Almost 200 nations kept a plan to reach a new UN climate pact in 2015 alive on Saturday when rich and poor countries reached a compromise on sharing out the efforts needed to slow global warming.
A two-week negotiation in Warsaw had been due to end on Friday, but was blocked over a timetable for the first UN climate accord that would set greenhouse gas emissions requirements for all nations. The pact is due to be agreed in 2015 and come into force after 2020.
Negotiators finally agreed that all countries should work to curb emissions – a process described in the jargon as "intended nationally determined contributions" – as soon as possible and ideally by the first quarter of 2015.
The agreement ended deadlock between rich and poor about sharing out the burden of limiting emissions blamed for causing more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.
Under the last climate pact, the Kyoto Protocol, only the most developed countries were required to limit their emissions – one of the main reasons the United States refused to accept it, saying rapidly growing economies like China and India must also take part.
"Just in the nick of time, the negotiators in Warsaw delivered enough to keep the process moving," said Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute think-tank.
China had insisted that developing nations should announce deep cuts in emissions while allowing emerging economies room to burn more fossil fuels to help end poverty.
But the United States noted that all nations agreed in 2012 that the 2015 deal would be "applicable to all" and accused emerging nations of harping back to previous deals.
"I feel like I am going into a time warp. That is folly," said Todd Stern, the US special envoy for climate change.
Developed nations had wanted all to take on "commitments", not the weaker-sounding "contributions" that they settled for.
Before Saturday, the only concrete measure to have emerged after two weeks was an agreement on new rules to protect tropical forests, which soak up carbon dioxide as they grow.
During the Warsaw meeting, no major nation offered tougher action to slow rising world greenhouse gas emissions and Japan backtracked from its carbon goals for 2020, after shuttering its nuclear industry after the Fukushima disaster.
Even after breaking the deadlock over which countries should tackle emissions, talks continued on another issue that has divided rich and poor: the aid that developed countries pay to developing ones to help them curb emissions and cope with to the impacts of climate change.
Developed nations, which promised in 2009 to raise aid to $US100 billion a year after 2020 from $US10 billion a year in 2010-12, have resisted calls to set targets for 2013-19.
A draft text merely urged developed nations, which have been more focused on spurring economic growth than on fixing climate change, to set "increasing levels" of aid.
The talks have also proposed a "Warsaw Mechanism" which would provide expertise, and possibly aid, to help developing nations cope with loss and damage from extreme events such as heatwaves, droughts and floods, and creeping threats such as rising sea levels and desertification.
Developing nations have insisted on a "mechanism" – to show it was separate from existing structures – even though rich countries say that it will not get new funds beyond the planned $US100 billion a year from 2020.
Originally published by Reuters. Republished with permission.
Warsaw Factbox: Finance
Developed nations promised in 2009 to increase their aid to poorer countries to help them cope with climate change to $US100 billion a year after 2020, from $US10 billion a year in 2010-12. But in Warsaw they rejected calls to set targets for 2013-19.
A draft text merely urged developed nations to set "increasing levels" of aid, to be reviewed every two years.
Loss and damage
The talks agreed a new "Warsaw International Mechanism" to provide expertise, and possibly aid, to help developing nations cope with losses from extreme events related to climate change. The exact form of the mechanism will be reviewed in 2016.
Path to a 2015 deal
Countries agreed to announce plans for curbs on greenhouse gases beyond 2020 "well in advance" of a summit in Paris in December 2015 and "by the first quarter of 2015 for those in a position to do so". It called the submissions "intended nationally determined contributions" – the word "intended" hinting they are open to change. Many developed nations had wanted the word "commitments".
The conference did not outline new targets for more near-term action to reduce emissions. Japan announced during the conference it had scaled back its 2020 target, aiming now for a 3.1 per cent increase from 1990, compared to its previous promise of a 25 per cent cut.
Talks on how to set up new market-based mechanisms to curb emissions failed because developing nations refused to advance the process unless rich countries take on tougher emissions targets. Talks will resume in the first half of next year.
Details were finalised on how countries' emissions reductions will be monitored, reported and verified.
Clean development mechanism
The conference agreed on a measure that could boost demand for the ailing mechanism, encouraging countries without legally binding emissions targets to use carbon credits called Certified Emission Reductions. A proposal to implement a floor price for CERs was removed from a technical paper while a wider review of the CDM by a technical board was pushed to talks in Bonn in March 2014.
The conference agreed a multi-billion dollar framework to tackle deforestation. The fledgling Green Climate Fund will play a key role in channelling finance for projects to halt deforestation to host governments, who in turn must set up national agencies to oversee the money.