Compromise climate deal reached in Warsaw but critics brand it inadequate
Countries to indicate their ‘contributions’ to cutting emissions in early 2015
Protesters at the UN’s 19th climate change conference in Warsaw. Greenpeace said the outcome meant increased civil disobedience against new coal plants and oil rigs would be needed to prevent catastrophic climate change. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters Kacper Pempel.
The UN’s 19th climate change conference in Warsaw narrowly avoided collapse at the weekend after marathon talks produced a compromise deal that optimists believe is “just enough” to pave the way for an international agreement in Paris in two years’ time.
Amid scenes of high drama at plenary sessions, two-hour “huddles” involving key players and deep divisions between rich and poor nations, bleary-eyed delegates from more than 190 countries who had been negotiating through the night finally agreed to move the process forward.
Although nobody was entirely satisfied with the outcome, it was agreed that all countries would indicate what “contributions” they would make to cut greenhouse gas emissions in advance of the Paris conference, so the adequacy of their efforts could be examined by others.
Both the EU and the US pressed for a firm timetable for countries to “place their cards on the table” in order to avoid a repetition in Paris of the chaotic Copenhagen summit in 2009, which was attended by more than 120 heads of state or government – many of them ill-prepared.
The Warsaw meeting also agreed to establish a “loss and damage mechanism” to help poorer countries cope with the consequences of global warming, as well as provide “increasing levels” of aid for adaptation and a set of rules to reduce deforestation and degradation of tropical rainforests.
At the Copenhagen summit, developed countries pledged to provide climate aid of $100 billion per year after 2020 – 10 times the amount given annually from 2010 to 2012 – but in Warsaw they were not prepared to set an intermediate target showing how this could be achieved.
“We have seen essential progress. But let us again be clear that we are witnessing ever more frequent extreme weather events, and the poor and vulnerable are already paying the price,” said UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. “Now governments . . . must go go back to do their homework.”
European commissioner for climate action Connie Hedegaard said the Warsaw conference, which ran for two weeks, showed “how challenging the way to an ambitious result in Paris will be”. “But the last hours also showed that we are capable of moving forward.”
One of the sticking points was a renewed insistence by China, India, Brazil and South Africa that only developed countries would have to make commitments to cut their emissions – a position described as “astonishing” by US climate envoy Todd Stern.
The EU also insisted that “all countries must contribute to the future reduction efforts”, not just those subscribing to the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, which now account for only 15 per cent of global emissions. The eventual compromise was to substitute “contributions” for “commitments” in the draft text.