what governments achieved during international climate talks in Warsaw.

The latest round of international climate talks, which took place in Warsaw, Poland started on 11th  November, and as has become tradition in the UN climate talks, stretched in to the weekend past the official close of the conference on 22nd November. The talks were beset with difficulties; there were faint glimmers of progress on important issues such as the 2015 deal on emission reductions, forest protection schemes, climate finance and how to deal with climate-related loss and damage, but talks were overshadowed by the absence of clear commitments on finance or on emissions reductions from the largest emitters, without which climate risks will continue to rise for the poorest and most vulnerable countries.

Two years ago, when Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met in Durban, South Africa, they agreed to forge a deal by 2015, to take effect by 2020, in which all nations would take responsibility for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Talks on this Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) – the negotiations toward the 2015 agreement– looked likely to collapse until the eleventh hour.  They were only saved when countries agreed they would not make ‘commitments’ to emissions reductions but rather, ‘contributions’ – in response to concerns expressed by India and China.

The ADP decision invites countries to make their contributions by March 2015, if they are ready to do so.  This provides Parties with six months to review the adequacy of each others’ pledges and discuss how to ratchet up their collective ambition before the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in December 2015 in Paris. This is likely to be among the most contentious parts of the negotiations, yet. Importantly, the ADP text requests that developed countries provide support to developing countries for the work to establish their contribution to reducing global emissions.

The ‘Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage’ was established to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The mechanism will  sit ‘under’ an existing UN adaption body (the Cancun Adaptation Framework) and be reviewed in 2016.

There were a few ad-hoc pledges of finance during the talks. The UK pledged £125  million to the LDC Fund and the Bio Carbon Fund, and the EU said to would direct 20% of the budget from 2014-2020 to climate related projects. On long-term climate finance, developing countries called for ‘ambitious and timely’ contributions from developed countries by December 2014, and intermediate milestones to the capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund to the tune of $100 billion by 2020. A range of developed countries contributed a total of US$100 million to the Adaptation Fund.

On Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Land Degradation (REDD+) Parties finalised the methodological guidance on REDD+ initiatives. This rather technical point was among the more significant achievements of the talks, because agreeing a common methodology unlocks the door to consistent and trusted approaches to reducing emissions from tropical forests, globally. Parties also initiated a dialogue for results based finance to support the implementation for REDD+. Alongside this, the EU, US, Norway, Germany and UK pledged $280 million for REDD+.

These agreements represent the minimum that was required to keep the door open for a global deal to be agreed in Paris in 2015. However Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres has made it clear that against a backdrop of ever more frequent, extreme weather events, which the poor and vulnerable are already paying the price for, it is incumbent on governments, and especially developed nations, to go back and do their homework so they can put their contributions on the table in Paris. Similar calls have been made by representatives from other developing country groups.

Prakash Mathema of the Least Developing Countries Group stated that “Unless developed countries reduce their emissions significantly, the burden on the poor, vulnerable countries will further increase, leading to more loss and damage.”

Ambassador Marlene Moses, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) recognized that “the ADP Workstream 2 on short-term mitigation launched in Warsaw is the best opportunity we have to implement policies and technologies that we know rapidly lower emissions” and called “on the world’s leading experts in these areas to join us in this effort, because we’ll need all the help we can get to bring emissions down to the level required in the vanishingly small time we have left to do it.”


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