GENEVA, Switzerland, February 18, 2015 (ENS) – UN climate talks in Geneva concluded Friday with an agreed formal draft negotiating text for a new global legally-binding climate deal in an environment one observer described as one of “common purpose and goodwill.”
More than 1,300 people attended the meeting, representing governments, observer organizations and the media.
The goal of the week-long meeting in Geneva was to create a draft for consideration at the UN Paris Climate Summit with the aim of having a new pact limiting greenhouse gas emissions signed by world leaders there in December.
The agreement would take effect starting in 2020.
The French government, which is hosting the Paris Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, has re-affirmed its commitment to helping the international community finalize a legally-binding climate change agreement.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said, “We need to get a legally binding agreement. This is the first goal and not an easy one. Afterwards, every country will make pledges, there will also be essential finance dimensions, such as the Green Climate Fund and carbon pricing.”
The 86-page document agreed Friday in Geneva builds on the December 2014 UN climate negotiations in Lima, Peru. It covers climate change mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and capacity-building.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said, “I am extremely encouraged by the constructive spirit and the speed at which negotiators have worked during the past week. We now have a formal negotiating text, which contains the views and concerns of all countries.”
“The Lima Draft has now been transformed into the negotiating text and enjoys the full ownership of all countries,” she said.
The effort to avert the worst consequences of climate change gained urgency earlier this month when the World Meteorological Organization released findings confirming that 14 out of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000 and 2014 was the warmest year on record.
The UN and many world governments and environmentalists are hoping to limit the increase of the average global surface temperature to no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6°F) compared with pre-industrial levels.
More than 80 civil society groups from around the world sent a letter to the UN negotiators asking that land rights be kept out of any Paris agreement that may be reached.
“We are aware that governments are now discussing inclusion of the land sector in the new climate agreement, and many proposals to use land for mitigation are now being considered,” the groups wrote. “These proposals include sequestering carbon in soils and trees and other technologies such as bio-energy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and other types of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) geo-engineering approaches. Not only are these dangerous technologies and false solutions, they will create demand on land and consequently undermine access to food and livelihoods, exacerbate landlessness, and deepen poverty.”
Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, quoted the letter in a news briefing, saying, “Land is essential for our food and our livelihoods. It is the basis of our communities, our cultures and our spiritualities… We cannot allow policies and actions that will further threaten peoples’ rights to food, to land and the commons.”
Mithika Mwenda, general secretary of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, explained, “Africans are increasingly worried about some of the so-called climate ‘solutions’ that are proposed here. Some of these failed experiments like soil carbon markets and land use in mitigation are thinly disguised code for incentives to grab up African land as we have seen happening over the last couple of years.”
On the issue of adapting to climate impacts and loss and damage due to those impacts, Harjeet Singh, international manager for the group Resilience and Climate Change, voiced the concern of many civil society groups that developed countries are attempting to weaken greenhouse gas reduction targets in the Paris deal.
“Given the lack of seriousness in proposed climate targets from rich industrialized countries, we must consider what these weak targets mean for the real world,” said Singh.
“Weak targets mean devastating climate impacts and developing countries will need to address those harms, supported by compensation and other measures,” said Singh. “The issue of loss and damage and compensation is still very much on the table in Paris and will be as long as proposed climate action remains so weak.”
While “an extraordinary mood” surfaced at the UN climate talks in Geneva, the hard work is yet to begin, said Tasneem Essop, WWF’s head of delegation to the UNFCCC.
“Common purpose and goodwill resulted in a draft text for Paris being concluded two days before the end of the session,” said Essop, giving credit to the meeting’s Co-chairmen Ahmed Djoghlaf of Algeria and Dan Reifsnyder of the United States for achieving agreement.
“But tackling the difficult issues is yet to begin and our perception is that that traditional fault lines have not yet been breached,” said Essop. “Negotiators face a tremendous task to reach agreement on the contentious issues and come up with an ambitious, fair science-based deal in the two or three negotiating sessions left before meeting in Paris.”
Negotiations to sharpen and refine the agreement reached in Geneva will continue throughout the year.
The next step is for negotiators to reach consensus on the content of the new climate deal and formal talks on the text will continue in Bonn in June.
Three special sessions have been added to this year’s schedule of climate dates, including talks about “intended nationally determined contributions,” the commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are seen as central to achieving low-carbon development.
Governments from the UN member states are due to submit national plans by a deadline that runs from March to June.
Developing nations have called for their concerns to be addressed in any new deal, after a 2009 attempt to create a Copenhagen climate agreement fell short.
Ahmed Sareer, Maldives delegate to the United Nations, said, “After years of false starts and broken promises, restoring ownership and trust in the process is no small achievement. And I think we have come a long way toward doing that.”
Ambitions to seal a legally binding deal has raised the potential of disagreement with the United States. The “New York Times” reported that the Obama administration is seeking a non-binding international agreement to avoid the neeed to secure approval in the Republican-controlled Senate.
On the other hand, the European Union is committed to delivering a legally-binding treaty and some UN member states want sanctions imposed on the biggest emitters of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide who will not agree.
Based in Bonn, Germany, the UNFCCC has 196 parties. It resulted from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an agreement targeted at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by developed nations.