WARSAW, MediaGlobal News—In the second week of the United Nations climate talks in Warsaw, a delegation representing the world’s developing and least developed nations walked out of negotiations early Wednesday morning after a disagreement over how to provide financial compensation for countries that are highly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming.
The G77 and China, a group of 132 nations that includes many Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), became fed up with Annex 1 countries’ continued attempts to block the creation of an independent mechanism on loss and damage. The talks stretched late into the evening, with Australia, the European Union and the United States accused of running interference. Around 4 AM, the Bolivian delegation abruptly left the room, followed by other G77 members.
LDCs and SIDS produce the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions yet bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change. Delegations are using this year’s (COP19) talks to pressure high-emitting nations to provide financial assistance in the event of climate change-related disasters. At negotiations in Doha last year, Parties agreed to establish such a mechanism. However, developed countries—the US in particular—are now opposing a separate process on loss and damage and pushing for private financial investments over binding country pledges.
Developed countries “don’t want to go forward with the financial part of it, but eventually they will have to be responsible for it,” says Ainun Nishat, a professor and Vice Chancellor at BRAC University in Dhaka, Bangladesh to MediaGlobal News.
Nishat, a member of Bangladesh’s delegation in Warsaw, explains that any loss and damage mechanism must deal with slow onset events and extreme disasters, neither of which are part of adaptation or disaster risk reduction.
“They wanted to push [the mechanism] under adaptation. That’s not acceptable, because every time we recognize this is a separate thing and by definition loss and damage is beyond adaptation,” Nishat says.
Another major point of contention had little to do with the draft itself. After the walkout, parties quickly accused Australia of causing disruptive and rude behavior during the negotiations. Australia’s delegation was acting like “a bunch of high school boys misbehaving in class,” Harjeet Singh, ActionAid’s international coordinator on disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation, tells MediaGlobal News.
According to Ria Voorhaar, a spokesperson for Climate Action Network, members of the Aussie delegation, “wore T-shirts and gorged on snacks throughout the negotiation. That gives some indication of the manner they are behaving in.”
“The G77 did not like Australia’s unprofessional behavior, they were making fun of their proposals,” Singh says. They made “a mockery of the entire negotiation process.”
Climate envoy for the US, Todd Stern, denied the walkout altogether, saying participants left together after a “business-like and constructive” discussion. “Our negotiators were surprised to hear this morning that there had been a walkout,” he told the press.
Civil society groups, including the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), expressed their disappointment in the stalemate and offered support to G77 and China.
“If rich industrialized countries continue to block these talks we will not hesitate to call them out. We will reject their farce and build our forces to hold them to account. We will not accept delay and we will demand our governments withdraw from an unsatisfactory outcome,” Mithika Mwenda, head of the PACJA, said during a COP19 side event.
Despite tensions, Saleemul Huq, an expert on loss and damage at the International Institute for Environment and Development, tells MediaGlobal News the G77 and China has a good chance of pushing through a mechanism if they remain united.
“The developing countries are very, very serious,” explains Huq. “This issue is very dear to the hearts of small island states and Least Developed Countries and the African countries which are most vulnerable. G77 and China, the larger group, has been supporting them in this and supported them in the walk out yesterday.”
“This is something that there is a great deal of unity on and there’s a great deal of strength of feeling, particularly from the small island states and Least Developed Countries,” says Huq.
Singh agrees. “They don’t want anything less than a mechanism. They are very clear,” he tells MediaGlobal News. “They can’t water it down to level where it becomes a meaningless institution.”
Both Huq and Singh express a cautious hope that a mechanism will be established by the end of the conference.
“You never know until the end, but I do know the developing countries are standing very firm,” Huq tells MediaGlobal News. ”If they don’t get it I’m not sure what will happen. At the moment they are extremely united.”