- News and analysis from the UN climate negotiations in Poland, which are entering their final stage as nearly 200 countries work towards a deal on global warming
by Adam Vaughan –
Climate talks enter their final stage
Environment ministers from around the world, including the UK energy secretary Ed Davey, are in a football stadium in Warsaw today trying to make progress on an international deal on climate change. We’re in the final minutes of the match – the talks started on 11 November and officialy close day – but history suggests we’re almost guaranteed to run into extra time, into the early hours of Saturday.
Fiona Harvey, our environment correspondent, lays out what’s on the table this year in our primer on the talks:
The current goal of the negotiations is to forge an agreement, to be signed in Paris in 2015 and to come into force by 2020, that would involve substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from all the major economies, as well as commitments from poorer countries. But this meeting is just a staging point on the road to that goal – there is as yet no draft text for an agreement, no consensus on what a new deal should involve, or what legal form it should take.
As well as this groundwork, one of the debates that has dominated the talks has been the question of whether rich countries should pay poorer ones for damage linked to climate change – a proposition that the US made clear before the talks that it wouldn’t entertain, and laid out again at the opening of Warsaw. The Guardian’s Karl Mathiesen weighed the arguments for and against for us earlier this week.
The hosts, Poland, have also courted controversy by hosting a two-day international coal industry summit earlier this week, and NGOs were so incensed by what they saw as the influence of fossil fuel lobbying on progress that on Thursday they walked out of the talks in protest.
Today, officials and ministers will be working to agree a text that paves the way along a road which will pass through a meeting of world leaders in New York in September 2014, and on to Lima, Peru, in December 2014, before finally arriving in Paris, in December 2015, for the final destination of a long-promised global deal on climate change.
Updated at 10.47am GMT
Ban said he hoped world leaders would “announce bold actions, and bold commitments” at the summit.
But the United States has said it will unveil its plans for cuts in emissions beyond 2020 in early 2015. The European Union aims to announce its plans before the summit, giving time for a review by other nations.
“I met the U.S. delegations and I heard their positions,” Ban said. “I understand that many countries still may not be ready, for their political or economic considerations.”
He also got as near to criticism as the UN do in their diplomatic parlance, calling Poland’s sacking this week of its environment minister – who is president of the fortnight’s talks – “unusual.”
It was quite unexpected and unusual that the president of a (UN meeting) who was environment minister was relieved of this job
The symbolism of the reason behind Marcin Korolec’s departure doesn’t help either. He was shuffled out because he was seen to be slowing the growth of Poland’s shale gas operations – another source of the fossil fuels that the climate talks are effectively aimed at phasing out.
Backsliding over timetable for a deal
As The Guardian’s Fiona Harvey reports, one of the key concerns today will be whether the talks produce a clear enough timetable towards a deal in Paris in 2015:
A bitter row about the timetable for forging a global agreement on climate change is threatening to derail the already fragile United Nations climate change talks, now entering their final stage in Warsaw.
The furious disagreement has pitted the EU against member state Poland, the host of the conference, which has the power to determine much of the pace of the talks. China, India, Venezuela and others are also accused of reneging on commitments made over the past two years to set out a plan for a new global deal that would be signed at a conference in Paris in late 2015.
The row threatens to derail the long-running process towards a new global deal. At stake is whether the Warsaw talks end with a clear timetable for countries to set out their emissions reduction targets before the crunch meeting in Paris. Those targets need to be defined by each country in time for them to be assessed by the other participants, and to ensure they are ambitious enough.
Davey has a nice analogy on why the timetable’s important, harking back to his school days:
When I was a student preparing for my GCSEs, I started well before the exams – you need to do the homework. And we need a process where that homework can be marked.
“We are not moving forwards enough”
The UN has released the current draft of the document outlining just how countries will get to that Paris deal in two years’ time.
Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate action commissioner, was not impressed with a slightly earlier draft, published yesterday:
There’s still things that are very important to us where we do not see enough progress – for instance a clear timeline and key elements for and of a 2015 agreement, on scaling up pre-2020 mitigation on Kyoto Protocol implementation rules, on finance, on adaption, on loss and damage. I think the co-chairs have done quite a work in trying to produce a new text that is interesting. We appreciate the efforts and I can see some progress made, but frustratingly I also think there are tendencies that if we are not moving backwards, at least we are not moving forwards enough.
