Warsaw UN Climate Talks: What is there to negotiate?

WarsawWeak link between multilateral negotiations, agreed goals and financing is stalling the talks.

The persistence of climate change negotiators huddled together in Warsaw from over 190 countries is laudable. Even when countries are failing to reign in their greenhouse emissions that is causing a rise in global temperatures, the negotiations keep going. This is their 19th attempt under the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which meets every year to get member countries to take action on climate change. But ‘action’ seems to be an elusive and a constantly receding goal as the link between multilateral negotiations, agreed goals and financing is weak.

The Warsaw gathering is not expected to lead to immediate actions that everyone is hoping for, namely collective and concrete measures, and financing to bring deep reductions in the global emissions. Instead it is expected to lay foundation for a global pact to deal with climate change beyond 2020.

Why 2020? At 2011 Durban climate conference it was agreed to establish a new global climate treaty which will set emission targets for all UNFCCC parties. This will replace the Kyoto Protocol, the first legally-binding agreement for developed nations and whose second commitment period ends in 2020. The blueprint coming out of Warsaw will be discussed at climate talks in Lima next year before a global accord is signed in Paris in 2015, and will likely to go into force in 2020. It is a long journey from Warsaw via Lima, Paris and other negotiation hotspots before we seen any substantive action to bring down emissions. To keep up the pressure, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will organize a global summit on climate change next September.

While concerns are being expressed about the architecture of agreement to be signed in Paris, whether it would be obligatory for all parties, and what the delivery mechanism are going to be, a lot depends on how much negotiators are able to narrow their differences in Warsaw, and raise ambition levels of member countries to take long-term action.

Why bring UN into the negotiations?

Climate change is a problem without passports. It affects everyone and yet no single country can provide all the solutions. International cooperation and collective action is inevitable to produce a climate safe pathway for the present and following generations. The UN because of its universal membership, legitimacy and convening power plays a pivotal role. It ensures that negotiations continue at the multilateral level and transparency is maintained in this increasingly complex universal problem. Avenues exist for civil society organisations to attend sessions as observers and exchange views with the delegates.

Multilateral processes can be cumbersome and slow. Each country, blocks and groups advance their interests in negotiations – trying to gain as much as possible while ceding little by building alliances, striking compromises, and introducing new submissions for deliberation. But the inclusiveness also makes the eventual outcome more effective. The breakthroughs usually happen incrementally, and require countless hours and sleepless nights during the conference of parties (COP) meetings to come up with a document that is acceptable to “all”. This document then forms the basis for further negotiations and action.

Negotiations on the UN platform can be fast-tracked and action phase brought earlier if all member states demonstrate the political will to act and make reasonable compromises between national interests and collective interests, and between short-term gains and long-term advantages. Unfortunately this political will is eluding the climate change negotiations, and the pace of negotiations remain slow.

Read the complete paper UN Climate Warsaw- What is there to Negotiate -Vikas Nath

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