Discord Proliferates as Paris Heads into Overtime

As predicted, the Paris climate summit is pushing past today’s deadline as negotiators prepare to work into the weekend to try to hammer out some sort of consensus. The FT reports:

The move was widely expected, since UN climate talks rarely finish on time and this meeting is more fraught than most. Delegates are aiming to reach a new global deal six years after the last attempt collapsed in heated disputes in Copenhagen. […]

[Hopes for a compromise] were scuppered by the same string of disagreements between rich and poor countries that have brought deadlock to climate negotiations for more than 20 years.

For a more complete rundown of the problems delegates in Paris are up against, have a look at some of our earlier coverage this week—the problems described there persist. Here’s the quick and dirty summary: A binding deal is off the table (a non-starter from the beginning), so negotiators are working on ways to hold member states to national commitments made in the run-up to this summit. Those of the more gung-ho green persuasion would like to set up a review mechanism to ensure countries are following through on their climate pledges, and want to establish a five-year cyclical update to these pledges going forward. Here, China and the Gulf’s petrostates aren’t cooperating, and negotiators don’t seem particularly close to an agreement. As one French spokesperson told Reuters, “countries have entrenched behind their red lines instead of advancing on compromise.”

But there’s another point of contention, arguably the most important facet of these talks: the money. Rich countries promised to create a Global Climate Fund six years ago in Copenhagen, and contribute $100 billion to it annually. But so far those funds haven’t materialized. America has promised to double public grants towards helping poorer countries deal with the effects of climate change, but that $860 million commitment is still a far cry from what was agreed upon in Copenhagen, and from what developing countries will require if they’re to sign on to any sort of economy-stunting emissions-reducing policy commitments.

Worse, what has been promised in climate financing seems to be based on some very fuzzy math. The AP reports:

In the wild west of climate finance, the funding includes things like a “love movie festival,” research on elephant sounds and even new coal plants…When it comes to climate money, expert after expert says, don’t believe most figures.

No one is saying money is being misspent, but they are saying it is being misreported, making it sound bigger than it really is…”Developed countries inflate the figure; they count everything they can find,” said Romain Weikmans, a researcher at Brown University’s Climate and Development Lab. “It’s really a process of lying the more you can.”

We’ve been following the run-up to Paris all year, and time and again it seemed like momentum was waning—not waxing—as the summit drew closer. We’re now running into overtime and none of the central questions have been answered. Rather, points of contention seem to be proliferating in these final days. The last time the world came together to attempt a climate accord it ended in spectacular failure. Six years later the UN has at least managed to exact national commitments from its members, but on the subject of an international deal it seems like precious little has changed.

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