She adds that Warsaw cannot be seen to be reneging on the deal reached in Durban, South Africa, in 2011, when governments agreed on the deadline of 2015 to reach agreement:
The EU’s feeling is we cannot allow any backtracking from Durban… and deliver what we agreed in Durban
She says the draft does not do enough on work towards a climate deal in Paris.
Updated at 11.30am GMT
France, which has a big vested interest in avoiding the meeting in Paris in 2015 being ‘another Copenhagen’, says countries must pledge how much they’ll cut emissions by the start of 2015 at the latest, if Paris is to be a success.
Why Paris 2015 is key
“If we don’t succeed in Paris, the chance of limiting temperature to 2C will be virtually nil,” says France’s climate envoy, according to Responding to Climate Change, which is at the talks. The 2C reference is to the threshold that governments agreed in 2009 to hold temperature rises to– beyond that point, all sorts of nasty impacts are projected and human interventions may not be enough to stop further warming.
Incidentally, RTCC has a nice video of yesterday’s walk-out by NGOs:
Fiona Harvey reports on the inside track from someone present at last night’s talks over work towards a climate deal in 2015 (ADP):
The co-chairs said they would not discuss HFCs, as that decision will be made with ministers. They took comments on the various paragraphs on the post-2020 agreement. But surprisingly, they did not continue the negotiations all night, as had been expected. Instead, at about 9pm, they told negotiators they would “mull over” the suggestions that have been made, and “will reissue a new text tomorrow morning. You can have dinner, a good rest, and come back tomorrow.” Hopefully the good rest the negotiators have had will mean today’s [Friday’s] discussions are more productive – though no one should count on that.
The Guardian’s environment editor, John Vidal, adding to the gloomy mood, tells me that China doesn’t have high hopes for Warsaw. Vidal writes:
Chinese lead negotiator Su Wei is not optimistic that the talks will deliver much and says he “understands” why the NGOs walked out. At an informal “stock-taking” plenary late last night, here’s what he said, according to the Third World Network: “I fully understand why there was a walkout. The Warsaw talks which should have been an important step forward in the implementation of the convention and the Kyoto Protocol, are now on the verge of delivering virtually nothing”.
“Even worse, the moves of many developed countries are directly undermining the UNFCCC itself; when one major developed country announced that it was backtracking on emission cut commitments previously made, and another developed country gave multiple signals that it was utterly unwilling to take the UN climate process seriously, the integrity of the talks was further jeopardised,” he reportedly said.
Referring to a ministerial dialogue on climate finance held on 20 November in Warsaw, Suwei said the ‘finance ministerial’ showed “almost no actual finance” and the “loss and damage talks that have stalled because developed countries refuse to engage on the substance of an international mechanism.”
He added that “Warsaw has not seen any increase in emission reductions nor increased support for adaptation before 2020 – on these things it has actually taken the process backward.” He expressed China’s strong disappointment over the backtracking by developed countries from their commitments on mitigation ambition and finance.
The countries Su is presumably referring to are Japan, which last weekditched its target of cutting emissions 25% by 2020, and Australia’s delegation which is reported to have “wore T-shirts and gorged on snacks” during one negotiation. Australia also failed to send a minister, sending a diplomat instead.
Updated at 12.20pm GMT
Polish press conference
Beata Jaczewska, Poland’s deputy environment minister and head of the Polish delegation, has been updating delegates on progress at the talks– she sounds an upbeat note but is vague on details:
We are hoping to close the meeting as soon as possible
The main three priorities are
Decision on ADP [roadmap to Paris in 2015]
Decision on longterm finance
Decision on loss and damage mechanism
Those three are still open
They are progressing with small steps, with a huge effort of all the ministers faciliating
At this stage… I’m conveying a very positive message to you. I can’t give you too many details, but we are on a very good track
Updated at 12.33pm GMT
$100m for climate adaptation fund
Jaczewska says the climate adaptation fund, which was setup in 2008 to provide money for poorer countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change, was “running out of money” but donors at Warsaw have agreed $100m for it (she initially said $100bn before correcting herself, saying “that would be too much”).
