Environmental activists hold letters that read ‘Save the climate, save the people’ during the COP24 in Katowice, Poland. (Source: Reuters)
After four days of talks at the climate change conference during which countries mainly re-stated their divergent positions on different issues, negotiators moved to the back rooms on Friday in order to narrow down their differences in informal meetings. They have been given time until 11 am (local time) on Saturday morning to resolve as many contentious issues as possible, at least the major ones relating to finance, so that a draft negotiating text can be put before the ministers early next week for the big decisions to be taken.
Countries are trying to finalise the rulebook, containing the processes and guidelines, for the implementation of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, that seeks to keep the global average temperatures from rising above two degree Celsius from pre-industrial times. As a result, the issues under discussion are mainly procedural in nature, but still vital for preserving the effectiveness of the agreement.
For example, till the finalisation of the Paris Agreement in 2015, one of the main issues was about how much money the developed world would provide for the global fight against climate change. In Katowice, the main issue on finance is how to ensure that developed countries are correctly and transparently accounting for what they have provided.
There has been slow progress on almost all issues here, but especially on finance, which has received the most attention from the countries. Developed countries have committed themselves to “mobilise” at least $100 billion every year from 2020 to enable developing countries to deal with climate change. The Paris Agreement also calls upon developed countries to provide “transparent” and “consistent” information every two years about not just the money it has made available towards this objective, but also about what it will provide in the future.
For the purpose of framing the rulebook, the negotiators are discussing, among other things, the manner in which such reporting would happen. It happens to be one of the most contentious issues at the negotiations. Developed countries are reluctant to provide much information, even if indicative, about their future financial commitments, claiming constitutional constraints and budgetary procedures. Developing countries are demanding such information for the sake of trust, transparency and predictability of financial flows. Developing countries also want the right to review this financial information, seek details and compare it against the promises made. The developed world clearly opposes this.
Then, there is the issue of increasing the quantum of money flow, from the promised $100 billion, in view of several estimates that the requirement was likely to be in trillions of dollars every year. A revisiting of the $100 billion figure is scheduled only in 2025. But developing countries have been arguing that the $100 billion figure, as agreed, is only the floor and not the ceiling, and that the developed countries must respond to the growing evidence of much greater financial requirement.
Many other issues relating to the rulebook, notably the provisions regarding transparency, are also stuck.
The negotiators are expected to iron out a majority of these differences by Saturday, leaving the big questions, requiring political interventions, for the ministerial segment that starts on Monday.