Bloc party: Here are the buddies of UN climate talks

Cliques are the name of the game as countries seek power in numbers to drive shared interests. Here’s a rundown of the negotiating blocs in Paris

(Flickr/ UNclimatechange)

Bolivia president Evo Morales and Peru’s environment minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal joke in Lima in 2014 in front of UN chief Ban Ki-moon, though the counties belong to separate negotiating blocs (Flickr/ UNclimatechange)

By Alex Pashley

The United Nations’ climate change body or UNFCCC is a real alphabet soup.

Heard of AILAC? How about AOSIS? G77, perhaps? These are some of the groupings set to spar over a new global warming pact in Paris from next week.

Some link up due to their geographical ties, like the African Group or European Union.

Report: Meet the envoys with a UN climate change deal in their hands

Others of a similar development status pack together. Take the Umbrella Group. It is made up of wealthy non-EU countries like Canada, Russia and Australia.

Then there are some surprising partnerships. The Environmental Integrity Group gives Mexico and Liechtenstein a rare chance to hang out.

So who are the groups and what do they want in Paris?

1. Formed in 1964, the G77, catch-all bloc for ‘developing’ countries has swelled from an original 77 to 134 members. If you were deemed ‘developing’ by the UN in 1992, you’re in. That means Somalia and super-rich Qatar join ranks, though it is hardly a united front. The G77 continues to put the onus on wealthy countries doing more to cut greenhouse gas emissions. South Africa have the chair this year and led a revolt at a preparatory meet in October with claims a draft text was biased towards rich countries. Expect fireworks.

2. The Umbrella Group is a loose bunch of non-EU developed countries which formed following the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. With large economies, these are wary of liability for future claims for compensation. Though they have mostly contributed cash for poor nations to adapt to a warming planet. Members include Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States. Just don’t mention Crimea.

Negotiating chamber, Bonn (Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

Negotiating chamber in Bonn, the HQ of the UNFCCC (Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

3. A string of 43 low-lying island nations in the Caribbean, Indian and Pacific ocean, the Alliance of Small Island States will be the first to bear the brunt of rising sea-levels and extreme storms. The Maldives will lead their calls to cap warming to 1.5C this century in Paris. A mechanism to make big polluters compensate loss and damage from climate change is another sticking point. Members Kirabati and Tuvalu are the first in line to be submerged.

4. The Environmental Integrity Group formed in 2000 after some of its members outgrew the G77 and comprises Liechtenstein, Mexico, Monaco, South Korea and Switzerland. Spanning three continents and three time zones, as well as the firewall between developed and emerging economies, the tiny group punches above its weight.

5. The European Union’s 28 members negotiate with one voice. Croatia was the last to join in 2008. The No 1 provider of climate finance wants a binding agreement, a mechanism to review country pledges every five years and a long-term carbon-cutting goal. In the run-up to Paris, it’s taking on the US with demands for a legally binding deal.

6. The Least Developed Countries are world’s 48 poorest countries. They lack economic clout and have minimal emissions, but hold moral authority as some of the most vulnerable. Chad, Burkina Faso and Zambia are some of the members in line for harsher droughts and more erratic rainfall. Angola leads the group. The African Group herds the continent’s 50-plus countries and shares many of the LDCs’ objectives.


(Flickr/ UN Climate Change)

7. The Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC in its Spanish initials) formed in 2012, similarly disgruntled with the binary divide between rich and poor nations. Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, Guatemala and Panama make up the team. They are involved in the Cartagena Dialogue, which seeks to bridge the north-south divide which has long blocked progress on climate action. All AILAC members have made carbon-cutting pledges so far except Panama.

8. ALBA or the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America is made up of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba. These countries are one of the more radical groupings, demanding developed countries pay their ‘climate debt’ with deep emissions cuts. Bolivia refused to sign an agreement in 2010. Venezuela and Nicaragua are among 20 countries yet to submit pledges.

9. The Central America Integration System (SICA) is one of the lesser-known blocs including Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Funds for adaptation to climate change is key here with fears of tropical cyclones and sea-level rise looming large.

10. The Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) are another splinter group of the G77. Representing China, India, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Iran among its 20 or so members these countries are the bruisers of the negotiations. In 2014, they threatened to veto a deal.

Stern discusses plans for a global climate agreement in 2015 in the infamous 'huddle' of COP17 (Pic: IISD Reporting Services)

Negotiators discuss plans for a global climate agreement in 2015 in the infamous ‘huddle’ of COP17 (Pic: IISD Reporting Services)

11. The Coalition of Rainforest Nations does what it says on the tin. Some 40 countries including DR Congo, Indonesia and Fiji are fighting for an agreement that favours their carbon-sucking forests. The bloc has helped drive progress on the forest protection scheme REDD+, arguing for better safeguards and the means to implement such programmes.

12. Another grouping that keeps a low profile is the Central Asia and the Caucuses, Albania and Moldova (CACAM). For extra points remember the Mountainous Landlocked Developing Countries, made up of Armenia, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

13. Countries in the Arab World negotiate chiefly through the G77, though the Arab Group is another forum. While Persian Gulf countries which form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE, share office space and resources at UN talks. Most are large oil and gas-exporters with limited will to tackle climate change.

14. Finally there’s BASIC which brings together the major emerging economies: Brazil, China, India and South Africa. It’s another outlet for China and India to express their demands for carbon-intensive development, and Brazil’s main space to negotiate.

Read more on: COP21 | UN climate talks