UN climate talks inching towards Dec deadline

A view of dried lake Poopo affected by climate change in Bolivia, on Sept 1, 2017.
A view of dried lake Poopo affected by climate change in Bolivia, on Sept 1, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

Progress made on Paris pact rule book but no issues fully resolved yet: UN climate chief

Negotiators made progress on agreeing on rules for the world's most ambitious climate agreement during talks that ended in Bangkok yesterday, but left the most contentious issues for political leaders to resolve.

Delegates from nearly 200 nations are running out of time to finalise a rule book that would allow the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to go into action. But after nearly three years of discussions, progress on the complex set of rules has been slow. This worries the United Nations, which says that the pact is critical for vulnerable nations to cope with increasingly intense storms, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

The rules are meant to be agreed on at a UN climate summit in the Polish city of Katowice in December.

"Progress has been made on most issues but no issues have been fully resolved yet," UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said yesterday.

There were hopes the Bangkok meeting would end with a streamlined draft negotiating text on most issues. Instead, the compiled text runs to more than 300 pages.

"In Katowice, we have a lot, a lot of work to do," Mr Hugh Sealy of Barbados said in concluding comments to delegates in one meeting.

Under the Paris Agreement, nearly 200 nations committed to keep the global average temperature increase to well under 2 deg C and aim for 1.5 deg C.

The pact also allows nations to pledge climate actions based on their national circumstances with the aim of regular global reviews of these pledges and then ramp them up over time.

NEED TO SPEED UP EFFORTS

These are very difficult and politically sensitive issues. For Katowice to be successful, work needs to speed up and political will needs to be intensified.

U.N. CLIMATE CHIEF PATRICIA ESPINOSA, referring to the climate summit to be held in Katowice, Poland, in December.

It also set a goal of wealthier nations mobilising a collective US$100 billion (S$138 billion) from 2020 to 2025 to help poorer countries adapt to climate extremes and green their economies.

But talks to craft the Paris rule book are complex and comprise multiple streams of negotiations, including finance, transparency of actions, technology transfer and compliance. There are a total of 20 items on the agenda.

The talks in Bangkok were bogged down by accusations from poorer nations that developed countries have not made good on the finance pledges and are being evasive on what information they will provide on future finance flows.

Transparency was another thorny issue. For example, what the scope of national action plans should be, and what developed and developing countries should report in their national climate plans during regular updates. "These are very difficult and politically sensitive issues. For Katowice to be successful, work needs to speed up and political will needs to be intensified," Ms Espinosa told reporters.

Climate analysts and non-governmental groups were cautious on the talks' outcome.

"The outcome of the Bangkok climate talks was uneven, and leaves much work to be done... to ensure a successful summit in Katowice," said Mr Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at The Union of Concerned Scientists.

Asked if there was going to be a deal in Katowice, Ms Espinosa told The Straits Times: "What I would say is that it is possible. I don't think it is impossible."

She pointed to the urgency of doing a deal and voiced hope that world leaders would be spurred on by this week's Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, and UN Climate Week in New York from Sept 24.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2018, with the headline 'UN climate talks inching towards Dec deadline'. Print Edition | Subscribe