Divided they stand: Climate talks head for tough finale | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Divided they stand: Climate talks head for tough finale

ByJayashree Nandi, Dubai
Dec 11, 2023 05:44 AM IST

Representatives from countries and blocs made statements on their objectives during a “majlis” gathering organised by the COP28 presidency UAE, which called the sitting in an effort to break the deadlock over a number of contentious issues

The gulf between developed and developing country blocs in how to chart the future of climate action came sharply into view on Sunday, with divisions now appearing to cast a shadow on even some foundational principles the world agreed on in the past, such as the notion that those who historically spewed more carbon emissions take a larger share of responsibility.

Activists protest against fossil fuels at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday. (AP)
Activists protest against fossil fuels at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday. (AP)

Representatives from countries and blocs made statements on their objectives during a “majlis” gathering organised by the COP28 presidency UAE, which called the sitting in an effort to break the deadlock over a number of contentious issues.

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Simply put, there are two broad divisions: developed and developing countries, with some other blocs, such as petro-states that rely on oil for their economy, and vulnerable small islands, which face an almost immediate existential risk, taking positions somewhere in between.

The extremes in the divergences were captured in the statements by ministers from Saudi Arabia, an oil producer, and Switzerland, one of the richest countries.

Saudi Arabia resists attempts to target oil

Saudi Arabia has resisted attempts by wealthy countries to target oil. “We have raised concerns on attempts to attack energy sources instead of emissions. There are attempts to present sectoral targets with lack of differentiation. This platform should not be used to target specific sources of energy. It is at odds with the Paris Agreement and has a policy prescriptive nature,” said the representative from Saudi Arabia, making it clear that the country will not accept any outcome that attacks specific sources of emissions.

On the other end, Switzerland on behalf of the High Ambition Coalition, said they will not accept principles of equity or differentiation — the foundations for a principle known as CBDR-RC, or common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacity. “We cannot leave this COP without having guidance towards our new set of nationally determined contribution (NDC). We need all NDCs to be aligned with Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree C goal and call on all countries to align with absolute economy wide NDCs. We need key players. We need unity. We cannot accept references to differentiation that seek to redefine the careful balance reached in Paris. Let us all agree to global objectives and it is up to countries how they can reach them,” said the country’s representative during the meeting.

Conspicuously, the US, the largest historical emitter and one of the biggest oil and gas producers, either chose not to or did not find a slot to speak at the majlis. India too did not make an intervention but the Like Minded Developing Countries(LMDCs) — a coalition of developing nations of which India is a member — pointed out that significant oil and gas expansion plans were present in certain developed nations.

Bolivia, on behalf of LMDCs, said the solution to climate crisis is already in the UN’s climate convention. “We don’t need to create additional solutions… we need to implement the principles of convention and Paris Agreement which is equity and CBDR,” said Diego Pacheco, Bolivia’s negotiator.

“Forces are coming from the Global North. There is a lot of procrastination, a lot of protectionism… a lot of hypocrisy, lies and injustice. Hypocrisy is from many countries in their statements… developed countries are trying to create a comfortable solution to solve climate crisis. They want business as usual. Several countries are saying they want to phase out fossil fuels and those are countries that are in fact expanding fossil fuel production in the world — US, Australia, Norway, Canada and many others. We need to hold that hypocrisy [to account] Mr President…,” Pacheco said.

GST: One of the core components of talks

COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber will now need to forge consensus based on these views and issue a fourth iteration of the global stocktake (GST) text on Monday morning. The global stocktake is one of the core components of this year’s climate negotiations, where countries will agree on an assessment on how they have fared in their actions till now and what steps need to be taken.

The fourth draft, observers said, will now need to do a balancing act between phasing out fossil fuels and meeting the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

The representative from the European Union (EU) indicated the bloc was willing to walk the extra mile to keep the 1.5°C goal in sight. “We have no alternative than to follow the science. We have to peak emissions by 2025 at the latest and must reduce emissions by 43% this decade. We need to reach net zero emissions by mid-century. We need rapid reductions in all greenhouse gases. We need NDCs that are aligned with Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C. This can happen through a range of measures including phase-out of fossil fuels. Yes, we all see this will be a massive transition, delaying it will not help. This is an economic challenge for producers and consumers. So, we have suggested a balance of measures, we are ready to work with parties to find such a package,” said EU Climate Action commissioner Wopke Hoekstra.

The representative from Colombia illustrated the need to address all concerns, saying efforts must be to explain to a country like Saudi Arabia which has its entire economy dependent on fossil fuels how the climate action blueprint will be feasible.

Negotiators said they are expecting tough fights on Monday and Tuesday. “I think we will get an outcome. We will be sanguine about the fact that we have not got a clean text yet and so we don’t have situation where parties are fighting over something. But we will get there tomorrow morning. The next text will be a package of texts which will be a balance and then we can expect fights. Its normal at this point,” said a negotiator who did not wish to be named.

This person added that the global stocktake is effectively the cover decision.

“We have strong language on mitigation, we will need how to balance that. Things will get political. Parties want a lot of material on Article 2.1 C of Paris Agreement (Climate Finance). That’s the political balance we need to strike. Parties are asking how it can be fair,” this person added.

“Coal has not yet been a big topic of discussion yet. That’s a lot to do with expectations from UAE given that it is not a coal economy, so the conversations have been much more about fossil fuels. We know there are some big countries that don’t like to talk about coal and that continues to be the case. It is not easy and we have to navigate which political transactions we have to make and how coal factors in,” the negotiator said.

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