The Warsaw conference this year once again battle lines drawn between the climate-vulnerable countries and the blocking high-emitters.
Japan announced that their emission reduction pledge would now be an increase, while Australia continued to block, based on domestic dis-interest. Countries failed to agree on a roadmap to scale up climate finance.
Structural inequalities and geopolitical power dynamics continued to pose a blockage to a fair climate treaty. But was there any progress?
A corporate COP: A dangerous sign?
This was the first climate change conference to be sponsored by companies. Was this a decision to ‘save money’ or a deliberate attempt by the Polish hosts to undermine the process?
NGOs heavily criticised the decision of the Polish hosts to hold a Coal Summit in parallel with the conference. As well as being an awful decision on the ‘PR’ front, the decision shows how little commitment Poland has on climate change. One only wonders why they were chosen to host the conference in the first place.
Poland itself subsidises coal producers with public funds, showing that they choose to commit public funds to fossil fuels, but not for climate action.
The infiltration by fossil fuel lobbyists also led to a prominent stall for the petroleum industry at the front of the exhibition centre. Was this a deliberate attempt to undermine ambition?
Meanwhile research from LSE shows that we need to leave two-thirds of fossil fuels in the ground to have ANY chance of keeping the warming to the level of 2 degrees.
Parallel meetings: A tactic to limit participation
The issue of ‘parallel meetings’ came up in the finance talks. As negotiations went on through the night, developing-countries delegates argued that Green Climate Fund discussions should not run in parallel to Long-Term Finance. It seems to be a deliberate tactic to limit participation by developing countries.
Developing-countries delegates explained many of them had only a few delegates, and also had to deal with loss and damage. There were only one or two delegates from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) participating in the finance discussions.
The United States deliberately tried to call for both the finance meetings (GCF and LTF) to run in parallel together. Why? Other countries were angry. The EU took a compromise position, and eventually the talks were held at separate times.
Finance negotiations and the UNFCCC budget
Once again, small island states brought up the issue of the scarcity of funding for participation in UNFCCC negotiations.
However, the issue of the UNFCCC budget was side-lined from the conference. It emerged only quickly at the end, before the final text was adopted.
This would be a good idea, reducing the opportunity for the climate conference to be taken over by anti-climate interests.
Lack of transparency: a growing issue
Transparency of finance for climate change was on the agenda. Developing countries highlighted concerns that Fast Start Finance has not been transparent.
A side event by the Overseas Development Institute highlighted a lack of transparency in the finance commitments by developed countries. Only a few organisations are able to try to track what is going on.
However, the irony is that the finance meetings themselves were also non-transparent. Most of the important meetings went on behind closed doors so that the high-GHG-emitting blockers can represent their agenda but hide from media and NGO criticism. Knowledge is power.
Developing countries highlighted the fact that “transparency of decision-making is very important” and that the Adaptation Fund has the highest transparency. The Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) is mandated to review finance. Philippines, representing G77, highlighted the importance of tracking the transparency of finance “support provided and received”.
Ultimately, countries will only have trust and confidence in the process if there is transparency about what is going on and vulnerable developing countries get support to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. This will be a key for an effective global climate treaty in 2015.
With little progress being made at Warsaw, responsibility for action now rests on the Climate Summit being organised by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon next year.
The whole first week of the UN Climate Talks taking place here in Bonn, Germany, have been undermined by blocking tactics from Russia.
The actions of Russia have also highlighted the structural weaknesses of the UN climate negotiations, which often grind to halt due to the actions of just one country (or in this case, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus). This is because a ‘consensus’ is needed to make agreements.
Meetings under the ‘SBI’, which stands for the ‘Subsidiary Body of Implementation’, have been unable to take place all week, leaving negotiators and NGOs extremely frustrated.
In the Bangkok session this week, developing countries expressed frustration at the slow progress of the UN ‘informal’ talks on climate change.
In Monday’s LCA (Long-term Cooperative Action) talks, Columbia asked the delegates to discuss the concerns of developing countries. United States, however, said that discussion of these concerns this would “pre-empt” the discussions next week by the Adaptation Committee. They then proceeded to read out the agenda.
Last night was UNfairplay’s first ever side event!
Side event = boring, dry, uninspiring? Not necessarily, I know I have been surprised at how engaging issues of participation have been for those involved in UNfairplay, and to those who we try to convey our findings too. Our aim was to draw attention to the report but also to highlight other schemes created to plug participation gaps at the UNFCCC. I think the reason our arguments are gaining traction and interest from all sides is very simply because they are issues of justice, and plain unfairness. My parents always hated my “its not fair” phase at the age of 7, well it’s back.
You may or may not know, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, but the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), which is a stream of the talks, currently has on its agenda a number of important ideas for improving civil society participation in this process.
These ideas include setting up an online consultation system for every major agenda item that is being discussed. This would act as a means of gauging support, recieiving alernatives before they are discussed, and possibly during negotiations, but online so the proposer does not need to be in attendance of meeting (potentially); also for a larger number of meetings to be webcast (although this probably still excludes closed meetings); a voluntary trust fund to aid participation of observers from certain developing countries.
Hello from Bonn, I’m Sophie and I’m new to Unfairplay.
Coming along to Bonn as my first involvement in the UNFCCC process has been a steep learning curve.
So what has my experience so far been?
This is a world of acronyms. At time it feels almost like learning a new language. It can be rather confusing, but as with learning a new language, it comes with a buzz as you realise you are slowly starting to get your head around it. On that note, here’s an update from Unfairplay and an insight into some of what the team have been up to this week.