South Africa Evokes Apartheid in UN Draft Climate Deal Debate

  • Week of talks on global warming begin in Bonn, Germany
  • Delegates say draft of plan for Paris deal doesn't satisfy all

South Africa evoked the injustices of apartheid to object to the latest compromise plan on global warming as envoys at a round of United Nations talks began a week of meetings aimed at drafting a text of the next climate agreement.

“In essence we are disenfranchised, and we have to negotiate our way back into the process,” South Africa’s Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko said on behalf of more than 130 developing nations and China. Speaking on Monday at the start of the UN meeting in Bonn, Germany, the delegate said the current text “is extremely unbalanced and lopsided to the extent that it jeopardizes the interests and positions of developing countries.”

The envoys are grappling with how to treat 20 pages of text published Oct. 5 by U.S. envoy Daniel Reifsnyder and Algerian negotiator Ahmed Djoghlaf, who were named by the UN to bring together negotiators for the new agreement. The UN wants the text to be the basis of the eventual deal, while the G77 and others are seeking to make changes before they’ll accept that.

The UN aims to seal the final agreement in Paris in December after spending a year gathering pledges from all nations on greenhouse gas reductions. The intention is for the eventual agreement to restrict warming since the industrial revolution to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), with all countries making efforts to curb fossil-fuel emissions.

“Parties generally like the brevity, clarity and structure of the text, but your happiness generally stops there,” Reifsnyder told delegates. “All of you have deep concerns with different parts of the text. That is universal.”

Reifsnyder called on countries to propose "surgical insertions" of "must-have" elements that they needed before accepting the text as a basis for discussion. The discussions then became bogged down in a procedural debate lasting two hours as envoys discussed how they should proceed with those insertions.

Mxakato-Diseko described the process of having to justify the new additions as being like apartheid, when black South Africans were told to justify why they should be given the vote.

She wasn’t alone in her objections. U.S. negotiator Trigg Talley said, “this document has many things that most parties cannot agree with.” European Union envoy Pete Betts described the paper as "minimalist," while adding that "we were willing to use it not as a good starting point, but as a starting point."

“You can’t have a two-wheeled bicycle with one of the wheels removed and then say ‘justify why you must have that wheel,’ because then we can’t move,” Malaysian delegate Gurdial Singh said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.