Climate rescue talks off to a halting start

Home-stretch negotiations in Bonn for a 195-nation climate rescue pact stumbled Monday over developing countries’ protests that their key demands are being sidelined.

A bloc of more than 130 developing nations squared off against the talks’ joint chairmen over points on fairness and finance they said had been dropped from a streamlined draft text.

Despite a rough start to the final round of official negotiations before a year-end UN climate conference, French President Francois Hollande remained upbeat.

“There will be a deal,” the president told a gathering of unions, employers and government officials in Paris ahead of the November 30-December 11 summit in the French capital.

The only question, Hollande said, was how ambitious the pact’s targets will be, “and whether we will be able to revise it regularly. That’s what is at stake in the negotiations.”

One of the key disagreements in Bonn is over a mechanism to review and ramp up national pledges to curb climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions. This, scientists say, is the only way to stave off catastrophic global warming impacts.

These Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, will be a pillar of the Paris agreement, due to enter into force in 2020.

Developing nations balked Monday at a new blueprint for the deal, whittled down by the forum’s joint chairmen from 80-odd pages to 20 since the previous negotiating round in September.

Many said they went too far.

The text as it stands “is extremely unbalanced and lopsided,” South Africa’s climate envoy Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko told an opening session, and jeopardises the interests and positions of developing countries.”

South Africa chairs the G77 group of 130-plus developing countries, which includes major greenhouse gas emitters China and India, along with many nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The bloc is particularly concerned about what it perceived as vague wording on financial aid for developing countries’ transition to becoming low carbon-emitting economies, and shoring up their defences against the impact of global warming.

They also want assurances on money for climate change-induced damages that will occur in spite of efforts to adapt to what’s coming.

The five-day huddle in Bonn offers the last chance for rank-and-file negotiators to barter on the wording of the pact meant to crown more than two decades of fractious negotiations.

The draft that emerges will be taken in hand by ministers and heads of state for the hard political compromises that will be required to seal a deal in Paris.

Developing nations insisted Monday that certain deleted passages must be restored before line-by-line text bartering can begin.

“We demand that the text be balanced for negotiations to commence,” said Gurdial Singh Nijar, a spokesman for the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) group, which falls within the G77.

The new draft “completely ignored the submissions of G77 on finance,” Nijar told AFP.

Developing countries want wording in the agreement on $100 billion (88 billion euros) in annual climate finance the developed world has promised from 2020.

– ‘The world is looking’ –

Peru’s Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal, who presides over the talks, recognised the disappointment but urged negotiators to “work constructively in trying to find a fair, ambitious and pragmatic outcome.”

“The whole world is looking at us,” said Vidal.

“The (Paris) agreement must launch the transformation of our economies toward a low carbon and resilient… society.”

Climate envoy Laurence Tubiana of France agreed that the blueprint “lacks ambition on all the elements” including finance.

“We are here today and for the rest of the week to correct these weaknesses,” she said.

The co-chairmen, Algeria’s Ahmed Djoghlaf and Daniel Reifsnyder of the United States, agreed to allow text to be reinserted, but urged parties to limit themselves to the “absolute must-have items”.

The climate pact would be the first signed by all the world’s nations, with the goal to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Beyond this threshold, scientists warn of disastrous storms, floods and sea-level rise.

The global thermometer has already gone up by 0.8 C since the mid-19th century, and US government scientists have said 2015 is likely to overtake 2014 as the hottest year on record.

Based on emissions-curbing pledges so far, the planet is on course for warming closer to 3 C, say analysts — hence the need for frequent reviews.

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