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COP24 talks end with rulebook on Paris Agreement

M Ramesh Katowice | Updated on December 16, 2018

“We have done our best not to leave anyone behind,” said Michal Kurtyka, COP24 President at the closing plenary session   -  REUTERS

Concept of equity has not been captured adequately, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

After two weeks of intense negotiations, the COP24 climate talks ended in the late hours of Saturday with an agreement that is broadly in India’s favour.

Over the last two weeks, nearly 200 countries were busy developing a set of rules to operationalise the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which they agreed to strive to limit the rise in global warming to well under 2 degrees Celsius, over pre-industrial levels, by 2100.

The evolution of a rulebook is an extremely important step in operationalising the Paris Agreement, especially in the light of a recent report of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change — the UN’s scientific body for climate change — which stressed on the need and feasibility to limit global warming to not more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

The soul of the Paris Agreement is in six of its 27 Articles. These are: ‘market mechanism’ (A.6), which allows a country to fund green projects in another country and buy credits; ‘finance’ (A.9); ‘technology development and transfer’ (A.10); ‘capacity building’ (A.11); ‘transparency framework’ (A.13), which deals with reporting of each country’s actions; and ‘global stock-take’ (A.14), which calls for periodic review and improvement of each country’s commitment and action for fighting climate change.

Finance rules

The most critical of these is ‘finance’. India is satisfied with what the rulebook says on this count. There are two broad aspects to this. One, where the developed countries shall provide visibility on the quantum of funds that would be made available to developing countries’ efforts for fighting climate change(under Article 9.5). India is satisfied with the level of detailing in such reporting, an Indian negotiator said.

The second aspect is when developed countries are to state, under Article 9.7, how much funding they have provided. Here, too, the Indian team seems to be okay, but some independent observers, such as Harjeet Singh, of the NGO ActionAid, observed that India should have bargained more.

Now, developed countries are not going to be forced to make a distinction between any grants they may give and commercial loans that would have to be repaid with interest.

“Rich countries have a moral and legal responsibility to provide money and technology to developing countries to make their economies greener. Instead of taking this seriously, they pushed through a rulebook riddled with loopholes allowing them to avoid this responsibility,” said Singh. But Indian officials did not seem to think much on the provision of ‘finance’, perhaps because India is not a prominent claimant of global climate funds. India is also satisfied with the flexibility developing countries would be allowed in the stringency of reporting its climate actions, even though India has the capability to report pretty granular details.

On the whole, India is fine with the rulebook. Some independent observers, though, are unhappy that there’s not enough emphasis on the adaptation finance needed for developing countries to cope with effects of climate change and ‘loss and damage’, which is important for poor, island nations to cope with the after-effects of climatic events.

Some reservations

Indian negotiator Ravi Shankar Prasad intervened in the closing plenary session to say that India had reservations over the rules related to a global stock take.

He later told BusinessLine that the aspect of equity has not been sufficiently captured in the text.

India would write to UNFCCC to elaborate on its point, he said.

Climate expert Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted that while “some elements of the rulebook still need to be fleshed out,” the agreement “lays a solid foundation for implementation and strengthening of the historic Paris accord”.

Negotiations were scheduled to be completed by midnight on Friday, but they dragged on till the later hours of Saturday, mainly because Brazil had some objections to the rules for a ‘market mechanism’, or emissions trading.

Turkey, too, delayed the proceedings by asking to be removed from the list of developed countries. However, in the end, the text was adopted and negotiators hugged each other emotionally.

Speaking at the closing plenary session, the President of COP24, Michal Kurktya, summed up the negotiations saying: “We have done our best not to leave anyone behind.”

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Published on December 16, 2018
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