UN climate talks start with call to work as “one team” in Geneva

With six days to create a draft agreement, officials ask countries to drop historic divides and start new era of cooperation

Palais des Nations, Geneva, home to this week's UN climate talks (Pic: UN Photos)

Palais des Nations, Geneva, home to this week’s UN climate talks (Pic: UN Photos)

By Ed King

The president of the UN’s climate negotiations has urged countries to drop historic differences and work as “one team” as they plan for a global emissions cutting deal.

Manuel Pulgar Vidal, who’s also Peru’s environment minister, made the call at the start of six days of talks in Geneva aimed at developing a draft agreement for governments to consider.

“Every day has to be a success where we reach a milestone, we need to live up to that responsibility,” he said.

“Every actor follows the same objective… we are part of the same team – this is not a competition among us.”

Countries have less than four months before an agreed proposal has to be sent to national capitals, and 10 before it is scheduled to be signed off in Paris.

The current text runs to 38 pages and includes around 2000 lines of ideas for a deal, including carbon taxes, budgets and zero emissions goals.

Dan Reifsnyder, a UN official chairing the talks, said this needed to be ”streamlined” in the coming week.

Scientists say greenhouse gas emissions need to be radically curbed to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate, such as floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

Analysis: UN climate change talks and the Paris deal – a guide 

Pulgar Vidal admitted that a recent round of talks he chaired in Lima, Peru last December had left many issues unresolved, revealing a number of “political difficulties.”

Chief among these is how the burden of carbon cuts will be shared between developed and developing countries under a new agreement, which is meant to be “applicable to all.”

Speaking for the G77 and China group of nations, South Africa’s spokesperson said any new agreement had to respect the differentiated responsibilities rich and poor countries had to address climate change.

“There can be no meaningful and legitimate agree if the concerns of G77 are not taken into account,” she said.

Australia, speaking for a group that includes the USA, Japan and Russia, indicated a Paris deal would need to reflect the rise in emissions outside the developed world.

“We need to look at different approaches that treat national circumstances appropriately,” its delegate said.

Sunday’s talks will focus on how a 2015 deal will ensure widespread emissions reductions, while on Monday the focus will turn to adaptation, finance and climate compensation, or loss and damage.

Last week the UN’s climate chief Christiana Figueres said any agreement in Paris would not, on its own, be enough to avert dangerous levels of warming, instead it should “chart a [low carbon] course” for governments and business.

Sam Smith, head of WWF’s climate team, said envoys in Geneva face a “heavy burden” trying to wade through issues that should had resolved last year.

“We are now at the end of the line if we are to get a global agreement on climate change that is strong enough to change the current path,” she said.

“Scientists tell us global emissions need to peak and decline well within the decade to avoid runaway climate change.  None of us, including negotiators, can afford to continue with business-as-usual.”

Who to follow on twitter from Geneva?

Civil society observers tweeting from inside meetings include: @duycks, @watts_kat, @harmeling, @AchalaC and @chilledasad100 – the hashtag is #ADP2015

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