Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Update: Week Two of the UN Climate Negotiations in Warsaw, Climate Action Hotline 11.22.13


US Climate Action Network

Update: Week Two of the UN Climate

Negotiations in Warsaw

COP19 Climate March

On Saturday, in a peaceful climate march, people from around the world took to the streets outside the UN Climate Talks in Warsaw (COP19) to demand climate justice. Photo Credit: Jamie Henn/


The second and final week of the 19th annual international climate negotiations is well underway in Warsaw, Poland. These meetings are meant to put the world on the path to the next international climate agreement, which countries aim to complete in 2015 and put into action in 2020. While the climate negotiations may seem half a world away, what happens at home matters to what happens here. At this point, most of the key discussions in the negotiations have been handed from issue negotiators to high-level ministers who have been arriving over the past few days. As the Warsaw meetings wrap up, the negotiations will be driven by political rather than technical discussions, with phone-calls bouncing between capitals and countries’ Warsaw delegations.

Climate ambition is one of the biggest discussions here as negotiators enter the final hours of talks, especially with a few key countries announcing they will be decreasing—rather than increasing—their short-term emissions reductions goals. On climate ambition, delegates are having two discussions: one about countries’ collective climate ambition in the lead up to 2020, and one about what countries want to achieve together after a new climate agreement goes into effect in 2020. One of the trickiest parts of the conversation is that pre-2020 and post-2020 climate successes depend on one another. In grappling with these issues and more, negotiators got a dose of perspective: in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, Philippine negotiator Yeb Sano delivered a global petition from 590,000 people calling for greater ambition to his fellow delegates from around the world.

Countries that have already shared their pre-2020 climate goals with the world find themselves in a bit of a comfort zone here in Warsaw, without too much political pressure to increase their ambition. Most of the country-to-country peer pressure is on countries that have not declared any climate commitments yet. Meanwhile, much of the civil society pressure is directed at Australia and Japan. News broke this week that both countries may be backsliding on commitments. Japan has drastically cut the emissions reduction goal it announced in 2009 (25% below 1990 levels by 2020). Projections now put Japan’s 2020 emissions above 1990 levels by over 3%. Similarly, a restructuring of Australia’s domestic climate policy may be in process. If completed, the move could increase emissions by 2020.

For longer term commitments beyond 2020, some countries do seem to be coalescing around the idea of “nationally-determined commitments,” an approach US negotiators feel would help ensure broad participation and a strong climate agreement in 2015. The basic idea behind the proposal is that each country would put their own goal on the table, and the new global agreement would add them up. Under the proposal, countries would in theory get to “review” one another’s climate goals and actions and ratchet up ambition, but many elements of how the review process would work remain unclear. Some members of US civil society here support the “nationally-determined commitments” approach, while others worry it would not add up to science-based global emissions reductions, or include sufficient measures to ensure fairness among various countries’ contributions.

Discussions among civil society on the influence of the fossil fuel industry within the negotiation process intensified earlier this week surrounding a coal industry summit also hosted in Warsaw. By later in the week frustrations had mounted, culminating in the decision by some civil society groups to withdraw from the negotiations, in protest of the lack of political will needed to rise to the climate challenge. Meanwhile others remained inside the talks to continue advocacy for key decisions that can still be made at these talks, including a roadmap for the 2015 agreement and for ramping up climate finance. The groups that withdrew stand in solidarity with the people affected by climate impacts around the world, as does the entire Climate Action Network.

Finally, climate finance and loss and damage (or, the effects of climate change beyond the limits of adaptation) are hot topics here, and those discussions are likely to grow even more lively before delegates go home this weekend. Stay tuned for more updates on climate finance and loss and damage in our next and final readout from this year’s climate negotiations.


In the next Hotline:

With so many issues at play, it is pretty unusual to have a theme day at the climate negotiations, but Wednesday was climate finance day here in Warsaw. In Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries promised developing countries a total of $100 billion per year by 2020 to support avoided deforestation, clean technologies, and climate adaptation. For the most part, countries remain unsure of both where those funds will come from, and how they will gradually begin to increase their level of funding toward that goal over the next few years. How will these finance issues play out as the Warsaw meetings come to a close? What will happen to loss and damage, another central issue in the negotiations?  And last but not least, how will the overall outcome of these meetings measure up to civil society groups’ expectations?  Find out in the next USCAN Hotline!

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