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COP21: Draft deal reached at climate conference but divisions, deliberations continue

Published:Sunday | December 6, 2015 | 12:05 AMAyesha Constable

PARIS FRANCE:

The almost 200 countries at the UN's 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris have adopted a 48-page draft document they hope will lead to an agreement to limit carbon emissions.

The document came after a week of negotiations at what many called the most important climate change meeting in history.

While the parties celebrated the text, which some had feared would not have been ready in time for handover to the COP president, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal,  other parties and negotiating blocs issued strong warnings about expectations for the upcoming ministerial level negotiations.

China requested that the term ‘agreement’ be removed from the draft document as they argued it was pre-empting the decision. The Chair later suggested the use of the term ‘outcome’ to make it the 'Draft Paris Outcome'.

Meanwhile, following the insistence of East Timor, parties were assured that time will be allowed next week for negotiations on some non-negotiated components, such as loss and damage, for which developing states have been lobbying.

Speaking on behalf of the G-77 developing nations and China, South African ambassador, Nozipho  Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, asked for the agreement be "comprehensive and balanced, strong and consensus-based" and that the core principles of the convention be respected.

Mxakato-Disek challenged parties to not waste time on process, as it’s believed that some developed countries have been seeking to delay negotiations by focusing on matters related to process.

Some have accused other blocs of seeking to divide and conquer the G-77 and China, as the unity of the group has been described as a hindrance to progress in the negotiations.

Meanwhile, divisions continue to emerge over how the final week of negotiations should proceed, even as Australian negotiator Peter Woolcott, asserted that developed countries would continue to lead the process.

Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Arab group asserted that the final agreement should address climate change and nothing else in reference to the issue of human rights and gender equality which they have reportedly been trying to block.

Civil society groups particularly members of the Women and Gender Constituency have been critical, arguing that gender justice, human rights and climate justice go hand-in-hand.

However, it was Professor Gurdial Singh Nijar, Chair of the Like-Minded Developing Countries who was most scathing in his remarks. He accused parties of attempting to 'dilute' principles.

Professor Nijar asked that the principles of equity and Common But Differentiated Responsibilities  be reflected in the final outcome. He received loud applause from observers when he asked the COP to make provisions for civil society groups to have greater access to the negotiations.

Deliberations continue next week at the ministerial level.

Negotiators of some developing countries have expressed concerns that with the limited progress made on some technical matters, outcomes may be unfavourable on items which require more technical expertise.

*Ayesha Constable is a PhD student in Geography at the University of the West Indies. Her research examines the perceptions of climate change by small-scale farmer and factors that determine adaptation. She is a member of several regional and global environmental organisations. She is attending COP21 as a youth delegate from Jamaica with a special interest in issues related to youth and gender.