UN Climate Talks Enter Overtime Amid Clash on Finance

United Nations global warming talks went hours into overtime as industrialized and developing nations bickered over timetables to boost financial pledges and setting commitments for reducing emissions.

The European Union and U.S. are pushing for the biggest developing nations including China and India to accept a deadline for when all nations must present emissions pledges that will be enshrined in a new global treaty in 2015. Poorer nations want the developed world to spell out plans to reach a $100 billion aid pledge for 2020.

“In the nature of these negotiations people don’t compromise, and they don’t reach an agreement until the 11th hour,” Irish Environment Minister Phil Hogan said in an interview in Warsaw.

Negotiations in the Polish capital are important to lay the groundwork for the climate agreement that countries aim to complete in Paris in December 2015. It’s expected to take effect in 2020 and include binding emissions limits for all nations. That would break down the divide between nations in the existing carbon-limiting Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 treaty that assigns mandatory cuts to rich countries only.

Past Deadline

Discussions in Warsaw that were supposed to end at 6 p.m. on Friday, extended past 11 p.m. with the prospect of stretching through the night. Some issues such as a program that would channel billions of dollars into forest protection projects were adopted.

“Out of some 50 decisions scheduled for the Warsaw summit we have reached decisions on more than 40,” Beata Jaczewska, the deputy environment minister of Poland, which is helping guide the talks, told reporters earlier Friday. “I am convinced we will reach an agreement.”

The envoys deadlocked on finance, with Bangladesh, Cuba, Nepal and Nicaragua demanding a rich nations agree to an interim milestone on the way toward their $100 billion aid pledge. Nicaragua, speaking for a group of 130 countries, sought $70 billion in aid by 2016, a target the U.S. and EU have said they don’t accept.

The demands are important because all decisions at the conference are made by consensus, so a few countries making objections has the potential to block a deal.

Typhoon Concern

The typhoon that devastated the Philippines this month amplified the anger of developing countries that industrial nations are backtracking on previous pledges. Japan, Australia and Canada have watered down commitments on emissions. The Warsaw talks mark the first time since the UN started these discussions in 1992 that ambitions have been scaled back.

The conference “is now on the verge of delivering virtually nothing,” China’s lead negotiator, Su Wei, told envoys late Thursday. “This week saw a finance ministerial with almost no actual finance.”

Industrial nations have so far held back from detailing how they will fulfill a four-year-old pledge to boost climate-related aid to $100 billion by 2020. Countries such as the Philippines, India and Brazil say they need predictability to plan their budgets.

‘Fresh Air’

“Finance is the most important issue,” Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said in an interview. “If you want fresh air in the process, we need to have a decision about financing. If not, it’s my feeling it will be a source of contamination for the next few years.”

Individual nations have made some commitments. Japan said it will provide $16 billion in the next three years, an announcement that was eclipsed by the Asian nation’s decision to shelve plans for cutting emissions from 1990 levels by 2020.

Norway said it will pay out at least $500 million a year through 2020, and developed nations put forward $100 million of new pledges to fill a fund that helps poorer nations adapt to climate change. Another finance pool, the Green Climate Fund, has yet to be capitalized two years after its creation.

Delegates also made progress on a “loss and damage” mechanism to assist those coping with storms, floods and erosion caused by rising seas and higher temperatures. It falls short of setting up a compensation mechanism, because that was a red-line issue for developed countries led by the EU and U.S.

No Deadline

A draft text released by the UN sketches a timeline that includes a call for envoys to begin drafting elements of an eventual agreement early next year. It sets no deadline for when countries should make emissions pledges for the anticipated 2015 deal, falling short of a key demand by the European Union, backed by the U.S., and blocs of the poorest countries and island nations.

“We don’t know yet whether it’s all going to come together,” Todd Stern, the lead U.S. State Department official at the talks, said at a briefing Friday. “I think that it probably will. There’s a lot of hours left in this process.”

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