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Lima climate talks get ugly as developing countries slam UN officials

Diplomatic battles at Lima climate talks got ugly on the second day with many developing countries ramping up their attack against the two UN officials chairing the negotiations for Paris 2015 agreement, alleging bias and subversion of process.

At the same time, the developed countries led by the US demanded that references to developing countries making predictable, enhanced and adequate finance available for poor countries be dropped from the draft text of the 2015 agreement.

With varying degrees of harshness that diplomatic negotiations allow, the countries demanded that the two co-chairs begin formal negotiations on the basis of text from the countries and not their own cherry-picked ideas, which they found biased in favour of rich countries.  

The UN officials did not relent. While one of the co-chairs of the negotiations is Artur Runge-Metzger, selected earlier from the EU negotiating team as co-chair, the other is Kishan Kumarsingh from Trinidad and Tobago. The argument had been simmering from day talks began at Lima, with developing country expressing their dissatisfaction relatively politely. But, the push-back from developing countries got stronger as talks moved behind closed door meetings (called contact groups) on the second day.  

After Malaysia had spoken on behalf of the G77+China group criticising the method used by the officials, China went hammer and tongs individually too. It said that the approach for the past one year has not been real negotiations and added that it was concerned by the Co-chair’s proposal that the “secretariat takes notes” of the proposals by Parties and then they “take it back home to cook in their kitchen”.

But the co-chairs remain steadfast. Artur Runge-Metzger said, “We will get to that stage,” suggesting that they would continue to drive the negotiations for near future and not the countries.

Saudi Arabia, speaking for the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC), of which India and China too are members, supported the other poor countries saying the text was “unbalanced and needs to be balanced”.

The talks were suspended on Tuesday night and are to continue on Wednesday when India too is slated to speak. “We are going to raise serious concerns about this process on Wednesday. It’s just not right. The co-chairs are being more than unreasonable,” said an Indian official speaking to Business Standard from Lima. He did not want to be named.

“In a co-chair driven process they can pick and choose what proposals they take on board, change the meanings of countries’ proposals as they have done and not reflect all the options and views on the table as per exact proposals by parties, “ said Meena Raman of Third World Network, an observer organisation at the talks.

“It be a truly party (country) driven process, texts have to be projected on the screen and changes made by Parties to it,” she explained. “Such an approach prevails in all other UN processes where even more complex and difficult issues are handled. Why the UNFCCC does not follow this approach is baffling.”

The US on the other hand   pushed to delete language in the co-chair’s paper, which says that financial commitments should be new and additional, predictable, and adequate. Switzerland pushed aggressively to say that unless a paragraph calling for new commitments of finance post 2020 is left out of the text, there would be no agreement in Lima, reported officials of Oxfam America, also taking notes at the Lima talks.

The co-chair of the negotiations Runge-Metzger defended their way of working and said that “This is not the last time to go through the text. We are choosing this methodology of work for the next 4 days so that it is clear where the sticky points could be and then the text can come to the screen.”

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