By Eric J. Lyman and Dean Scott
25 --A series of 11th-hour compromises Nov. 23 at the United Nations climate
talks in Warsaw set the stage--and raised the stakes--for at least four
multilateral forums in 2014.
The talks stretched more than 24 hours
beyond their official close Nov. 22, with most of the action taking place in
the overtime period, including a hard-fought
agreement on compensation for loss and damage caused by climate change in
developing countries and a working deadline for countries to submit post-2020
emissions reduction targets.
The deals were just enough to avert a
collapse of the talks but left much of the heavy lifting for future
negotiations. The Warsaw talks, which served as the 19th Conference of the
Parties (COP-19) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as
well as the Ninth Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (MOP-9), aimed
to lay groundwork for a global agreement to be further refined at a 2014
conference in Peru and finalized at a 2015 conference in Paris.
Delegates agreed to at least one new set of meetings
in 2014, to be held March 10-14 near UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn. That will be
followed by the midyear subsidiary bodies meetings in June in Bonn, a Sept. 23
summit of world leaders at UN headquarters in New York to focus in part on
climate change and the December summit in Lima, Peru. An additional set of
talks, most likely in October, could be added.
In Warsaw, the main
negotiating track focused on the 2015 agreement was officially suspended, not
adjourned, meaning the March talks can get under way without taking time to
approve an agenda.
COP-19 President Marcin Korolec declared the 13 days
of talks a success: “We came with three central goals, and we achieved all of
them,” Korolec said, referring to agreements on a “loss and damage” mechanism,
policies for financing adaptation efforts and creation of a pathway to the 2015
deal. But much of the work pushed details off until 2014, or in the case of the
loss and damage mechanism to 2016.
Negotiators launched the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage
to begin next year to sort out how to help countries already affected by rising
sea levels and other climate impacts.
According to the text, the
mechanism is to be established “under the Cancun Adaptation Framework … 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.”
text was approved after debate about the phrase “under the Cancun Adaptation
Framework.” Fiji objected to the phrase, saying it would make it too easy for
loss and damage funding to become a permanent subset of adaptation funding.
Fiji's objection was seconded by the Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh,
Nicaragua, the European Union, the Group of 77 developing countries, and the
Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). The U.S. was among the countries
insisting the phrase should remain intact.
“Loss and damage is not
adaptation; it is specifically compensation for events impossible to adapt to,”
Philippines delegation head Yeb Saño said in seconding Fiji’s motion. Saño’s
country was devastated earlier in November by Typhoon Haiyan, the kind of
weather event that would be covered by the loss and damage mechanism if it were
In the end, the phrase was left in, although language was
added allowing for a review of the loss and damage mechanism, including its
“structure and mandate,” at COP-22 in 2016. Effectively, the mechanism was made
part of the larger adaptation framework for three years. After that, developing
countries can petition for it to be separated.
Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, said
it was a “meaningful and practical” compromise that will allow the issue to be
revisited once it is better understood.
Stern said developed countries
had shown a genuine willingness to compromise on the demands of developing
nations by agreeing to launch the loss and damage mechanism. He told
negotiators in the last hours of the talks that the U.S. “recognizes the
critical implications of loss and damage from the adverse affects of climate
change, including those caused by sea level rise in particularly low-lying
Negotiators “have engaged constructively” to establish
“for the first time under the [1992 framework] convention a mechanism to
address loss and damage,” Stern said.
Developing nations argue that such
compensation is in order, given that such climate impacts are happening now and
are caused by emissions in the atmosphere, put there mostly by industrialized
René Orellana of Bolivia, one of the main countries lobbying
for “under” to be removed, said she could live with the compromise language.
“What is important is that the loss and damage structure has been created,” she
told Bloomberg BNA. “We have a baby now, and we have to give him time to
But environmentalists, many of whom walked out of the talks Nov.
22 in protest of the slow progress, were less pleased.
establishing a system that could respond to new climate realities, they’ve
established more talks and provided no real resources,” Lidy Nacpil, from the
Jubilee South-Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, told Bloomberg
BNA. “This is reflective of a broader outcome that is still deaf to the needs
of impacted communities and the urgency of this problem.”
At the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009,
the U.S. and other industrialized nations pledged $100 billion a year in
combined public and private funding for climate finance starting in 2020. But
the Group of 77 developing nations and China came away empty-handed from Warsaw
in their effort to get specific funding pledges for the period before 2020; one
proposal called for a pledge of $70 billion a year beginning in 2016.
addition to urging developed nations to ramp up pre-2020 finance, a decision approved in Warsaw and drafted by the high-level
Work Program on Long-term Finance also asks developed countries to submit
strategies for scaling up climate finance between now and 2020.
for workshops to be convened on the issue and asks developing nations to submit
ideas for a high-level ministerial dialogue on climate finance every two years,
starting in 2014 and ending in 2020.
The summit also approved a decision urging the
fledgling Green Climate Fund, a body created in previous negotiations, to
ensure it is operational in time to begin receiving funds next year. The
decision calls for “ambitious and timely contributions” by developed countries
to the fund before the next round of high-level talks in Peru.
