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Damian Ryan: COP19 keeps us on track for a climate deal in Paris, if countries use 2014 wisely

25 November 2013
Damian Ryan: COP19 keeps us on track for a climate deal in Paris, if countries use 2014 wisely

COP19 in Warsaw, Poland, runs from November 11-22, 2013. As part of our involvement in COP19, Damian Ryan our Senior Policy Manager, is providing news and analysis as well as live tweeting. Today Damian writes his final blog on COP19's conclusion. His longer post-COP briefing will follow later this week.

Damian writes:

The 19th annual UN climate conference concluded in Warsaw early on Sunday morning (November 24), some 36 hours after its official closing - continuing what has become a familiar feature of these international talks.

The conference produced a set of decisions, which although lacking ambition, should keep countries on the path to signing a new global climate deal in 2015 provided work is stepped up in 2014. The key decision sets out a pathway and timetable for the 2015 agreement. However, the decision lacks the punch and clarity that many governments, businesses and NGOs hoped to see.

Rather than talking about country “commitments” under the new global deal it refers to “contributions” and notes that submission of these should be made “by those ready to do so” by the first quarter of 2015. The hope of many observers had been that these submissions would begin to be made from 2014 in order to give sufficient time for Parties to review each other’s respective efforts.

Progress at Warsaw

On a more positive note, the decision also states that Parties will accelerate their work on enhancing mitigation ambition by “facilitating the sharing…of experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities”. This is a welcome nod to the leadership of mayors, premiers and governors in tackling climate change and provides a useful hook for increasing national level action.

Countries also agreed to new institutional mechanism for dealing with Loss & Damage – the term used to cover the impacts of climate change in developing countries that even the best mitigation and adaptation efforts will be unable to avoid.

But to the disappointment of many developing countries, there is no explicit financial commitment in the mechanism, and its permenant status is subject to a review in 2016. Even so, the establishment of the mechanism represents an important step for the UNFCCC.

Climate finance

Closely linked to the Loss & Damage discussions, and central to the question of ambition generally, was the issue of finance. Here the outcome appears to be one of compromise in order to keep discussions going rather than derail them completely.

Countries will therefore continue deliberations on long-term finance in 2014, including through a high-level ministerial dialogue. Agreement on how to mobilize US$100 billion a year from 2020, first promised by developed countries in 2009, still seems some way off.

Agreement on a package of measures that will allow for “results based payments” to developing countries for leaving forests standing was a notable high point in the two weeks of talks. New funding commitments of US$280 million from Norway, the UK and the US for addressing deforestation will no doubt help with this work through the World Bank’s BioCarbon fund. Separately, countries also agree to increase funding for the Kyoto Protocol’s Adaptation Fund to US$100 million

Pathway to Paris

Overall, Warsaw has at a minimum kept the UNFCCC process on the rails for another year. But external events, particularly the typhoon in the Philippines, as well as announcements from Japan and Australia about reductions in their pledged 2020 emission, sapped confidence, trust and ambition from the process. The lack of ambition in the overall decisions from Warsaw reflect this atmosphere.

Countries have created for themselves a difficult path through 2014 and into 2015. It is a concern that the time remaining before COP21 in Paris is beginning to look like the two years preceding COP15 in Copenhagen. Then negotiators failed to act early enough to put the flesh on the bones of a deal, leading to the last minute scramble we saw in 2009.

So it is crucial that countries use 2014 wisely and come back to the table in the new year with a genuine desire to rebuild trust. Early submission of proposed commitments, particularly from the key developed and developing country parties would be a useful first step.

Read our COP19 news:

Bunkering down in Warsaw

Sub-national governments are the rising stars of climate action

Hurricane Haiyan puts ‘loss and damage’ front and center

COP19 in Warsaw begins, read our overview