$100m is “more than we expected,” she says.
She adds that as the fund ”was created in Poznan [the climate talks in 2008], the Polish presidency has some emotional attachment to it.”
Updated at 12.41pm GMT
The Polish press conference has drawn to a close.
Referring to the latest text on work towards a 2015 deal, published this morning, Jaczewska said:
If you look at the text in the morning… this text is bringing gigantic progress
The strength of the text, she says, is that whatever deal is agreed in 2015 will apply to everyone – but we knew that already, as it’s what governments agreed in Durban two years ago.
We do emphasise that the new agreement will concern everybody, everybody. After so many years, it is really a great progress in my judgement. Of course, not everyone is happy, it is a compromise proposal, it is a draft
Reaction to France
Karine Gavand, head policy advisor for Greenpeace France, has responded to the French press conference this morning, saying:
France boasts of wanting the 2015 COP [conference of the parties] in Paris to be a ‘conference of solutions’. If so, they should start promoting this ‘positive agenda’ in Europe. This requires determined and ambitious targets for developing solutions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. [French development minister] Pascal Canfin stated that the objective is for each country to share their emissions targets in early 2015 for Paris to be a success. In fact, these objectives must be on the table in 2014. It is up to Europe and France to lead by example: A target, in March, of at least a 55% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increasing renewable energy to 45% by 2030 across Europe will send a strong signal to all parties.
UN on Thursday’s NGO walk-out
The UN has tried to put a brave face on yesterday’s walkout by environment and development groups.
Marcin Korolec, the Polish president of the conference (who was sacked this week by his prime minister, remember, but is still continuing in his role at the talks), said in a statement:
I regret the fact that some NGOs decided to leave the COP19 climate conference to express their disapproval towards the extending negotiations. Activities of non-governmental organisations are often thought to draw attention towards the issues perceived by them as important. This is how I would understand this decision. I hope that the voice of NGOs will remain present in the discussion on how.
The Polish government also reportedly said WWF, one of the groups that walked out, had returned to the conference. WWF has put out a statement today saying it has not returned:
To clarify: WWF has not returned as observers to the conference and will not do so
Updated at 1.27pm GMT
Is Warsaw the worst climate conference ever?
That’s the provocative question posed by Elizabeth May, the leader of the Canadian Green party, in a post on her blog.
On balance, she reckons, it loses out to Copenhagen in 2009 – when extremely high hopes were met with a weak result – but is still the worst since the UN climate talks started in 1992.
Things are in a serious state of disarray, with delegates reporting episodes of bad faith bargaining, industrialized countries demanding previously agreed upon decisions be re-opened
She’s also predicting the talks will spill over into tomorrow.
When the head of the Polish delegation was asked at a press conference earlier today if ‘extra time’ into Saturday was likely, she said “hopefully not.”
Officially, the talks are scheduled to close at 5pm GMT today. That’s looking pretty unlikely judging from this morning’s slow trickle of developments.
Updated at 1.31pm GMT
Updated at 1.40pm GMT
Forests agreement reached
One spot of good news: financing rules have been agreed for a scheme to reduce carbon emissions caused by trees being cut down.
The UN scheme is known as Redd+, short for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. Here’s the UN’s explainer:
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (Redd) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “Redd+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
“This sends a positive signal to national governments and to funding agencies,” says Rosalind Reeve, a forestry expert with the Ateneo School of Government.
Timetable to Paris
EU climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, has tweeted to echo France’s position earlier today, on the need for countries to put forward their emissions targets well before a deal is negotiated in Paris in December 2015.
Fiona Harvey says things do appear to be moving at Warsaw, finally:
Some progress at the talks: [UK energy and climate secretary] Ed Davey hails an agreement on MRV – measuring, reporting, verifying emissions – and says issues like this are being sorted quickly to clear the way for the bigger issues. Loss and damage going well, reports the US, which will agree to “a mechanism, an arrangement, an entity” to coordinate funding that would be used to help poor nations stricken by climate change.
Question marks still over a timetable but Europe says is sticking to its guns on the issue.
