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Katowice climate talks: A glass two-thirds full

Jeffrey Gogo Climate Story
The UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, barely averted disaster after parties ground out a “truncated” deal for the Paris rulebook.

The negotiations had looked to be headed for a cul de sac on the final day Dec. 14, when a combination of some diplomatic craftsmanship from UN secretary general António Guterres and unrelenting pressure from the developing world saved the day — just only.

The talks went into extra time, past the official deadline as disputes continued “over the issue of paying poorer countries for damage caused by global warming and the use of carbon markets to reduce emissions,” reports say. There were other rows too, including that of the “rulebook” of the Paris Agreement, which comes into force in 2020.

Katowice had to vote. A new text was later released, whose “outline decision contained plans for a common rulebook for all countries, with flexibility for poorer nations.” Calls for all nations of the world to ramp up their carbon emission targets sounded louder. Also, disagreements over the question of carbon credits and carbon markets to reduce emissions persisted. This is an area of past disquiet, tainted by accusations of fraud and double accounting.

The carbon markets are somewhat a complex, perhaps opaque, kind of mechanism to lower greenhouse gases emissions. Wealthy countries typically compensate for their carbon footprint by paying or buying credits from projects that reduce emissions in other countries. A lot such carbon credits based projects have sprouted throughout Africa, particularly in forestry and clean energy industries.

In Poland, Issues around rich countries paying for the climate damage they have caused in Africa and elsewhere throughout the world stuck out like a sore thumb. Developed countries simply wouldn’t take the legal financial responsibility, concerned any such admission would “burden” them well into the future. The key issue of loss and damage was relegated to the backwaters of the negotiations — to Africa’s chagrin.

Gebru Jember Endalew, chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, said of the outcome related to the rulebook: “While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted today provide a strong basis to start implementing the Agreement. The next step, of course, is for countries to take urgent, ambitious action to fulfil their Paris Agreement commitments.”

Endalew added: “This year, it has been made very clear that no country is immune to the impacts of climate change, but it is the nearly one billion people living in the 47 least developed countries that are often hit the hardest, suffer the most, and have the least capacity to cope.”

Ahead of the Poland negotiations, Zimbabwe released its position paper, stressing out several key issues that would be acceptable to the country for a successful outcome. It hammered strongly on three subjects of poignant interest — climate change adaptation, mitigation and finance. Among other things, lead climate negotiator Washington Zhakata urged members of the Zimbabwean team of negotiators to “resist” any attempts to smuggle in concepts that are foreign to the true spirit of the Paris Agreement by negotiators from other countries (read developed countries).

He spoke of the need to keep negotiations in lane, as championed by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change while hitting hard on the necessity of transparency, accountability, technological support and availability of climate funding in the implementation of the Paris accord.

His statement generally reflects the thinking among much of Africa — that the time for action is now, not some place in the future. But after the negotiated settlement at Katowice, has Africa’s pre-conference targets been met? To a lesser extent. Someone said the Poland negotiations represented “a glass two-thirds full”.

That’s obviously from a rich country point of view the opposite might just be true for Africa.

“To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change,” said Guterres, the UN chief, as he tried to push for a deal during the last week of negotiations.

“It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.”

Source : The Herald

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