A pushback by India and China on behalf of less-privileged nations sent the Paris climate talks into overtime as a jagged rift between developing nations and the developed world deepened on Friday over a thicket of prickly issues.
Conference president and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius announced that the final draft of an emerging agreement to curb climate change will come on Saturday morning with a meeting to adopt it slated for later in the day.
However, sources did not rule out another round of discussion that could see the talks spill into Sunday.
“The agreement can happen only on the efforts of the developing world. Rich nations will have to show spirit of accommodation and flexibility,” said environment minister Prakash Javadekar.
The French capital witnessed high drama on a chilly Friday night with US Secretary of State John Kerry threatening to walk out, saying he cannot go back to Washington with a mandatory obligation to reduce emissions and provide “predictable” finance.
Recalling the inability of the US to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the only existing climate treaty, sources quoted Kerry saying he cannot “afford” to repeat it.
A negotiator from a developing country described as “nasty” Kerry’s language in the Fabius-headed Indaba, a Zulu word that means “meeting of elders”, while he urged developing countries to consider the domestic political compulsions of the US.
“After those consultations, I will be able to present, tomorrow at 9 am, to all Parties, a text which, I am certain of it, will be approved and will be a big step forward for humanity,” said Fabius.
The NGO Third World Network’s Chee Yoke Ling described the United States as the “villain” of the negotiations, saying Kerry was not willing to give anything away but wanted to pull down the firewall between the developed and developing world and the right to climate finance.
“We (the developing world) cannot be cheated again and again,” she said, adding that the time had come for rich nations to deliver on their promises and a just agreement for all.
Sources said India and China fought hard, seeking more than 30 changes in the draft agreement submitted on Thursday to restore a differentiation balance in finance as well as the review and verification sections of the draft.
Developing countries like India want the concept of differentiated responsibilities to seep into every element of the deal while rich nations like the US view differentiation as more limited in scope.
Countries like Venezuela asked the US and other rich nations to meet their commitments, saying the developing nations had already done much more than their “capacity” and obligation under the UN climate convention.
Emerging economies like India also rejected the US proposition of expanding the donor base for climate finance to the developing world and include South-South financial cooperation (from developing to developing countries) in the agreement.
The concept of self-differentiation drew a clear “no” from the developing world that said it would undermine the UN climate convention.
Observers said India and China along with some other countries emerged as a leading voice of the developing world against the United States, which even opposed a liability clause in the compensation mechanism called “Loss and Damage” for the most vulnerable nations.
Despite the sticking points, a compromise by Saturday night or Sunday morning was not ruled out with consensus-building measures in progress.
As part of this, Javadekar held meetings with several other heads of delegations including Kerry on Friday.
For India, there was some consolation as the points of climate justice and sustainable lifestyle were mentioned in the preamble but not in the operational text.
Sources said India still had some concerns over the language in the article on finance and differentiation and it was working with other countries to settle them.