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Document this: Climate change talks in Katowice split over question

Nitin Sethi/Katowice 07 Dec 18 | 10:39 PM

The procedural opening of the UN Climate Change Conference COP24 in Katowice, Poland. Photo: @GlobalGoalsUN

Should the Paris Agreement rulebook be one omnibus document or should it be accepted by the countries gathered at Katowice as dozens of different documents, each reflecting one element of the rulebook?

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The question may sound ordinary, but the answer will decide if developed countries are able to further dilute their obligations under the Paris Agreement.

The question over the nature of document has got the chairs of the negotiations, the host Polish presidency, and country groups engaged in a heated discussion behind closed doors. 

Developed countries have asked that the rules be adopted by the Katowice talks as dozens of separate documents, while developing countries want it to be a single comprehensive document.

“We are concerned that just like the US and EU are trying at Katowice this year to dilute their obligations under the Paris Agreement and enhance ours, they will try do so yet again just before the next round of nationally determined contributions (targets under the pact) are given by countries in five to ten years," said a developing country negotiator about his group’s position.

“We see their intention here is more to secure parity and less to increase ambition levels. We believe greater ambition comes from ensuring equity, differentiation and science is respected," a developing country negotiator explained his group’s position," he said.

“Say, they come back in five years and say this time the transparency regime will be tightened further for developing countries or actions that are voluntary right now will be made mandatory in future. They will try to do so by not asking for a renegotiation of the Paris Agreement. They would do so by asking for the specific Katowice decisions on those particular rules to be reopened or negotiated," he explained. 

If all the rules are part of one decision, it would require all decisions to be opened for a relook. But if the rules to different parts of the Paris Agreement are in separate Katowice decisions, developed countries would selectively be able to reopen talks on just the bits they desire. 

“We see how they have been backtracking on their obligations here and they shall continue to do so at each given chance while they push developing countries to do more. This is their way of breaking differentiation and equity in the Paris Agreement and bringing parity through the backdoor between developing and developed countries," another developing country negotiator said.

“Having one rulebook would ensure that if they try to renegotiate only the parts they want, we at the same time can ask that other parts that enhance their obligations - such as climate finance, support to loss and damage, review of their actions - to be also enhanced. This is what the balance created in the Paris Agreement requires. We would be able to enhance the obligations of all countries, increase climate action as a collective and keep the differentiation intact as the pact requires," she explained. 

The debate on what format the final rulebook is adopted by the gathered 196 countries will go down to the wire, several developing country negotiators and two from the developed country groups projected. 

“Right now we are in the process of making rules for next few years. This itself is becoming difficult. But near the time we overcome these differences through ministerial consultations we shall have to deal with the mid-term question: How to make sure the rules are not left vulnerable to manipulation and selective reworking in coming years," a negotiator from the Like-Minded Developing Country group said.

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