Unless diplomats design UN deal to cope with climate damage, it will soon become redundant, says Saleemul Huq
By Saleemul Huq
The UN’s climate body has kicked off its year of intensive work with a meeting this week in Geneva.
The process will culminate in Paris in December, where world leaders hope to sign off a new agreement that will deal with all elements of global warming.
The aim of this week’s gathering in Geneva is to try to condense the a very long negotiating text into something that will be manageable in Paris.
The current text, prepared by the new co-chairs of the negotiating process, contains a long list of topics with three options proposed for each.
The first option is usually from developed countries and another one – normally opposing the former – from developing countries.
A third then offers a compromise by the co-chairs.
The optimistic outcome of the negotiations is that a compromise text will finally be accepted. However, if compromise is not possible, then the default is to remove any text that any group of countries finds objectionable.
This is what happened to the text on “loss and damage” – the notion that countries will have to deal with real damage sooner or later due to climate change – at the UN’s last major round of talks in Lima, Peru, in December.
Three groups of vulnerable nations – the small island developing states, the least developed countries and the Africa group – led calls for a new decision on how to can move beyond emissions reduction and adaptation into actually preparing for disasters, sea level rise and other climate impacts.
The developed countries wanted to delete that text.
The co-chairs’ compromise was to refer to a previously agreed Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage, which had been agreed earlier in Warsaw in December 2013.
After going more than a day into overtime in Lima, the topic was indeed deleted from the decision text but retained in the preamble, thus giving it much less importance.
In Geneva this week, these three vulnerable groups have once again asked to include a decision text on loss and damage in the proposed Paris agreement.
This is, once again, being opposed by the developed countries.
Yet even the most right wing Republican congressmen are beginning to admit that the impacts of climate change are now self-evident.
Emissions reductions and adaptation efforts of course need to be reinforced and redoubled in the Paris deal.
But if loss and damage is not included, then the Paris agreement will render itself out of date the moment it is agreed.
The Paris agreement needs to show that world leaders are responding to the needs of all countries and citizens of Planet Earth, with the most vulnerable given the greatest priority.
If they fail to do so, then not only will they have failed a second time – having failed in Copenhagen a few years ago – they will have failed once and for all. They will not get a third bite of the cherry.
The deal as it stands is designed to prevent climate change. It is not able to deal with the failure to prevent it.
Once loss and damage actually occurs, and is clearly attributed to human actions, then the UN’s climate body will become redundant.
Saleemul Huq is director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University of Bangladesh