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The Warsaw Climate Conference Paves the Way towards 2015 Universal Climate Agreement

Thursday, 02 January 2014
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland was held from 11 to 23 November 2013. It involved a number of events, including the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 9th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 9). The Conference brought together a broad spectrum of key stakeholders, including governmental officials and representatives from UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations. The cardinal purpose of the Warsaw Climate Conference was to formulate an effective global strategy which collectively addresses global warming and severe climate change impacts.

After two weeks of marathon negotiations, the delegates adopted a set of decisions to keep governments on a track towards 2015 universal climate agreement. Interestingly, Parties in Warsaw decided on “Further Advancing Durban Platform”. Under the Ad Hoc Working Group on Durban Platform, entrusted with the task to contribute to the adoption of a new legally-binding deal applicable to all Parties to UNFCC Convention and to be implemented from 2020, countries agreed to initiate or intensify domestic preparation for their intended national contributions towards that agreement, which will come into force from 2020. Parties ready to do this will submit clear and transparent plans well in advance of COP 21, in Paris, and by the first quarter of 2015. Also, countries resolved to close the pre-2020 ambition gap by intensifying technical work and more frequent engagement of Ministers.

As Marcin Korolec, President of the COP19 conference stressed: “Warsaw has set a pathway for governments to work on a draft text of a new universal climate agreement so it appears on the table at the next UN Climate change conference in Peru. This is an essential step to reach a final agreement in Paris, in 2015.

The issue of “loss and damage from climate change” emerged as a bone of contention between small islands and least developing countries suffering from the destructive effects of climate change and developed countries*. A compromise was achieved with the establishment of a new body known as “Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with climate change impacts”. The Warsaw Mechanism, which falls under the UNFCCC’s adaptation framework, is mandated to enhance knowledge of risk management, share knowledge and expertise, collect and distribute data, broaden international dialogue, provide technological  and, most controversially, financial support to most vulnerable populations damaged by weather events and slow onset events such as rising sea levels. Detailed work on the so-called “Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage” will begin next year. The position of the new mechanism within the UNFCCC will be reviewed in 2016.

During the Warsaw Climate Conference the delegates adopted a significant set of seven decisions on financial, institutional and methodological practices to help developing countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and the degradation of forests, which account for around one fifth of all human-generated emissions. Importantly, the so-called Warsaw Framework for REDD+ is backed by pledges of 280 million dollars financing from the US, Norway and the UK.

Moreover, the implementation of Climate Finance commitments was once again under the spotlight as the prime concern of the developing countries. During the Warsaw Climate Conference, the delegates endeavoured to draw a roadmap towards the goal set in 2009 UN Copenhagen Climate Conference to mobilize a long-term finance of a further of $ 100 billion dollars from developed countries per year by 2020 to address climate change needs in developing countries. In particular, developed countries are requested to prepare biennial submissions on their updated strategies and approaches for scaling up finance between 2014 and 2020.  The Warsaw meeting also resulted in concrete announcements of forthcoming contributions of public climate finance to support developing nation action, including from Norway, the UK, EU, US, Republic of Korea, Japan, Sweden, Germany and Finland.   Meanwhile, the Green Climate Fund Board is to commence its initial resource mobilization process as soon as possible and developed countries were asked for ambitious, timely contributions by COP 20, in December, next year, to enable an effective operationalization.

Another positive development made in Warsaw Climate Conference was that Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland either paid or pledged US$100 million in order to build up the Adaptation Fund established in 2001 under the Kyoto Protocol as a mechanism to finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes in developing country.

 It is also to be noted that the Parties achieved the full implementation of the Bali Action Plan’s mandate. On the other hand, the negotiation process was characterized by discord, as the developing countries group of G77 + China and a group of 800 representatives of NGOs walked out the talks about the “Loss and Damage” to mark their disapproval with the unwillingness of certain developed countries to discuss compensation for losses and damage which cannot be addressed by mitigation and adaptation means.
The next UNFCCC meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform is due to be held in March 2014 in Bonn,Germany.

*See: Meinhard Doelle “Loss & Damage in the UN Climate Regime: A Way to Bridge the Ambition Gap?”, MEPIELANE-Bulletin, Monday 14 October 2013

Sources: UNFCCC, IISD Reporting Services
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