In the third of the three main platforms Korolec
identified, the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action
(ADP) sought to establish a deadline for countries to state emission reduction
targets for the post-2020 period--a main part of the pathway to the 2015
conference in Paris expected to produce a global agreement.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for countries to consider the
September 2014 summit at UN headquarters as a deadline for such pledges, and
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s minister of environment and the president of next
year’s COP, said delegations should arrive in Lima in 2014 with emission
reduction pledges in hand. But the U.S., Canada, Australia and other allies
pushed for a later date.
In the end, the ADP agreed that “countries
ready to do so” should submit emission reduction targets “well in advance of
COP-21” in December 2015. It did not define “well in advance,” but the only
date left in brackets for further negotiation was for targets to be submitted
during the first quarter of 2015. A deadline as late as March 2015 would give
parties only eight months to refine targets to compensate for the expected gap
between their pledges and the level of cuts needed to avoid the worst impacts
of climate change.
“It’s a disappointment,” Pulgar-Vidal said in an
interview after the close of the talks. “We’ll do our best to get some targets
on the table in Lima and to have everything in order so we can publish the
first draft text by May” of 2015.
Also in the ADP, mentions of reducing
worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by between 25 percent and 40 percent
compared to 1990 levels by 2030--the range prescribed by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change--were removed from the text in the final flurry of
activity. Delegates said they are now less likely to appear in the 2015
Environmental groups were not pleased. “The blocking by rich,
industrialized countries has been disgraceful,” said Meena Raman from the Third
World Network. Asad Rehman from Friends of the Earth said, “Lobbyists [from the
fossil fuel energy sector] should be delighted with their return on
One bright note
from the talks was the progress made to advance the UN forest protection
program known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD),
including new funding pledges unveiled in Warsaw. Deforestation, along with
other land-use changes and agriculture, accounts for more than 30 percent of
global greenhouse gas emissions.
Ultimately, the forest protection
efforts could be funneled into the final global accord in 2015, providing
credit for heavily forested developing nations for reducing emissions by
curbing deforestation. But for now the Warsaw decisions on REDD offer
incremental progress, setting rules for developing nations to measure, report
and verify existing forest cover and measure progress.
The COP decisions
on REDD also launched a new information hub to track emissions avoided through
the program as well as any payments or credits provided to developing nations
that participate in it.
In the end, forest protection was one of the few
areas where new climate finance money was brought to the table this year. The
U.S., Norway and the U.K. pledged a total of $280 million in Warsaw to launch a
new multilateral body at the World Bank to target deforestation and support
more sustainable agriculture.
Looking forward, environmental groups said
the next step is to get the REDD program up and running in developing countries
and to obtain far larger sums--an estimated $20 billion to $35 billion a
year--that are needed to fully implement REDD efforts globally.
Gone from the final Warsaw
agreement was U.S.-backed language in early drafts that would have had climate
negotiators explicitly endorse accelerated action to cut hydrofluorocarbons
(HFCs), a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide, under the
The U.S. argues that agreement on ozone-depleting
substances will bring quicker action on HFCs than the UN climate negotiations,
which have been under way since the 1992 signing of the UN climate convention
that first committed nations to a global response to climate change.
Montreal treaty endorsement was never directly mentioned in earlier texts; the
language called instead on other international “fora” to curb HFCs.
many developing nations--which produce significant amounts of HFCs used in
refrigeration and air conditioning--argue that the climate talks should address
HFCs. India and Saudi Arabia “vehemently opposed” the U.S.-led protocol
endorsement, according to Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director for the
Union of Concerned Scientists, and the language was removed.
other end of the spectrum, the EU [European Union] didn’t think it was helpful
to have wishy-washy language that didn’t even mention the Montreal Protocol
directly,” Meyer said. The EU was supportive of the effort coming into the
talks, according to its official positions outlined before Warsaw.
Many environmental groups were
disappointed in the modest progress made in the Warsaw talks, while other
groups that closely monitor the negotiations said it produced a glimmer of hope
that a global climate accord can be signed in Paris in 2015.
need in Warsaw was to keep the talks moving forward, and they managed that,
though just barely,” said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president for the
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
Still, delegates said the final
text helped avert an abject failure.
“We live to fight another day,”
veteran Italian negotiator Corrado Clini said in a brief interview.
Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s climate action commissioner, said
afterward that the talks ended the way she had expected going in, providing
modest progress that moved negotiations in the right direction.
delivered what it could and should, but some of us would have wanted to see
something more ambitious,” Hedegaard told reporters Nov. 23. “But let us work
with what is there.”
The Philippines’ Saño, whose tearful Nov. 11
recounting of the impacts of Haiyan on his country failed to change the tone of
the negotiations, was philosophical afterwards. “It’s far from perfect, but at
least it allows us to try again next year,” he told Bloomberg BNA.
To contact the reporters on this story: Eric J. Lyman in Warsaw at firstname.lastname@example.org and Dean Scott in Warsaw at email@example.com
contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at firstname.lastname@example.org
The COP-19 decision on
the loss and damage mechanism is available at http://bit.ly/1g7Daxt.
The decision on
the Green Climate Fund is available at http://bit.ly/1jxhLOa.
The decision on the Work Program on Long-Term Finance is available at http://bit.ly/1bPCsAM.
Other decisions adopted by COP-19 and the 9th Meeting of the Parties to the
Kyoto Protocol are available at http://unfccc.int.