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Fracas over co-chairs’ revised negotiating documents hits climate talks in Week 2 as well

The ministerial round of climate Change talks at Lima began on a note of anger within several developing countries including India and China. The talks got bogged down early in the day in a fight over how the co-chairs of the talks from EU and Trinidad and Tobago had revised the negotiating text. Countries such as India and China along with many other developing countries read a persisting bias in favour of the developed countries in the new negotiating texts. They launched a broad-side attack on Monday morning criticising the texts and the co-chairs’ methods.

Much of the previous week of the talks had been wasted in the co-chairs refusing to let the negotiations go on based on submissions of countries and preferring to run it on their own proposals, seen as biased in favour of developed countries by many.

After four days of wrangling, the co-chairs finally agreed to let the talks proceed between countries based on their specific submissions. A compromise was thrashed out that at the end of the first week, the co-chairs would compile the submissions of countries in a manner that would permit line-by-line negotiations of the draft decision text over the second week of talks.

This would have required the co-chairs to take all the submissions from the countries, put them under the specific sections and bracket text that did not have the consensus of all. At the multilateral negotiations all elements of a decision text that do not have consensus are put inside brackets. As countries negotiate to find a language and elements that are agreeable to all the brackets are removed reflecting complete consensus. Negotiations go on until all brackets are removed and the document is then accepted as a formal UN decision at the end of the meeting.

In this instance, the co-chairs instead produced two sets of documents. The formal text which they hoped to get the negotiations start on during the week did not mark out the areas of differences between countries with brackets.

The LMDC countries including India and China, besides many others in the developing world saw the texts heavily biased yet again in favour of the developed countries. “This text again permits an early harvest of issues that favour developed countries – mitigation. It relegates concerns of developing countries to also-ran issues. They all need to be resolved in absolute balance,” said an Indian negotiator speaking to Business Standard.

At the talks India said, “We share concerns by G77 and China. To our surprise we find a clean text on the table (the documents) are limiting the scope of 2015 agreement. Other elements are getting pushed out and don’t have the same kind of legal status.” India sounded a warning that the talks could hit a stalemate yet again and said, “We feel over the next four five days it will be difficult to get into the same kind of discussion as we had in the previous week (referring to the fight with the co-chairs over procedure).”

Saturday last had seen developing countries repeatedly get the co-chairs to be specific about how they would proceed with the negotiations. China had said, “The understanding is we will have a consolidation of text (next week). It’s not about just putting it together. It needs some work to put it in the right place. We need to put textual proposals in a logical way that leads to negotiations line-by-line, comma-by-comma, full stop-by-full stop.”

The co-chairs remained evasive. Consequently Monday began with acrimony yet again. Not all countries were unhappy though. The developed countries largely supported the co-chairs’ methods and so did some country groupings such as the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean or AILAC. Its representative told Business Standard, “Today’s procedural hostage taking by the LMDC countries seems unjustified to me. It is only preventing us from progressing in the line by line negotiations.”

At the time of filing this report, the arguments between countries over the procedural wrangling continued at Lima.

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