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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Warsaw Talks Close with a Flurry; Heavy Lifting Still to Come

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With a flurry of activity in a 24-hour overtime period, the Warsaw climate talks managed an outcome COP President Marcin Korolec declared a success. But it will have to be a qualified success.

"It's 8:30 p.m. Saturday and I promised to finish at 6 p.m. Friday," an exhausted Korolec said at a closing press conference.

Christiana Figueres, the UN's top climate change official, replied: "Yes, but you didn't say what week."

Among the talks' main accomplishments: agreeing to a package on texts related to finance for adaptation initiatives in poor countries, establishing a "loss and damage" mechanism that will compensate countries for unavoidable impacts from climate change-related natural phenomena, and creating a pathway to the 2015 UN summit in Paris, which is expected to yield the world's first global climate agreement.

It did all three, but it also left much to be filled in at a later date:

• The package of texts on finance were agreed to, but without the comprehensive timeline many countries called for and without any intermediate financial goals before the $100 billion 2020 target agreed to in Copenhagen four years ago. Poor countries called for some intermediate benchmark for 2015 or 2016.

• On "loss and damage," delegates created a mechanism but because of wording it remains "under" a 2010 Cancun agreement on adaptation, a detail that upset many developing countries. In a compromise, that structure will be revisited by 2016.

• The pathway to Paris includes a working deadline for countries that are "ready to do so" to provide emissions reduction targets "well in advance" of the Paris talks, with a tentative deadline of the first quarter of 2015. This leaves as little as eight months for them to be ratcheted down before the Paris talks start. The UN and the president of next year's COP had been calling for deadlines in 2014.

 Figueres was positive with her review of the talks, saying they "exceeded expectations." But she also cautioned much was left to do.

"We did more than expected here, but this also doesn't lead us to a pathway of 2 degrees," she said, referring to the goal of limiting global warming to 2-degree Celsius (3.6-degrees F) above pre-industrial levels.

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