Sophie Yeo at RTCC has been speaking to Sir David King, the UK’s former chief scientific adviser and the founding director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, who thinks things are going better in Warsaw than some are suggesting:
Contrary to what many are saying, he thinks the discussions so far have gone “reasonably well”, but we will know better by midnight. The US has been a good ally to the UK, while China is becoming an “exemplary platform” for climate action at home. He stands by what US climate envoy Todd Stern has been saying all along—that voluntary commitments are the best way for an effective climate change treaty to be signed off in 2015.
This is the key paragraph in the UN document published early this morning, on how countries should get to a climate deal in 2015:
To invite all Parties to initiate or intensify domestic preparations for their intended nationally determined commitments towards achieving the ultimate objective of the Convention and to communicate them well in advanceof the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties in a manner that facilitates the clarity, transparency and understanding of the intended commitments
In other words, countries should lay out how much they’ll cut emissions by “well in advance” of when ministers meet in Paris in December 2015. But that sort of language on timing is wooly, even by the standards of these negotiations, especially given a clear timetable towards Paris is the key thing Warsaw is meant to achieve.
It reminds me of the children’s book, Spinderella, where a numerate, detail-loving spider gets continually exasperated with her spider family’s vague references to “loads” and lots” when all poor Spinderella wants is numbers.
AP reports the US climate envoy, Todd Stern, as saying the text needs “stronger language.”
Updated at 3.05pm GMT
Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator for the the Philippines, who gave an emotional speech at the opening of the talks just after the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan, and who has been fasting until a deal is struck in Warsaw, has this to say:
It has been very difficult for my delegation negotiating with the typhoon at the back of our minds. It is also very frustrating to see the lack of urgency in this process.
Over the last two weeks, we have been dismayed by actions by developed countries that lowered their emission reduction targets even as they continue to block progress on finance and loss and damage. Political will seems to be going in the opposite direction.
To those who walked out of this conference, we thank you for your support. While we physically cannot join you, we are with you in spirit. We share your anger and frustration.
To those who are left in the conference center, we are seeing this sense of frustration spreading not just in Warsaw but all over the world. We must heed the call for serious action and urgency.
Updated at 3.20pm GMT
Compromises on ‘loss and damage’
The BBC describes the summit as “crawling” towards its end tonight (or, as is looking increasingly likely, tomorrow).
Compromises on the issue of loss and damage – which we’ve covered earlier on – appear to be underway:
The developing nations are looking for a new institution with legal and executive powers that would compensate people for loss and damage caused by extreme weather events, exacerbated by global warming. Richer countries want it to be dealt with within the existing institutions.
“We’re trying now to bridge those two and really see if there can be a two-step approach starting with co-ordinating the already existing framework and seeing how we can enhance that in a second phase but that needs to be captured in a decision,” said Mr Nafo [Seyni Nafo from Mali, the spokesman for the Africa Group of countries].
Reaction to forests deal
Some more reaction to the progress on forests earlier today, from Pipa Elias, Redd+ and agriculture expert for the Union of Concerned Scientists:
Amid cheers and applause negotiators, announced the completion of the Redd+ program design. We now have a complete definition of what the program is, how it works and how participants will be paid. This program is a fabulous example the UN climate process in action. Parties came together, worked through the tough spots and negotiated a program that will effectively address climate change. Redd+ will save forests, benefit communities and reduce emissions.
With the technical and financing decisions signed and sealed at today’s plenary, the Red+ house is built, though there will be a bit more work in terms of furnishing it. The biggest issue is that developed countries still need to ante up the $20-$35 billion a year necessary for a global Redd+ program. But, in the meantime, developing countries can get started now. We couldn’t be more thrilled with this outcome.
The US has added its weight to countries calling for a clearer timetable out of Warsaw towards 2015, according to a briefing by Hedegaard:
Friday afternoon at a COP [conference of the parties], I am always very happy that I am not a journalist anymore, because everything looks like complete confusion and mess. And of course many things are going on, but I would like to say that when you look at the talks up in the ADP [the strand of the talks working towards a deal in 2015], I hear a lot of constructive forces. In the EU, we have been pushing for a good path way to Paris, I must say that we have really many other strong forces saying this load and clear. Countries from Africa, from South America, from lot of African countries, really many are sort of joining this push and I think that it is a very good and encouraging sign that among these forces, we now also have the United States.
