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US and Algeria to take over as critical co-chairs of climate change negotiations after Lima

Negotiators from the US and Algeria are likely to be the next to co-chair the climate change negotiations leading to the Paris 2015 agreement. The decision has not been made as yet but is expected any day now at Lima.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, Ambassador and Advisor to the cabinet in the Algerian ministry of Foreign Affairs and Daniel A Reifsnyder, deputy assistant secretary for environment in the US department of states are the names chosen to head the process in the critical last phase.

They will replace the controversial two co-chairs, Kishan Kumarsingh from Trinidad and Tobago and Artur Runge-Metzger from the European Union at the end of the Lima round of talks.

Sources at the Lima talk said while the selection of the US negotiator was almost certain from the beginning, it had taken some while to narrow down the representative from the African region. After names of South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe doing the rounds finally Algeria had been picked.

The role of the co-chairs has always been critical in driving the negotiations forward as facilitators. But the two existing co-chairs had drawn flak from developing countries for bias and cherry-picking the agenda for the talks.

The co-chairs are supposed to facilitate the negotiations between different countries based on their formal submissions and push them to converge through iterative rounds. They are supported by the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which provides legal, technical and procedural guidance through its experts.

While no country talks of this openly, having an insight in to the operations of the secretariat and the co-chairs is seen as advantageous by different groups and countries at the multilateral negotiations. “The inputs from secretariat can be very important in moving the process forward in one or the other direction,” said a negotiator from a developing country in the G77 group, speaking on the basis of anonymity.

At Lima the two co-chairs and the secretariat came under increased criticism from many developing countries for driving the talks in favour of developed countries and ignoring their submissions. It took the intervention of the host Peru and strong unity among developing countries to convince the co-chairs to open the talks to a fair text-based exchange between countries. On Monday they presented their new consolidated draft negotiating texts at Lima, which the countries were still pouring over to read the fine print by the time of filing of this report.

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