COP25: Stalemate continues in UN climate talks

MADRID: The UN climate change conference was locked in a stalemate over a number of technical issues relating to finance, loss and damage, and mechanism of a new carbon trading market, even as it went into an extra day on Saturday.

The two-week-long climate negotiations, named COP25, undergoing in this Spanish capital was scheduled to conclude on Friday. But negotiators have been unable to arrive unanimously on commitments that would see nations to make new pledges by the end of 2020 despite endless rounds of negotiations and back-channel diplomacy.

Negotiators and envoys of nearly 200 countries are apprehensive of the increasingly pressing topics like climate finance — a support to developing countries, including India — and on rules to govern carbon markets and the language that will frame how high the world aims during the next 12 months.

Also the big emitters in particular have failed to put the world on a path to achieve 1.5 degrees Celsius to avert climate catastrophe and protect human health.

Commenting on the outcomes, Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance, said: “World leaders’ collective failure to act is not only inexcusable, but rises to a failure of government and of leadership of historical proportions.”

“At a time when leading health organizations have recognized the climate crisis as a health emergency and people around the world are experiencing the impacts of climate change on their health, livelihoods, and homes, government leaders are still arguing about timelines, equivocating over rules, and pointing fingers.”

Since Friday, the main plenary, which will take the final decisions on the Paris rulebook, has been deferred many times, with negotiators spending the entire night in informal discussions with their counterparts.

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Many countries have a share in the blame, but the US move to begin withdrawal from the Paris Agreement deserves particular censure, according to Global Climate and Health Alliance.

The US bears major historical responsibility for climate change, and currently ranks second in annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Other high emitting countries have largely failed to step up to fill the leadership void. Some, like Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Brazil, are in stasis on key issues or even blocking progress.

And using the excuse that high income countries are not acting to justify not making further progress themselves, as China and India are doing, constitutes not climate leadership but its abdication, it adds in a statement.

Lead negotiator Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday reiterated that India is willing to work with others on language to conclude this process at the earliest. Lack of reference to pre-2020 climate commitments was basically agreed to and it is something that will lead to enhanced actions.

“Problems we are facing today is not due to lack of intent but due to lack of implementation and it is glaringly visible in pre-2020 actions. We want to highlight the Paris Agreement was arrived at after a lot of hard negotiations.

“Would not like to see any tampering with the language of the Paris Agreement and the understanding that was arrived at in Paris,” Prasad said.

Harjeet Singh, global climate lead for ActionAid International, told IANS: “Rich countries led by the US, the European Union, Australia and Canada have blocked progress on finance across the board, even though this is so vital to increasing ambition for climate action.”

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He said they are refusing to help impacted people and creating loopholes through weak market mechanisms, which will put the Paris Agreement on course to fail.

“Unless ministers resolve these crunch issues in the next few hours, this conference is set to collapse,” he added.

Developing countries are calling for loss and damage finance and support for those who are most affected by cyclones, droughts and floods and other climate impacts.

Climate negotiators say nations remained divided on one of the most crucial issues on finalising the guidelines for international carbon markets that is Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Last year at COP24 in Poland, the bulk of the implementation guidelines of the 2015 Paris Agreement were agreed on, with the exception of Article 6 that evolves a market mechanism on reducing carbon footprints.

Brazil has been demanding that the carbon credits it had earned under the existing market mechanism in Kyoto Protocol be allowed to be transitioned in the new market mechanism to be created for Paris Agreement.

Some other countries, including India and China, are also in favour of such a provision.

The plenary is likely to convene late on Saturday evening. A final agreement is not expected before early Sunday.

There is positive news too.

Eighty-four countries in the Climate Ambition Alliance are responding to the urgent need to reduce emissions in the next decade by signalling their intention to work towards enhancing their national Climate Action plans by 2020, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said.

With 197 parties, the UNFCCC has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, which comes into effect in January 2021.

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The next international climate negotiations, COP26, will be hosted in Glasgow, Britain, in November 2020.



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