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Leaked secret Lima draft decision: The real reason why G77 group got the climate talks put on hold

The G77 and China group asked for a sudden halt to the discussions on the Lima decisions on Thursday morning. They pointed out to the co-chairs of the negotiations that they were working on a proposal which would break the impasse at the climate talks. But the real reason was a leaked draft decision text that some members of the G77 delegations had got hold of early morning when it was inadvertently put on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website for a brief while and then withdrawn.

Business Standard accessed the text that was found on the UNFCCC website and got the G77 countries angry and concerned that their interests were being stymied despite almost 10 days of hectic negotiations. Sources in the G77 group said, as soon as they took the first cursory glance at the text they were miffed that despite assurances, secretive texts were being prepared to force decisions in particular directions.

The draft did not have the regular markings that are the hallmark of an official UN document but its authenticity arose from the fact that it had been downloaded from the UN climate convention website directly. The document, all of 7 pages, condensed the draft decision text that till last night stood at more than 100 pages with more than dozen options on the table for several contentious issues. “We don’t know if the co-chairs produced it, or the UNFCCC secretariat was working on something and it got leaked out by mistake. But it was on the official website and it was extremely worrisome on even the first read,” said a delegate from the Like Minded Developing Countries.

“The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities has been almost completely sacrificed in the new proposal we accessed,” said one of the key negotiators from the G77 group that had reviewed the draft. “We hope to give them a more balanced option instead. All the G77 countries are working on it collectively,” he added.

The decision at Lima was only meant to figure out what kind of information countries would provide starting March 2015 as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). These INDCs are basically the set of preliminary actions that all countries want to offer as their targets under the 2015 climate agreement. The agreement itself is to be negotiated through 2015 and finalised by the end of next year. But over the last 10 days, pushed by the developed countries, and developing countries believe, supported by the co-chairs, the INDC decision of Lima had instead turned in to a Trojan horse that fixed the nature and content of the complete 2015 agreement itself. “They brought in issues like ex-ante review of INDCs which was not part of the mandate for Lima.  They broke down differentiation between developed and developing country parties. They killed off any hope of increasing the pre-2020 targets of developed countries and delinked their obligations to deliver finance and technology from the 2015 agreement and developing country actions under it,” said a second G77 delegate Business Standard spoke to.

The co-chairs did not permit parties to negotiate between themselves for almost 8 days and drove the decision text in the manner they wanted. But with developing countries not agreeing to the procedure, they finally let countries argue on the basis of specific textual submissions. By Wednesday night the draft text was peppered with options from each group had ballooned to more than 100 pages.  “We argued and brought back our issues on the table starting Monday which make the text expand,” the G77 negotiator explained. “But the text we now found on the UNFCCC website is taking us back to where we began – heavily loaded in favour of the developed countries,” he added.

He read an example from it. Paragraph seven of the leaked text reads, “Developed country Parties and other Parties in a position to do so will …. mobilize and provide support for ambitious mitigation and adaptation action, especially for Parties particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.” The paragraph does away with differentiation that exists at the moment between developed and developing countries. Only developed counties are required to provide financial and technological support to the rest for emission reduction and adaptation.

The draft also keeps the provision for ex-ante review of the INDCs intact and at the same time lets the developed countries off the hook on their financial and technological commitments turning the latter optional. “Firstly, what should be reviewed, how it should be done and by what measure? Answer to these questions would form part of the 2015 agreement that we haven’t even begun negotiating yet. Second, how can they demand a review of our actions when they are talking of not even having firm commitments on finance, technology, adaptation or loss and damage,”  the negotiator said.   

“These are concerns of vast differences and we have been saying for all these days they have to be resolved between parties. These will take time as some of them are fundamental in nature. They were not supposed to either be inserted here in to Lima talks or resolved here. There is designated time over next  year to negotiate the new agreement,” another negotiator from the G77 team working on an alternative said.

At the time of writing this report the G77 group negotiators were still consulting with each other over a counter proposal and the UN official announcements said the formal meeting would reconvene at 4 pm Peru time.

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