Documents detailing the most recent draft for the climate change agreement aimed at limiting global warming have been sent to delegates for all of the countries present at COP21 in Paris.
“All delegations have received the documents,” said Janos Pasztor, the UN’s Assistant Secretary General for Climate Change. He went on: “[the delegates] are reading them, they will be discussing the paper in their groups, and then there will be feedback provided to a new plenary organized this evening.”
The hope is to formulate a “legally binding agreement” that all countries will sign up to with the ultimate aim of “limit[ing] global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius”, according to the UN’s news centre.
“We need to join our forces”
Following the distribution of the latest draft and alluding to the collective responsibility of all countries present, COP21 President Laurent Fabius said that “I am convinced we will be able to find an agreement but to achieve this we need to join our forces, we need to unite our efforts, and we need to be guided by this need to achieve compromises.”
Fabius said to the delegates that the document “strives to reflect as faithfully as possible the compromises that are emerging,” and that it made sure “not to prejudge the resolution of the most political points.” Referring to the undecided clauses of the proposed agreement, he said that they had been careful “to maintain a balance between the various options that remain open in the text.”
Dissent in the Ranks
The road towards this agreement has not been an entirely smooth one, with China, Saudi Arabia and India in particular displaying resistance to some of the terms.
China and Saudi Arabia in particular took issue with the proposed clause that would require all countries to conduct regular carbon reviews (most likely every five years), and to regulate their emissions accordingly.
Chinese delegates agreed to the idea of regular reviews but were fairly insistent on making the subsequent changes to emissions voluntary rather than mandatory.
Saudi Arabia’s delegate claimed that the country was “too poor” to be able to actually implement the proposed regular reviews, insisting that as a “developing country”, they do not have the infrastructure to make it viable, despite being the world’s 15th largest economy.
India have been somewhat more open to compromise than previously expected, but President Narendra Modi made it clear that he believes genuinely developing countries should be allowed concessions as they build up their infrastructure to the point where it becomes viable to wholly focus on green energy. Modi’s point was more of a general one, emphasising “collective but differentiated responsibilities” among countries in question.
He argued that in order for India to get to a point where they can fulfil the requirements that he rightly agrees should ultimately be globally accepted, then he must be allowed to increase coal production in the meantime, as he tried to bring electricity to the millions of Indian citizens who currently are going without. On this particular point he has been fairly uncompromising and thus has been seen as putting up something of a barrier between the current position and the ultimate acceptance of a global agreement.
High Ambition Coalition
The latest developments in the attempt to bring China, India and Saudi Arabia (among some other nations) on side involved the US weighing and joining a group calling itself the ‘high ambition coalition’.
The high ambition coalition is made up of around half of the 195 countries involved in COP21 talks, and has the fairly direct aim of making the various clauses opposed by dissenting countries mandatory in the final agreement.
The most important clause that the coalition wishes to emphasise is the worldwide acceptance of the target that global temperatures must not rise to more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era levels.
Indian environment minister Prakash Javakedar spoke out against these requirements, echoing Modi’s statements but in a more direct way, saying: “I understand fully the demand for mentioning 1.5C. However, a 1.5C goal would require developed countries to massively reduce their emissions and massively scale up their financial support to developing countries” adding that “this is not happening.”
US secretary of state John Kerry had, prior to Javakedar’s comments, pledged and extra $430 million in financial aid to poorer countries to be used to help fight climate change by the year 2020. However, this did little to assuage Javakedar, who continued to warn against “putting the polluters and the victims at the same level” in a statement that seemed to draw a somewhat reductive divide that, presumably, placed India – the world’s 4th largest carbon emitter – in the latter camp, implicitly taking it out of the former.
It is believed that some of the delegates who are placing the bulk of the importance on the actual reaching of an accord are concerned that there might have to be a trade-off between reaching this temperature target and having China and India committing to the five year review and reduction plans.