The end game: Will Warsaw do a Poznan?

Author: Chandra Bhushan

Climate negotiations at Warsaw may give the world a financial mechanism to deal Loss and Damage, but it may be a non-starter like the Adaptation Fund agreed to at the Poznan COP

As I leave a cold and rainy Warsaw, the outcome of the 19th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) looks as gloomy as the weather.

On Monday, the Polish environment minister Marcin Korolec, who is also the president of the COP, was sacked or, some say, shifted as part of a government reshuffle. He will be replaced by a minister who is involved in deciding the tax structure for shale gas in Poland. The only saving grace is that the Polish government has allowed Korolec to continue as the COP president. But what interest will a former environment minister have in getting a meaningful deal?

Early morning on Tuesday, G77+China walked out of a contact group which was to broker a deal on Loss and Damage. They walked out because developing countries want a separate mechanism to compensate for Loss and Damage arising out of climate change. The developed countries, on the other hand, don’t want such a mechanism. Australia has taken an extreme position on this issue and many developed countries, including the US, have insisted that Loss and Damage be addressed under the existing mechanisms like the Adaptation mechanism set up under the Cancun agreement.

India did a volte-face on this issue. Before the Indian environment minister Jayanthi Natrajan came to Warsaw, Indian negotiators had taken a position that funding for Loss and Damage can be done through the Green Climate Fund (GCF). This was in variance with G77+China which wanted a separate mechanism. However, Natarajan saved the day by affirming that India supports the G77+China position of a separate mechanism.  

Climate renegades

At Doha, developed countries had agreed to the second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol. However, so far only three countries have come forward to ratify the amendment that will allow the second commitment period to take effect. Worse still, countries have started to renege on their past commitments.  The worst news came from Japan and Australia. Japan had announced in Cancun that it would reduce its emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 in comparison to 1990 levels. However, now it has announced that it will reduce its emissions only by 3.8 per cent from its 2005 level by 2020. This is actually an increase of 3.1 per cent from the 1990 levels. This is completely in contrast to the position that countries like India have taken; they want the developed countries to increase their ambition for 2020 target to fill the giga tonne gap. In fact, India wants developed countries to reduce their emissions by 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. This is not going to happen.

If developed countries don’t increase their ambition for pre-2020 period, then developing countries are not likely to do much on increasing their mitigation targets before 2020. So, the discussions of workstream 2 of the Ad hoc working group on Durban platform (ADP), which is about increasing the ambition of all countries to bridge the giga tonne gap arising out of the weak mitigation targets pledged by all countries, especially the developed countries, in not likely to move much in Warsaw.

The work on workstream 1 of ADP, which is about the post 2020 deal on mitigation, finance, technology and adaptation is also not moving. In fact, here developing countries have their backs to the wall. In the first text put out by the co-chairs of ADP, there was not even a mention of key principles and provisions of the UNFCCC in the preamble. The text also failed to mention that common but differentiated responsibility and respective capability (CBDRRC) is the bedrock of the negotiations. In fact, developing countries are fighting to keep the firewall between the developed and the developing countries alive.

As I leave Warsaw, my prediction is that Warsaw will deliver what Poznan did in 2008. In Poznan COP, which was held one year before the ill-fated Copenhagen COP, the world agreed to operationalize the Adaptation Fund. This fund was to give money to the developing countries for adapting to climate change. The Fund was to get 2 per cent of all the money generated by selling carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism. Today, the carbon market is dead and so is the fund.

I fear that Warsaw, too, will give the world a mechanism on Loss and Damage. But like Adaptation Fund, it will just remain a mechanism with no money. Warsaw will also leave the world divided as Poznan did. This will not be the COP where differences will be reconciled.

My only hope is that the differences of Warsaw do not go to Paris. Otherwise we will have another Copenhagen in 2015.

PS: My colleagues are doing minute-by-minute update of the CoP. Log on to