अक्टूबर 16, 2014
For days and nights, there was a constant rush in Warsaw’s national stadium from November 11 to 22. More than 8,000 people were running all the time; it was like a marathon, everyone was busy. Some were negotiators, some activists, some scientists. From spiritual leaders to capitalists to communists, activists to negotiators, people were talking about the earth in which they live.
As a member of the Nepal government delegation, I had a chance to witness most of the core negotiations. Enthusiasm was very high to learn about negotiations behind closed doors, especially at midnight meetings. These were the rooms from which NGOs and media were barred. Most of the time, NGO representatives waited outside the doors. Sometimes a few were let in, if there was no objection from any government representative.
In these sessions, as soon as the chairpersons came up with some initial texts, countries would start raising their flags to express their views. Some of the most active countries or groups of countries were European Union, India, China, Venezuela, USA, Switzerland, Australia, Brazil, Fiji on behalf of G 77 and China group of countries, Philippines, the group of Small Island Developing states and Nepal on behalf of Least Developed Countries (LDCs). After a couple of days, you would be able to predict who would first raise the flag and what they are going to say about the text. While the issues were discussed you could predict the way countries would be presenting themselves.
Satires and jokes
The negotiators frequently used satire, especially when developed and developing countries faced off, as they did ever so frequently. At one midnight session, a negotiator from a developing country pointed towards the lead negotiator from EU and said, “You look so fresh at midnight too as EU has several negotiators following the same issue, so they can sleep on relay. But we don’t have that luxury, being a developing country.” In another session where the negotiators were discussing Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), all the text was almost agreed except one word; Papua New Guinea (PNG) rejected the use of the phrase ‘Information Hub’. So the chairperson sought an alternate phrase. Several options were provided but the countries could not agree on them. Meanwhile the PNG raised his flag and said, “Let’s put XXX in the text till we agree.” The room erupted in laughter.
Climate negotiations have been going for about two decades and negotiators meet up to four times a year in various meetings organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). So most of them know one another. When they meet they start talking about families and friends. It is a bit like a campus where students from around the world have gathered.
One negotiator from an LDC, sitting next to me, said most of the time he could predict what some lead negotiators would say. “Too much of repetition happens in the negotiations, same words, same stance. I can predict what most of the negotiators will say even before they speak. So I doubt if any new agreement will come by 2015.”
Relaxed first week, tense second week
The negotiators were calm in the first week. Officials from the UNFCCC secretariat and host country Poland were trying to push agreements on various ways to tackle climate change, but progress was negligible. Most of the issues discussed in various UNFCCC subsidiary bodies were left unresolved till next June. The Polish government, keen to avoid the tag of hosting a failed summit, kept getting more and more worried. So did the UNFCCC secretariat.
As the second week started, slowly meetings were extended to late evenings. Still, there was very little progress on major issues, none at all on the elements of the next global treaty to combat climate change that is supposed to be ready by the end of 2015. Countries maintained the traditional stances that have stymied agreement for 20 years. Developing countries said they looked at the Warsaw meeting as a “finance CoP” (Conference of Parties, a party being a government), but there was no concrete progress there either. Developing countries still do not have anywhere near the money they need to tackle climate change, and developed countries that have put most of the greenhouses gases now in the atmosphere say they do not have money.
Another hot topic was establishment of an international mechanism to compensate developing countries for the loss and damage caused by climate change, as agreed at last year’s summit in Doha, but due to differences between countries, the fear of failure was looming large.
Even on the last day of the meeting, agreement on the Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) — a body established during the 2011 summit in Durban, which is responsible for finalising the 2015 treaty – was not moving due to deep differences between developing and developed countries. Nobody was able to say if something would be worked out by the next morning. Every year the last night becomes crucial in shaping such decisions.
Last hour politics over loss and damage
The largest group of countries, the G77 and China, LDCs and the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) had prepared a draft agreement on the international mechanism on loss and damage. The European Union reacted positively, but the US was against it from the beginning. At midnight, G77 and China called the US for a bilateral meeting. A team led by the US Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern came for the meeting that was held in a small room. After hearing everything the developing countries had to say, Stern flatly rejected the idea of putting the loss and damage issue as a separate pillar in climate negotiations. “As we already have two pillars namely mitigation and adaptation we can’t accept your proposal of establishing loss and damage as separate pillar,” he said.
Developed countries feared that if they agree on a separate pillar then they have to commit additional funding to compensate on loss and damage in the future which will be an additional burden for them. They wanted to wrap up this issue within the US$100 billion per year which they have committed to provide after 2020.
At the end of the extended day, the countries came up with some agreed text as a compromise. The US and other developed countries were successful in dividing the G77 and China group of countries over loss and damage. Developing countries that were advocating loss and damage as a separate pillar now started saying that it would not make much difference if the US proposal was accepted. The same negotiators had been totally against it few hours ago. Nepal representing LDCs and Nauru representing AOSIS were against the US proposal but their voice was not enough to shape the decisions. At the end it was decided to put the framework under the Cancun Adaptation Framework, which was not in favour of developing and least developed countries.
In another room downstairs there was another hot debate between developing and developed countries on the ADP text. Several huddles were on during that last night. The room was so packed that the security guards were having problems. “One minister from a developed country went to media and said we are hindering the process and due to us there couldn’t be agreement on climate change. I would like to challenge this, to show us how we are delaying. This kind of childish behaviour is not acceptable,” an irritated negotiator from Venezuela said loudly at the night session on the last day. “If there are trillions of dollars to spend on war and spying on other countries, why is there no money to support climate change here?”
Meanwhile, Brazil’s chief negotiator had been to the rest room and was not allowed back in. He almost came to blows with the guards before other negotiators and UNFCCC officials intervened.
Last hour strategy for compromised text
The final text for the roadmap to the 2015 agreement was so bland that it ended up saying almost nothing. It was just a document that countries had to come up with, to claim that something had happened in Warsaw. One of the negotiators from a LDC country said, “Do you know why these late hour meetings are conducted at the last days? It’s because everybody is under pressure to go back home and there is less concentration on the text. I feel this is a negotiating strategy as it happens every year.”