UN climate talks to test New York summit gains

Diplomats from over 190 countries gather to work on plans for 2015 emissions reduction agreement

(Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

(Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

By Ed King

The impact of Ban Ki-moon’s New York summit on UN efforts to curb climate change faces its first test on Monday in Bonn, where envoys from over 190 countries meet for a week of negotiations.

The meeting is one of the last opportunities for diplomats to build consensus on what a climate agreement could look like before they meet again in December for the annual two-week Conference of the Parties in Lima, Peru.

Last month in New York over 120 leaders – including US president Barack Obama, French president Francois Hollande and Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli – confirmed their support for the international process.

Liz Gallagher, a climate diplomacy analyst at E3G, said a task for Bonn will be to “capture the Ban Ki-moon outcomes and get them into something concrete.”

According to the UN, combined pledges from business, foundations and governments in New York totalled US$200 billion, although it is unclear how much of this money was new.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said she hoped negotiators would be able to build on the successes of Ban’s meeting, which took place two days after over 300,000 people hit the streets of Manhattan to march for a global deal.

“2014 has been an extraordinary year of momentum by governments supported by climate action from cities and communities to corporations and the finance sector,” she said.

“Our meeting next week will I am sure concretely carry forward that sense of optimism, dynamism and determination as we look forward to COP20 in Peru in one month’s time.”

Ecudaor’s lead negotiator Daniel Ortega-Pacheco told RTCC the New York meeting had left him and colleagues “inspired” and determined to accelerate their efforts to deliver a climate treaty.

“What happened at the climate summit cannot be underestimated…For me it was overwhelming,” he said.

Cash fix

Financial flows from rich to poor countries is likely to be a key area of focus as diplomats start to craft the basis of a climate agreement, which the UN wants signed off in December 2015.

Developing countries want the final deal to contain explicit references on how their rich counterparts will help them cope with future climate impacts.

They want wealthier nations to make their offers of support clear when they reveal their “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) towards the 2015 deal early next year.

Small island states, acutely vulnerable to rising sea levels, also want to see greenhouse gas cuts this decade, and have called on the UN to examine how “developed and developing countries” could reduce levels of carbon emissions.

“There is a clear mandate for pre-2020 action, and after the promise for developed countries to lift pollution targets was broken in June, that objective seems to be slipping,” said Meena Raman, a veteran observer from the Third World Network Malaysia-based NGO.

Countries also need to work out how they can prepare for future extreme weather events. Some scientists say a recent blizzard in the Himalayas which left at least 39 trekkers dead could be linked to climate change.

“If these talks become too narrowly focused on emission cuts, and don’t look at the broader needs of vulnerable people they’ll have failed the people and generations who need them most,” said Harjeet Singh, who runs Action Aid’s disaster risk reduction team.


Levels of financial support for adaptation and clean energy solutions in poorer countries are likely to become clearer at the end of November, when the UN-backed Green Climate Fund hosts what it calls a “resource mobilisation” meeting.

It hopes to raise its pot of cash from US$2.3bn to $10-15bn by the end of 2014, to enable it to start work in 2015.

A GCF board meeting last week cleared up some outstanding issues over how it will operate, say observers. The US and UK are both expected to contribute funds by the end of the year.

Last week lead US envoy Todd Stern told news agency ClimateWire the administration had “every expectation to be part of the capitalization” but warned against expecting Congress to release new public funds.

In a separate speech at Yale University he argued a new climate agreement should “strengthen the domestic policy environments of recipient countries to attract private investors.”

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