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US, EU start talks on climate finance after developing nations put pressure

Nitin Sethi/Katowice 05 Dec 18 | 09:19 PM

Developed countries, including the US and the European Union, on Wednesday permitted substantial discussions on some rules for climate finance under the Paris Agreement, retreating a bit after blocking negotiations for almost a year.

The move came after developing countries, particularly the Africa Group of Nations (AGN, negotiators for African countries) hardened their stance and warned that the Katowice talks in Poland would not see a final agreement without rules on climate finance as part of the package.

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The Polish hosts and presidency of the climate negotiations on Tuesday held closed-door negotiations with just the heads of delegations in the room which led to this development. 

“I will not call it a breakthrough. I would say, they (developed countries) are seeing the light of the day. This was the first time they even engaged constructively on at least one of the several parts of the climate finance guidelines," said a chief of the developing country delegation that attended the meeting. 

ALSO READ: Katowice climate talks: Progress only on areas US, developed nations favour

According to him, the developed countries had agreed to discuss what is referred to as guidelines for article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement. Under this developed countries are required to tell how much finance they are likely to provide to developing and poor countries to fight climate change in coming years. So far they had refused to do so.

The pressure on the US and other developed countries increased on Tuesday when they tried to renegotiate parts of the Paris Agreement on climate finance, but the AGN resisted them. Switzerland, speaking for the Environment Integrity Group of countries, said it would not agree to any reference on ‘new and additional finance’ in the rules to the Paris Agreement.

The Agreement requires that the money developed countries provide is not merely a greenwashing of existing development assistance and other existing commitments but is new and additional and marked for climate action.

Reacting to several such interventions by developed countries that they believed were reopening the Paris Agreement itself to negotiations through the backdoor, the AGN stiffened its stance and was backed by most other developing countries. Developing country negotiators fought back by introducing references to article 9.5 in all parallel on-going track of negotiations on climate finance in Katowice. They also made their displeasure known to the Polish hosts in closed-door meetings. 

ALSO READ: Katowice climate change talks: The challenges and India's priorities

“I hope the AGN and others have made it clear that we are not leaving Katowice without a climate finance package. We needed to send this message loud and clear to our friends from the developed countries," said developing country delegate. 

The chair of the Africa Group, Mohamed Nasr spoke to Business Standard at length to explain that the climate finance issues were linked to having guidelines and guidance (climate jargon for rules to Paris Agreement) on several provisions of the Paris Agreement and not just the ones more in news, such as article 9.5. 

“We have an entire ecosystem of several issues under Article 9 of the Paris Agreement itself to operationalise here at Katowice. Then we have the issue of progression. It is not as if the Paris Agreement says that the US $ 100 billion annual contribution by developed countries is the final goal that shall continue for next 100 years. Developed countries should show progression collectively and individually, both," he said. 

At the time of writing this report, negotiations on climate finance were continuing in several closed-door rooms in parallel. Some developing country negotiators, including two from Africa, expressed unhappiness at the parallel and simultaneous talks.

“Too many parallel closed-door meetings are being held on the issue. How can the small teams of developing country negotiators be present in several rooms at the same time," said a developing country negotiator at Katowice. 

The AGN decided to temporarily withdraw from some of the parallel climate finance talks in exasperation, he said. 

While a comprehensive first iteration of the rulebook to Paris Agreement looked a distance target to achieve by Wednesday evening as planned, the Polish presidency had taken command of the talks through regular closed-door meetings with only the heads of delegations of all countries in order to break impasse. In these meetings, the Presidency asked for only the head of delegation and one additional diplomat be present and informed countries that each day it would hold the talks on specific issues that had seen the most trenchant divides.

“On Tuesday the heads of delegations met on climate finance. Today (Wednesday) they are meeting on issues regarding transparency," one of the head of delegation attending the meeting with the Polish presidency said. 

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