Rich – poor divide ‘main question’ at UN climate talks says Korolec

Current head of international negotiations says developing nations will need to deliver emission reduction plans by 2015

(Pic: Europa/Flickr)

(Pic: Europa/Flickr)

By Ed King

The level of greenhouse gas emission cuts proposed by developing countries is likely to dominate discussions on a global climate deal later this year, according to the official presiding over talks.

Poland’s climate envoy Marcin Korolec, who is the current President of the UN negotiating process, says the “nature of contributions” from poorer countries will be the “main political question” for envoys at the main summit, scheduled for Peru in December.

“The challenge we are facing as a global community is how to design a global agreement applicable to all but this different participation in it coming from different countries,” he said, adding: “It is not a principle which excludes developing countries. The nature of contribution is, however, another story. We have to discuss this in Lima.”

The comments, made in an interview with the Times of India, are significant in that Korolec acknowledges that despite a series of agreements signed by all countries there is still a wide split between developed and developing nations within the UN process.

All have agreed to work towards a global emissions reduction deal in Paris next year, but it still remains unclear how this could work and if cuts would be sufficient to prevent runaway climate.

The world’s poorest countries and emerging economies want their rich counterparts to make the toughest emission cuts, while offering financial support to developing parts of the world for low carbon projects.

Many industrialised countries such as the USA, Japan, Canada and Australia appear unwilling to make any further emission reduction pledges unless these are mirrored by the likes of China, India and Brazil.

A UN report released ahead of last November’s international climate change summit in Warsaw warned annual emissions need to be cut 12% on 2010 levels to 44 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2020.

It said that based on current pledges they will be around 15% higher – in 2010 51 GtCO2e was released.

Judging which countries are responsible for what is harder to work out.

A recent study in the Environmental Research Letters journal revealed that based on per-capita calculations, the UK is most responsible on a historic basis for causing global warming, followed closely by the USA, Canada, Russia and Germany. China, currently the world’s leading emitter, lies in 19th position.

Country areas proportionate to climate contribution (Pic ERL)

Country areas proportionate to climate contribution (Pic ERL)

But rapid growth in developing countries in the past decade is likely to muddy the waters further. Calculations based on individual countries places China, India, Indonesia and Brazil in the top 10 of leading emitters. The ‘Global South’ is now responsible for around 60% of contributions to global emissions.

The Warsaw meeting ended with fierce exchanges between Chinese negotiator Su Wei and the USA’s lead climate envoy Todd Stern over who was responsible to take action, and Korolec admits he feared for the process at one stage.

“It appeared at one stage that the negotiation was heading for a very fragile end. So, the very end was the challenging point of those negotiations … we negotiated whole night. So, I think that night was difficult and also the very end of the final two hours was most difficult,” he said.

“I think we have to go back to the Durban meeting where we decided that we as a community will negotiate a global agreement applicable to all and the finish of those negotiations should take place in 2015.”

International climate envoys meet in Bonn next month to start work on a draft text for the 2015 deal. Earlier today the UN announced a high-level ministerial roundtable on increased ambition of Kyoto Protocol commitments will take place in Bonn in June.

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