UN Plan Charts Path to Climate Accord Limiting PollutionEwa Krukowska and Alex Morales
Envoys from almost 190 nations endorsed a program that sets out steps toward the next agreement aimed at reducing global warming, after accepting a compromise that watered down the responsibilities of developing nations such as India and China.
Delegates at a United Nations conference in Warsaw today backed a plan from India and China calling for all nations to make “contributions” to reducing fossil-fuel emissions within the next two years. The language was less strict than the “commitments” suggested by the U.S. and Europe.
The language was agreed upon in an informal huddle of diplomats at the talks, which ran a day behind schedule amid divisions between richer nations and poorer ones about who was responsible for climate change and who must move first. The decision on the timetable for future action was among the most controversial issues at the meeting.
Envoys are still debating a number of other measures, including a loss-and-damage measure for nations most vulnerable to climate change, and financial aid pledges.
While the Warsaw meeting was never meant to be a breakthrough in the fight against global warming, it was to put in place the key building blocks necessary for a treaty the delegates aim to agree on in 2015 and that would come into force five years later.
The envoys had locked horns on finance, with China, India, Bangladesh, Cuba, Nepal and Nicaragua demanding 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. That dispute has yet to be resolve.
“We still don’t have a road map on finance. We have had proposals,” Indian envoy T.S. Tirumurti told the conference today. “The sense of urgency is missing.”
The U.S. and European Union so far have resisted making more commitments on aid, partly because of their own economic difficulties and partly because they want aid to flow along with commitments from poorer nations on cutting emissions. Developing nations have no mandatory limits under the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 treaty that remains the only global pact limiting global-warming pollution.
“The real annoyance seems to be on the lack of progress on financing,” said Bas Eickhout, a member of the European Parliament’s delegation to the talks. “I have the feeling this deadlock can be broken by some kind of concession on a sub-target on finances in 2016. If not, this entire endgame may derail, which is the worst outcome.”
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.
Record carbon emissions have lifted the Earth’s temperature about 0.8 degrees Celsius since the industrial revolution, and the planet is on a path to exceed the UN-endorsed maximum of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by 2100. As a result, sea levels are rising, oceans are acidifying and glaciers and sea ice are melting. Scientists predict more freak weather, droughts and stronger storms.
“We are going to be leading to a 3- or 4-degree world,” said Gambian envoy Pa Ousman Jarju. “That is catastrophic for the least island states, small island states and the African continent.”
U.S. and European diplomats said they could live with a draft text released late yesterday that would set out the conclusions of the meeting. They expressed concern that China and India wanted to revive a division between industrial and developing nations on how greenhouse-gas cuts will be made in the next treaty, a divide that was eliminated two years ago.
“It was somewhat astonishing to hear my good friend from China to say commitments apply to only developed country parties,” U.S. Special envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern said. “I feel I’m going back in a time warp.”