I’ll have more on this development from Fiona Harvey soon.
PricewaterhouseCoopers has picked up on Hedegaard and Davey’s ‘homework’ analogy. Celine Herweijer, partner at PwC, says if matters aren’t clearer after next year’s summit in Lima, hopes of a 2015 deal in Paris are dead:
What we do know from previous COPs, is that a lot can happen in the inevitable long final day and night. Today may provide the vital direction countries need to do their homework in the months ahead and make Lima the final hurdle for Paris, not just another staging post in negotiations.
Countries need to leave Warsaw with a clear understanding of what they need to do in the next 12 months before the COP in Lima, so they can arrive in Peru with commitments on finance and emissions reduction to put on the table. If Peru does not deliver this, it pretty much puts the nail in the coffin for a climate deal in Paris 2015.
We’re so close now to 2015, yet the nature of the beast that the climate negotiations have become, means we are crawling slowly towards what we all hope will be the finish line.
It’s a funny old game
Fiona Harvey has listed the top football metaphors the Poles’ choice of venue have wrought:
One of the perils of holding a major international conference in a football stadium is that the assembled politicians and dignitaries see it as a prime opportunity to score some sports metaphors. They don’t get many such opportunities, given the dry nature of these long-running negotiations, so maybe they can be forgiven – but some of the comments were clearly own goals. Here’s a selection of the finest:
Donald Tusk, prime minister of Poland:
“The match is won by the team. In order to win, players have to collaborate.”
Christiana Figueres, UN’s top climate official:
“There are no two sides, but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves.”
Ed Davey, chairing a meeting and calling a new speaker to the podium:
“Peter is now warming up on the touchline.”
And an extended riff from Rachel Kyte of the World Bank:
“The UK’s football teams are sometimes accused of punting the ball down the field in the hope someone tall will pick it up. [In the climate talks] we should play tiki-taka [the preferred elegant, passing style of World Cup champions Spain]. This should be the World Cup of climate change.”
To which Davey responded:
“The World Bank is trying to take over FIFA.”
And finally, a startling admission from the US special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern. Seated in the EU’s main meeting room, which sports the football jerseys of all the member states across one wall (the UK is represented by a Team GB shirt from the Olympics, rather than the national sides), he could not resist commenting that his three soccer-mad sons would love it. But as for Stern himself: “I’m a fan of the Spanish team.”
Updated at 4.43pm GMT
China isn’t helping the framing coming out of the talks that it’s the villain of the piece, obstructing efforts at Warsaw to lay out a clear timetable to a deal in 2015.
AP reports Chinese delegate Liu Zhenmin as saying :
“We should talk, and we should deliver and announce during the process of negotiations… I don’t know when. I cannot say timeframe.”
US backs timetable for global climate deal at Warsaw talks
Here’s the latest state of play, in our news report by Fiona Harvey:
The US has thrown its weight firmly behind the push for a clear timetable towards a global deal on climate change, in a move that may help break the deadlock at the United Nations talks in Warsaw.
A clear timeline setting out when countries should make public their targets on greenhouse gas emissions, and how those targets should be assessed by other participants, has been a major sticking point in the final hours of the long-running talks.
Many countries see such a programme as essential to ensure that a global agreement can be signed in Paris in late 2015, which is the goal of these negotiations. But as the talks entered their final hours on Friday, there was still no consensus on the issue.
Todd Stern, the US special envoy for climate change, told journalists the US wanted an agreed timeline, and that countries should aim to set national targets no later than the first quarter of 2015, which is when the US aims to have its new targets.
Updated at 4.56pm GMT
I’m closing the live blog now – you can follow all the latest developments on the climate talks over the weekend on our dedicated page.
Here’s a summary of today’s final day at the Warsaw talks:
- Countries have promised $100m to top up an existing fund to help poor countries adapt to climate change that was “running out of money”
- Financing rules have been agreed for a scheme to reduce carbon emissions caused by trees being cut down (Redd+)
- The US has joined a group of countries including the EU backing a clear timetable towards a climate deal in 2015
- A compromise deal on the issue of ‘loss and damage’, crucial to developing countries, appears to be close
- Countries agreed on a draft text published early this morning, but the US says it needs stronger language
As always, thanks for reading.