Climate negotiators struggle to find agreement in Warsaw

Pressure on negotiators at UN climate change conference to agree on ‘road map’ for next two years

Ministers and negotiators from more than 190 countries were last night trying to cobble together a credible outcome at the UN’s 19th climate change conference, to pave the way for an international agreement in Paris before the end of 2015.

The two-week conference came down to the wire, with agreement elusive on key issues such as financial aid for developing countries, a mechanism to cover “loss and damage” from climate change and what countries were prepared to do to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In the wake of an unprecedented mass walk-out of many environment and development observers on Thursday in protest against lack of progress, there was pressure on negotiators to salvage the UN process by agreeing on a "road map" for the next two years leading to Paris.

'Complete confusion'
Amid what European climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard called the "mess" and "complete confusion" of the final day, with informal consultations, stocktaking sessions, bilateral meetings and straightforward horse-trading behind closed doors, there was a glimmer of hope.

Delegates burst into cheers at the concluding session on forests after a long-awaited agreement was reached on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation – REDD+ in UN parlance. This was welcomed by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) as “a fabulous example of the UN climate process in action”.

But Alden Meyer, a veteran UCS representative at climate talks, said the principal negotiating text on other crunch issues was still woefully inadequate and that the $100 million (€74 million) pledged here by developed countries in aid was a “drop in the bucket” compared to what would be needed.

Ms Hedegaard said the EU and US, small island states and many countries in Africa and Latin America were “pushing for a good pathway to Paris” but were being resisted by “like-minded countries” – unnamed, but known to include Australia, Canada and Russia – which wanted to “go backwards”.

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former environment editor