Key issues to be sorted out

Protesters carry a globe-shaped balloon in front of Rome's Colosseum during a rally held the day before the start of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference in Rome, Italy, Nov 29, 2015.
Protesters carry a globe-shaped balloon in front of Rome's Colosseum during a rally held the day before the start of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference in Rome, Italy, Nov 29, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

The Paris talks being held till Dec 11 look like the best chance in two decades to seal a truly global climate change deal. If agreed upon, it would go into force in 2020. But major sticking points remain.

FINANCE

Poorer countries want rich nations to make good on an earlier pledge to ensure at least US$100 billion (S$141 billion) will be available every year from 2020 to pay for projects and technology to cut emissions. Vulnerable nations also want access to more funds for adaptation to climate change.

So far, only US$62 billion was available by the end of last year, a United Nations-sponsored study shows. The talks are seen by some poorer states as the last chance to sort this out. The European Union has also called on wealthy developing nations to help with financing. Failure to settle the climate cash issue could be a deal-breaker.

RATCHETING UP

National climate action plans submitted to the UN ahead of the Paris talks will not stop the world from warming beyond 2 deg C, the globally accepted limit.

The delegates in Paris need to agree on a mechanism to regularly review national actions and ratchet them up to ensure the world does not cook itself. But there is disagreement on the exact mechanism and the level of transparency in measuring, reporting and verifying national commitments.

Poorer nations want different rules for them while wealthier states prefer a more unified system.

The bottom line: Everyone wants to make sure there is no backsliding, but India, China and others will not agree on a monitoring system that they see as infringing on their sovereignty.

LOSS AND DAMAGE

Smaller island states and the least developed nations want cash for climate-related damage from storms, drought and floods beyond adaptation measures, such as building sea walls. This group of nations blames big polluting countries for changing the climate and want a mechanism to pay compensation.

In Paris, there is a demand to give permanence to the issue of loss and damage and the mechanism that deals with it. Rich nations will not discuss issues of compensation or liability. Instead, the solution could be a disclaimer that puts aside the notion of liability and compensation in relation to the Paris agreement, but would not prejudice the rights of nations to file lawsuits in other contexts. 

David Fogarty

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2015, with the headline 'Key issues to be sorted out'. Print Edition | Subscribe