UN climate talks in Warsaw end with modest gains

Negotiators reach consensus on some cornerstones of pact to be signed in 2015 aimed at slowing global warming

Members of NGOs walk out of United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 19 in Warsaw on November 21, 2013. They protested as they claim were 'on track to deliver virtually nothing'
2013 AFP

Developed countries and fast-growing economies have reached a last-minute compromise to avert a breakdown of climate talks in Warsaw, working towards the outline of a new United Nations pact in 2015 to slow down global warming.

After two weeks of negotiations, almost 200 nations agreed Saturday that all countries should work towards curbing emissions as soon as possible and ideally by the first quarter of 2015. 

The agreement ended a deadlock between rich and poor nations about sharing the burden of limiting emissions blamed for causing more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

Under the last climate pact, the Kyoto Protocol, only the most developed countries were required to limit their emissions.

"Just in the nick of time, the negotiators in Warsaw delivered enough to keep the process moving," said Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute think-tank.

China had insisted that developing nations should announce deep cuts in emissions while allowing emerging economies room to burn more fossil fuels to help end poverty.

But the United States noted that all nations agreed in 2012 that the 2015 deal would be "applicable to all" and accused emerging nations of harping back to previous deals.

Even after breaking the deadlock over which countries should tackle emissions, talks continued on another issue that has divided rich and poor: the aid that developed countries pay to developing ones to help them curb emissions and cope with the impacts of climate change.

'Warsaw mechanism'

Developed nations, which promised in 2009 to raise aid to $100 billion a year after 2020 from $10 billion a year in 2010-12, have resisted calls to set targets for 2013-19.

A draft text merely urged developed nations, which have been more focused on spurring economic growth than on fixing climate change, to set "increasing levels" of aid.

The talks have also proposed a "Warsaw Mechanism," which would provide expertise, and possibly aid, to help developing nations cope with loss and damage from extreme events such as heatwaves, droughts and floods, and creeping threats such as rising sea levels and desertification.

Developing nations have insisted on a "mechanism" to show it was separate from existing structures, even though rich countries say that they will not get new funds beyond the planned $100 billion a year from 2020.

Below are some of the main decisions reached by 195 countries at the two-week meeting in Warsaw, meant to produce the outlines of a 2015 deal to combat global warming:


Developed nations promised in 2009 to increase their aid to poorer countries to $100 billion a year after 2020, to help them cope with climate change, marking an increase from $10 billion a year in 2010-12. But in Warsaw they rejected calls to set targets for 2013-19. A draft text merely urged developed nations to set "increasing levels" of aid, to be reviewed every two years.

Loss and damage

The talks agreed to establish a new "Warsaw International Mechanism" to provide expertise, and possibly aid, to help developing nations cope with losses from extreme events related to climate change. The exact form of the mechanism will be reviewed in 2016.

Path to a 2015 deal

Countries agreed to announce plans for curbs on greenhouse gases beyond 2020 "well in advance" of a summit in Paris in December 2015 and "by the first quarter of 2015 for those in a position to do so." It called the submissions "intended nationally determined contributions" – the word "intended" hinting they are open to change. Many developed nations had wanted the word "commitments."


Talks on how to set up new market-based mechanisms to curb emissions failed because developing nations refused to advance the process unless rich countries take on tougher emissions targets. Talks will resume in the first half of next year.


The conference agreed a multi-billion dollar framework to tackle deforestation. The fledgling Green Climate Fund will play a key role in channelling finance for projects to halt deforestation to host governments, who in turn must set up national agencies to oversee the money.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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