Countries could leave UN climate body if Paris fails – Todd Stern

Lead US envoy says future of global climate governance is at stake during climate negotiations in 2015

(Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

(Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

By Ed King

Countries could abandon the UN’s climate body and seek other ways to slow greenhouse gas emissions if plans to limit global warming collapse this year.

That’s the view of US climate envoy Todd Stern, who told the Politico website he feared a breakdown in negotiations if a deal set to be signed off in Paris this December falls through.

“We all need to have Paris succeed — all of us in the negotiations, just people around the world generally,” he said.

“But [the UN climate body] as an organization needs that also because I think people will conclude that if you can’t deliver an agreement in Paris that you’re going to start looking around for other ways to find international solutions.”

A number of other forums, including the G7, G20 and Major Economies Forum, already discuss climate change, but the UN’s climate body is the only one empowered to take global decisions.

But with carbon emissions still rising fast, some observers have suggested a ‘mini lateral‘ approach with smaller groups of countries could be more effective.

“People are seeing after 22 years that the full 194 countries is very maybe too cumbersome – at least to have a leadership group,” Timmons Roberts, an academic at Brown University, Rhode Island told RTCC in an interview last year.

Road to Paris

Over 190 governments are working on an emissions cutting deal due to be signed off in the French capital in December this year.

The last round of UN talks in Lima, Peru, ended with a loose set of principles outlining how various countries will contribute to the Paris agreement.

Major economies have until the end of March to submit their proposed carbon cuts, after which the UN will review all pledges and reveal later this year if they are enough to limit climate change to an agreed 2C threshold.

Scientists say warming needs to be limited to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, or the world risks a greater frequency of storms, droughts, flooding and rising sea levels.

Countries last attempted to agree on how to curb emissions at the Copenhagen summit in 2009, a meeting that ended in near-collapse after bitter rows between rich and poor countries over how carbon cuts could be shared out.

Tensions over the differentiation between developed and developing states were still evident at the Lima talks, a  situation Stern described as the “most difficult” facing negotiators.

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