Breakthrough in sight in climate talks as negotiators find compromise

US continues ‘to hang around like a bad smell’ at climate talks, says Christian Aid spokesman

Negotiators at the climate talks in Katowice are closer to completing and strengthening the rules for making the landmark Paris agreement operational.

A breakthrough was made when ministerial negotiators produced a new text at 3 am this morning following weeks of political division and slow progress.

The drafts show there has been compromise in areas such as language – to recognise the importance of the UN report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees – and on climate finance.

"We are entering the final lap. There are still people unhappy but basically it looks good. I think we will make it in the end but not everyone is satisfied yet," said German environment minister Svenja Schulze.


"This is a start, but far from finished business. Compromise texts are paid for in human lives lost and the poor and vulnerable are calling for so much more," said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.

Delegates said concerns remained about the rules for implementing Article 6 of the Paris pact and whether they can be altered to avoid double-counting of emissions and weakening the integrity of environmental markets.

A big issue for countries most vulnerable to climate change is a mechanism to find ways to cover the growing costs of “loss and damage”. This has been relegated to a footnote in the draft.

Clarity is also being sought on what countries will do after leaving Poland and how they will strengthen their commitments and targets under the agreement and ensure transparency.

Christian Aid's international climate lead Mohamed Adow said the version of the text overnight was a good basis for countries to build on today.

The main problem area that remained was the mechanism that will see nations strengthening their Paris pledges by 2020.

“This is the biggest danger for these talks and for the effectiveness of the Paris Agreement. This review and ratchet mechanism to strengthen action was what made the accord fit for purpose. If this is watered down then countries will have failed to adequately respond to the warnings of the recent IPCC report,” he added.

It was notable, he said, that the US was “still working to water down negotiations for an agreement that they have said they are going to withdraw from. Their reckless intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement was bad enough, but yet they continue to hang around like a bad smell, blocking progressive action from other countries.”

The significance of the task facing the 195 countries represented at COP24 – signatories to the historic 2015 Paris pact – was encapsulated by the US scholar Noam Chomsky. In a message sent to the talks, he said: "This generation, in fact, today's leaders and people, will make a decision as to whether organised human societies can survive in any decent liveable form. It is no less than that," he said.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times