WARSAW, Poland, November 24, 2013 (ENS) – The UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw ended on Saturday, 24 hours behind schedule, with organizers declaring that governments are still on track to agree on a universal climate agreement in 2015 that will come into force from 2020.
“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,” said Poland’s Environment Minister Marcin Korolec, who served as president of the climate conference.
In Warsaw, new decisions were adopted on loss and damage from climate change and cutting emissions from deforestation. The deal hammered out Saturday ends two weeks of talks among delegates representing 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said, “We have seen essential progress. But let us again be clear that we are witnessing ever more frequent, extreme weather events, and the poor and vulnerable are already paying the price.”
“Now governments, and especially developed nations, must go back to do their homework so they can put their plans on the table ahead of the Paris conference,” she said.
“Just in the nick of time, negotiators in Warsaw delivered enough to keep things moving toward a climate agreement in 2015,” said Jennifer Morgan, director, Climate and Energy Program with the nonprofit, U.S.-based World Resources Institute.
“The talks opened with a tragic reminder of what is at stake, but there were few signs of urgency within the negotiating rooms,” Morgan said, referring to the deadly super typhoon Haiyan that struck the Philippines November 8-9.
The latest death toll, issued today by Philippines disaster authorities, puts the number killed at 5,235, with more than 25,550 injured and 1,613 others still missing.
Governments in Warsaw decided to establish an international mechanism to offer vulnerable populations protection against loss and damage caused by extreme weather events and rising sea levels. Work on the new “Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage” will begin next year.
On financing, the Warsaw meeting resulted in concrete announcements of forthcoming contributions of public climate finance to support developing nation action from Norway, Sweden, Germany, Finland and the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States, South Korea and Japan.
The Green Climate Fund is opening its headquarters in Incheon, South Korea December 4 and will begin its initial resource mobilization process towards the agreed US$100 billion annual fund to help developing countries cope with climate change.
Arrangements between the UNFCCC Conference of Parties and the Green Climate Fund were formalized in Warsaw. The GCF will have full responsibility for funding decisions, but it shall receive guidance from the COP, including on matters related to policies, program priorities and eligibility criteria, and report annually to the COP.
To enable effective operations of the Green Climate Fund, developed countries were asked for ambitious, timely contributions by the next Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC, in December 2013 in Lima, Peru.
The Warsaw agreements include a set of decisions 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.
The Warsaw Framework for REDD+ is backed by pledges of US$280 million financing from the United States, Norway and the United Kingdom.
REDD, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.
REDD+ goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, to include the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Korolec said, “We are all aware of the central role that forests play as carbon sinks, climate stabilizers and biodiversity havens. Through our negotiations we have made a significant contribution to forest preservation and sustainable use which will benefit the people who live in and around them and humanity and the planet as a whole. And I am proud that this instrument was named the Warsaw Framework for REDD+.”
In Warsaw, a milestone was passed after 48 of the poorest countries of the world finalized a comprehensive set of plans to deal with the inevitable impacts of climate change and what support they need to become more resilient.
Developed countries, including Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland have also paid or pledged over US$100 million to add to the Adaptation Fund, which has now started to fund national projects.
“Progress will also depend on mobilizing more support for vulnerable countries,” said Morgan of World Resources Institute. “One relatively bright spot were countries’ pledges, in excess of $100 million, to support developing countries’ adaptation efforts. Before reaching Paris, financial support will need to be ramped up significantly to meet the commitment of $100 billion by 2020.”
Governments completed work on the Climate Technology Centre and Network. Now it can immediately respond to requests from developing countries for help on the transfer of technology. The CTCN opened in Copenhagen, Denmark on Thursday.
It “will translate the rhetoric of climate technology into the realities of technology development, transfer and adoption,” remarked Griff Thompson, CTCN Advisory Board Chair.
Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, said,“This facility will make a substantive contribution to accelerating the use of existing and new technologies that can improve the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries.”
In Warsaw, governments decided to initiate or intensify preparations for their intended national contributions towards the universal agreement. Countries also resolved to close the pre-2020 ambition gap by intensifying technical work and more frequent engagement of ministers.
Parties ready to do this will submit clear and transparent plans by the first quarter of 2015 before the negotiations in Paris that must finalize a legally-binding universal agreement.
Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action, said, “The Warsaw climate conference showed how challenging the way to an ambitious result in Paris will be. But the last hours also showed that we are capable of moving forward.”
“The EU wanted the stepwise approach that is now agreed as the way forward: all countries must contribute to the future reduction efforts, and already now all countries must go home and do their homework in order to table their contributions well in advance of the Paris conference, and by the first quarter of 2015 by those ready to do so,” Hedegaard said.
“For sure there will be faster and less bumpy ways to Paris but now the journey has started. We must make it there,” she said.
The UNFCCC secretariat celebrated its annual Momentum for Change lighthouse activity awards for climate actions that demonstrate positive results through innovative finance, by women and the urban poor. In addition, Momentum for Change launched a new initiative focusing on contributions by information and technology sector to curb emissions and increase adaption capacity.
In Warsaw, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon repeated his invitation to all governments, and leaders from finance, business, local government and civil society, to a climate summit in New York on September 23, 2014. This will be a solutions summit, complementing the UNFCCC negotiations.
“I ask all who come to bring bold and new announcements and action,” said Ban. “By early 2015, we need those promises to add up to enough real action to keep us below the internationally agreed two degree temperature rise.”
Organizers say the Warsaw talks were “a showcase for climate action by business, cities, regions and civil society.”
But civil society groups were deeply disappointed. Some 800 NGO observers walked out of the talks on Thusday in protest.
“The blocking by rich industrialized countries has been disgraceful,” said Asad Rehman, head of international climate with Friends of the Earth, one of the groups that walked out. “They rejected a target on financing of $70 billion by 2016, and they blocked any reference to a specific number on pollution controls, such as the 40 percent called for by the IPCC.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a dire warning in September in its latest scientific report.
“With the planet careering towards catastrophic climate change, the international community has done nothing in Warsaw to take its foot off the accelerator,” said Rehman.
“This summit has been shrouded in farce – dominated by rich, industrial nations who have put the interests of big polluters first. They leave Warsaw with an agreement that will allow them to do as they please.”
Meena Raman of the nonprofit Third World Network said, “The ratcheting up of pre-2020 action is an equally important outcome of these negotiations, and yet countries led by the U.S. refused to have any specific numbers included on pollution targets and finance. An abysmal moral failure by the richest people in human history.”
“Outside the conference center, the international coal lobby cast a shadow over the negotiations,” said Morgan. But, it’s increasingly clear that unabated coal use is inconsistent with the goal of staying within 2 degrees of global temperature rise. A growing number of governments, including the US and UK, and multilateral institutions are reflecting this reality by shifting finances toward cleaner energy sources.”
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