11.12.2015 12:46

COP: Negotiations update - the unanswered questions

As we head into the final few days of the COP, negotiations are reaching a frantic pace. Since Saturday, various drafts of a possible treaty have been circulated, argued, debated and slowly, sentence by sentence, shaped into a form that most countries can agree on.

COP: Negotiations update - the unanswered questions
Louisa Whitlock, delegate of the Red Cross

On Wednesday, a new, slimmed-down draft  of the treaty was released. As the country teams gave their feedback in a public session on Wednesday night, it was clear that there several key issues that have yet to be decided, which will determine how strong and effective the treaty will be.

Ambition: Should the treaty stick with original goal of limiting warming to a maximum of 2°C, or aim for a more ambitious limit of  1.5°C? That’s a key point of contention: Small island states and other developing countries vulnerable to climate change say that a 1.5°C limit is necessary if they are to survive. Since Monday, more and more countries have lined up behind this new goal, but other countries are insisting that the treaty only refers to the original target.

Finance: Who will pay for adaptation? In 2009, rich countries promised 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to developing countries for adaptation. But there is no agreement as yet on who exactly this money will come from, whether it will include grants or loans, or what exactly it should be spent on.

Loss and Damage: Another financial question: who will pay for the damage caused by extreme events linked to climate change? During the COP in Warsaw in 2013 a mechanism was agreed on to address this question, but since then, it appears to be sliding down the list of priorities. Many developing countries are pushing for a separate article on loss and damage in the treaty.

Differentiation. Who is most responsible for climate change, and who should do the most to tackle it? This goes to the heart of almost all disagreements surrounding the new treaty. Back in 1992 when the original UN climate treaty was signed,  it was agreed to divide the world into two groups of rich countries and developing countries  with only the former required to cut emissions. Now the economic reality has changed, and many countries classified as “developing” in 1992, are now big emitters, such as China and South Korea. The US and the EU would like the new treaty to reflect this, while developing countries argue that this would shift the responsibility away from countries who are responsible for the vast majority of climate change so far.

The French hosts would like the treaty to be finalised by 6pm on Friday evening. Most people don’t think that will happen – historically, negotiations have often gone on for a couple of days after the official deadline to try and come to an agreement. With so much yet to decide, the negotiators will have some long nights ahead of them.

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