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Warsaw delivers agreement on climate change talks

Averting a possible breakdown, the United Nations climate change talks agreed for a last minute intervention and put in place the ‘Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage’ (IMLD), being looked at as a ‘compromise’ agreement by many.

world Updated: Nov 24, 2013 08:22 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

Averting a possible breakdown, the United Nations climate change talks agreed for a last minute intervention and put in place the ‘Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage’ (IMLD), being looked at as a ‘compromise’ agreement by many.

After more than 30-hours of continuous negotiations, the Conference of Parties (COP19) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed for the mechanism along with all developing countries agreeing for a ‘contribution’ for reducing emission targets. The third achievement, if it can be called after a long-drawn negotiation, is some kind of a financial roadmap.

The Warsaw IMLD came out as a strong showcase of involved parties sticking to their respective stand for a long time and agreeing to a compromised version only as a last minute emergency measure. Disagreement over inclusion of a particular word threatened to disband the process altogether but for a break given by the COP president to thrash out the differences. Negotiators finally agreed that the IMLD will be a part of Adaptation fund, to come from developed countries for helping vulnerable poor nations to fight the devastation caused by climate change extremes.

Before IMLD was thrashed out, agreement on emission reduction target had remained as a major bone of contention. But again, a last-minute compromise – by change of a word – ensured its passage. It was agreed that all countries need to curb emissions and described the necessary steps for it as ‘intended nationally determined contribution’ wherein the word ‘contribution’ was inserted instead of ‘commitment’. The emission targets, which may now be voluntary for the developing countries, are to be announced by them by the first quarter of 2015.

All through the negotiations and India, China and other developing countries held on together and repeatedly clashed with developed countries, especially the United States, over the wordings of the draft decision. The new agreement – to be signed at Paris in 2015 – should ideally be including new emission reduction targets, especially by industrialised countries to prevent global temperatures rising above the 2 degrees Celsius danger level and also financial commitments by rich nations to help fight poor countries the adverse impacts of climate change.

“All of us are tired, but happy. This is a firm step towards Lima (the next COP venue) and Paris (where the new agreement is to be signed) but this does not lead us to a 2 degrees Celsius world yet. It is imperative to take every possible step by balancing the contrast between urgency of science and reality of politics,” said Christiana Figueres, COP executive secretary.

But the announcement for the Warsaw ILDM drew immediate criticism from climate activists. “It was heartening to see the US fold to pressure from people across the world in allowing the word ‘mechanism’ into the outcome and recognizing loss and damage is beyond adaptation. However, instead of establishing a system that could respond to the new climate realities, they have established more talks and given no real resources,” said Lidy Nacpil from the Jubilee South, Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development.

So was the decision to change “commitment” to “contribution” from the agreed text heavily criticised. Terming it as an ‘agreement for countries to discuss their contributions to the international effort towards the ultimate objective of the Convention’, Meena Raman, an expert from the Third World Network said, “This means that post-2020 contributions will have to add up to avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. The negotiations next year will have to grapple with the emissions budget required and how to share it fairly based on historical responsibility and capacities.”

Soumya Dutta from consortium of climate change NGOs from India ‘Beyond Copenhagen’, alleged that the replacement of "commitment" with "contributions" is the same kind of dilution that had happened when the "binding commitment" for reduction of polluting gases as part of the Kyoto Protocol was replaced by the "Pledge & Review" at Cancun (COP16).

“This so-called ‘finance roadmap’ leads up the garden path. The inclusion of a specific number was blocked by the US and others entirely. It provides none of the clarity required and all of the obfuscation expected of rich governments who refuse to recognize their legal and moral responsibility to provide international climate finance,” Brandon Wu, ActionAid International.