In climate fight at Paris, the devil will be in the detail

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, Paris
  • Updated: Dec 07, 2015 00:47 IST
Participants from 196 countries will deliver an overarching climate framework at the end of next week. (REUTERS Photo)

Ministers from 196 countries will discover the devil in the detail when they move forward to deliver an overarching climate framework by the end of next week, with finance as the biggest sticking point.

The draft of the Paris Outcome has been trimmed down from 54 pages to 21 but the 10-page reflection note appended by two co-chairs indicates a “difficult but possible” task awaits the ministers.

Developing countries — the G-77 — and China will not agree to any Paris deal without a clear roadmap on finance and differentiation as defined in 1992 and embedded in all six elements of the proposed agreement, said Meena Raman of Third World Network. G-77 and China also wants more clarity on the rules for the game next week.

But she gave hope. “We should not lose the optimism.”

The US may not agree to differentiated regime for measurement and verification of climate action commitments but can put some more money on the table if the other pool of donors get expanded, said Jennifer Morgan of US-based think tank World Resources Institute (WRI).

India and other countries will open their “real” cards next week but the most watched would be the two silent players from the first week of negotiations — Europe and China. There haven’t been much press briefings by the two big emitters and their activity at Le Bourget has been minimal.

An Indian negotiator said the 28-nation European Union seems to be divided on a lot many issues and one of its members, France, is organising the conference. “We will see a more aggressive EU next week as they will like their position to be clearly reflected in the outcome.”

China may continue to negotiate its position through different groups such as the Like Minded Developing Countries which has been very vocal in the first week and G-77 without coming to forefront.

“Unlike us, there is no pressure on China to offer more. They have already committed what the West wanted, though because of their domestic air pollution compulsions,” a civil society observer said.

That is the broader geo-politics.

The narrow real fight will be over inclusion or exclusion of every word, comma or a full stop and even a country as small as Tuvalu in the Pacific can stall proceedings as they did in Copenhagen.

“It took us one night to decide between legally enforceable and legally binding in the Durban outcome. We opted for legally enforceable as negotiators got ready to leave the venue,” said an old-timer explaining the nature of the final round of talks.

So, the debate and discussion necessarily is not over the broader terms but the final language in the agreement. “Shall mean binding and should not-binding. So, negotiators may fight for hours to replace shall with should. And that is why the devil of the agreement lies in detail of the text,” said an Indian negotiator.

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