Little progress in Doha climate talks
Doha: Much drama and little consequential action characterised the Doha climate talks today as parties traded barbs over the issues of climate finances and emission reduction targets, while India and China tried to bring the elements of equity and historical responsibility back into the centre stage of negotiations.
With just two days to go for the UN climate conference to officially close, there is still no concrete framework in sight of what the Doha agreement would finally look like.
The parties have continued to bicker over their longstanding positions, with the developing countries aggressively asking for financial commitments from the rich nations while the most vulnerable countries seeking urgent and major emission reductions.
Climate activists invoked the typhoon in Philippines as another sign of how extreme weather events were increasing across the world and blamed the US for blocking any progress on the issue of loss and damage that talks about liability and support for climate change related negative impacts.
Concerned by efforts to junk the element of equity in deciding who does what in dealing with climate change, India said the principle has be to the cornerstone of any negotiations and insisted that the issue of equity should not be perceived as something opposed to ambition.
"How can we advance an ambitious global regime in the post 2020 period if it is not anchored in equity and does not have assurance of access to financial resources and technologies?" asked India's lead negotiator Meera Mehrishi as she intervened in the informal ministerial roundtable.
Mehrishi characterised the prevailing situation at the talks as one of "a crisis of confidence" due to lack of movement on past pledges and a failure to make progress in providing urgently needed resources to help developing countries fight impacts of climate change.
China also reminded the rich nations that they "shoulder historic responsibility" of cutting down greenhouse gases as climate change is being brought about due to unrestricted emissions during their industrialising phases.
China's Vice Minister for climate change Xie Zhenhua told reporters at a press conference that finance was indeed turning out to be a major obstacle in the talks as related questions of adaptation and capacity building remained "empty words" in the absence of money.
"In order to resolve adaptation issues we need financial support, the poorer countries don't have the capacity, they are victims of climate change," he said.
As back channel negotiations continued day in and day out, Indian negotiator RR Rashmi said while issues were still far from being resolved, talks have gained some positive movement this week.
"In Doha achieving the second commitment period to Kyoto Protocol is (the central issue), we have got some traction now, and we hope we see things getting resolved over the next two days. The last week was not very successful, this week we have seen some efforts and positive movement," he said in the middle of hectic talks.
Elsewhere, every major group and bloc continued to press for their demands.
In a stance that would not be liked by countries like India and China who have been fighting for their right to grow, negotiators from the world's poorest nations appeared to side with the developed countries in demanding that the debate on equity must not be used to "derail" the climate talks.
As the US and the EU pushed for a regime that brings all major polluters including from the developing countries under obligations for reducing greenhouse gases without addressing their past pledges, the representative of the group of 48 Least Developed Countries said while equity was an important element, it was equally important to look at the future of things.
"We we think the equity debate is important, we are not equal, but we should not use the equity debate to derail the whole regime of talks. What you agree to will not be uniform, we will all agree to our own capacities but in a multilateral context where countries are accounted for their commitments," said Pa Ousman Jarju, the Chair for the LDCs.
However, the LDCs joined voices with India and China to press for financial commitments and funds to help poorer nations adopt emission reducing technologies and adaptation mechanisms to deal with the impacts of climate change.
"We are expecting to have figures on the table (for finance). What we agreed to in Copenhagen was fast track finance and a 100 billion fund every year from 2013 till 2020. It should start now, it was for every year," he said.
EU negotiator Pete Bette meanwhile suggested nations look beyond historical agreements to seek a successful solution putting emphasis on "future missions".
"Inequity is when some islands disappear, another discomforting idea is that some countries can increase their emissions to a certain ceiling even if they can reduce emissions in a cost effective way," he said on the developing countries' insistence to be allowed their right to emit carbon to achieve their growth.
The group of smaller islands, one of the most climate vulnerable blocs, lamented that hardly anything was happening as far as emission reduction ambitions were concerned.
"We don't want people using economy as an excuse for not doing enough," said AOSIS representative Ronny Jumeau, referring to voices from the EU and the US who cite economic recession as an obstacle to upscaling emissions and finances.
"Sandy has other relatives, you just don’t know when they are going to hit," he said.
Climate activists said it was imperative to have new commitments on finance by developed countries in Doha.
"The Philippines suffered its 16th extreme weather event this year but the US backed by Canada and Australia are working actively to prevent any gain on the front of helping poor vulnerable countries on adaptation and loss and damage. They are blocking any action and work programme on loss and damage," said Harpreet Singh of Action Aid, speaking under the banner of Climate Action Network.