COP18 UN climate talks ‘not about developing versus developed’

By John Parnell
RTCC in Doha

The UN climate change talks are no longer a battle between developed and developing nations, according to EU and Latin American negotiators RTCC has spoken to in Doha.

They argue this perception of the negotiations is dated and suits countries who have no interest in making substantive cuts to their carbon emissions.

Traditionally the global north and south have faced-off on a number of issues from finance to who should take responsibility to reduce emissions.

However, as urgency for ambitious climate action grows, traditional alliances have been eroded, particularly in the developing world.

“The traditional story that you usually hear from the mainstream media is that the big fight is between the rich and the poor. I’m not convinced this is the case anymore,” said Monica Araya, a negotiator with the Costa Rican delegation.

“Ultimately it is a discussion about climate makers and climate takers. Climate champions and climate laggards. The division of these categories is no longer north-south,” she told RTCC.

Qatari deputy PM meets the Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang. The concept of a rich-poor divide at the talks has become outdated, negotiators say.

“There is a lot of action and commitment in some developed and developing countries and we see foot dragging as well. We have to get better at telling the public that the big challenge is to get the countries doing good things to work better together. Forming a coalition of the willing around the target to limit warming to 2°C is the big challenge,” she added.

The UNFCCC is built on the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capabilities.

In short this means those with the greatest capacity to act and the most at blame for climate change, carry the greater burden.

Despite not being a binary condition, countries have tended to fall on either side of the line during the talks near 20 year history.

Unholy alliances

This view was backed by an EU negotiator who warned that the developing versus developed argument was now a misrepresentation adding that this is “absolutely not the dynamic”.

The new Durban Platform strand of the talks, formed last year, includes for the first time the possibility of binding emission reduction targets from all countries, not just rich ones.

This has led some large emerging economies to take a cautious approach to progress on the Durban Platform.

A similar stance is being taken by the most vulnerable groups of nations, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), but for different reasons.

They are keen to see shorter term goals like an ambitious new period of the Kyoto Protocol and greater technical and financial support from now until 2020.

The EU negotiator described this coalition between what they consider obstructionist, large emitting economies and AOSIS as “an unholy sharing of the agenda”, and questioned why the EU is acting yet is still under extreme pressure, while many major emerging economies doing nothing are receiving no criticism.

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