Climate talks in Bonn conclude but no deal in sight

To revise or not to revise Annexes remains the central divisive issue

By Indrajit Bose
Published: Saturday 04 May 2013

As the five-day climate talks at Bonn concluded on May 3,  countries showed little sign of having made any headway. Developed and developing countries continue to remain divided, as they have been for the past two decades. Even as countries proposed more workshops to discuss specific issues in subsequent climate talks, it is clear that the road ahead is full of challenges. Consider, for example, differentiation.

 Battle lines in work stream I
climate change
As agreed in earlier climate talks, the 2015 deal will be based on the principles of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. But there is disagreement over the principles between countries. While the developing countries are unanimous in their view that equity and common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) would apply in the new deal, the US made it clear that differentiation cannot apply under the existing arrangement of Annexes in the Convention and that all contributions must be nationally determined and hinted at a bottom up approach. The Annexes differentiate the developing countries from the developed ones who have the historic responsibility of causing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

Reacting to the US’s statement, India made it clear that the principles of the Convention must not be misinterpreted and added that a bottom up approach would just not bridge the ambition gap. “With regard to mitigation in the post 2020 period, the proposal by USA was listened to with interest. What was not clear is if each country will determine its targets with reference to national circumstances, what would be the arrangements to bridge the gap. Also, if the pre-2020 ambition is not raised by Annex I parties, the gap will only widen,” India said in its statement. 
Another developing country negotiator said the Annexes are under the Convention. “There is a meaning behind it. If you don’t follow the Annexes, it will mean side-stepping the Convention. We will not allow this. Even if it means no deal,” the negotiator said.

These, and other sticking points remain in the first work stream of the Ad hoc working group on Durban Platform (ADP) which is mandated to develop a protocol, a legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force, by 2015, which will be implemented by 2020 (see 'Battle lines in work stream I').  The next round of climate talks, scheduled in early June 2013, will further discuss top-down or bottom up arrangements, adaptation, providing means of implementation—finance, technology transfer and capacity building, as well as how the 2015 deal can add value and build on existing institutions such as the Cancun Adaptation Framework.

Clearly, discussions have not moved ahead, they have been merely transferred to another meeting.

  Battle lines in work stream I
On the principles of the Convention:
The essential disagreement is over what principles will apply in the 2015 deal. Does that mean the existing arrangement of Annexes remains? Will developed countries adhere to the principle of historic responsibility? What does equity mean? The following party positions bring out the differences in the open:
On Adaptation
Adaptation must be central to the new deal, everyone agrees. Differences arise when the issue of financing adaptation arises. If past experience is a precedent, there is very little to be optimistic about.
On means of implementation (finance, technology transfer and capacity building)
As outlined in Article 4.7 of the Convention, developing countries need support for finance, technology and capacity. Without these, the developing countries are clear that their efforts to take any action will suffer.
On mitigation
Who will take the lead in mitigation? Will developed countries, with their historical responsibility, take the lead? Or, will it fall on emerging economies on whom there is considerable pressure already? As it stands now, for the developed world, mitigation is about reduction of emissions. For developing countries, it is about preventing and avoiding emissions.

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