June 9, 2015 / 5:54 PM / 2 years ago

Pressure grows at U.N. climate talks for clearer deal outline

5 Min Read

BONN, Germany (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Negotiators at U.N. climate talks in Bonn are under growing pressure to speed their efforts to slim down the draft text for a new global climate deal due in Paris in December, so that ministers can start working on it this summer.

Ten days of discussions on the 90-page draft document are due to conclude on Thursday, amid expectations they will produce a shorter working version that retains all the options now on the table.

"Everyone is concerned that (the process) needs to be quicker," Jennifer Morgan, director of the Global Climate Programme at the World Resources Institute (WRI), told reporters.

"There is just an imperative that by Thursday they have a text that ministers can engage on this summer ... that has clear options," she said.

Jonathan Grant, director for climate change and carbon markets with consultancy PwC, said the climate negotiations felt "a world away" from the Group of Seven summit in Bavaria, where G7 leaders agreed on Monday to abandon fossil fuels by the end of the century and backed a 2050 goal to cut emissions.

Divisions persisted at the U.N. climate talks between rich, poor and emerging economies, while the discussions were bogged down in line-by-line reviews of the negotiating text, he added.

"Everyone is operating under the pretence that editing and streamlining for long enough will actually produce a coherent and short text with clearly defined alternatives for ministers to review," he said.

The focus on shaping the wording meant few real negotiations were likely to happen this week in Bonn, experts said.

Political decision-making is due to pick up pace over the summer, with ministerial meetings organized by the French government in late July and early September among other opportunities.

Treaty at Core?

Meanwhile legal experts and negotiators swapped views in Bonn on how a final deal could shape up in Paris, with many arguing that a legally binding treaty under international law should form the core of the agreement.

Jacob Werksman, principal advisor on climate action to the European Commission, said the EU wanted a treaty because it "represents the highest form of political will the international system provides".

A treaty would drive national action - including legislation - to meet targets to reduce emissions, and would be more resilient to changes of government, he said.

It would also likely have mechanisms for transparency and compliance that ensure countries follow through on their commitments, Werksman added.

But a treaty could also have non-binding elements within it, and that could help some countries adopt it and provide flexibility to adjust commitments according to evolving scientific and technological conditions, he said.

Dan Bodansky, a professor of law at Arizona State University, said it may be possible for the United States government to adopt a new international treaty without gaining the approval of the Senate or Congress - a potential problem that has been widely seen as a barrier to a legally binding agreement.

Political decisions that need to be taken by the nearly 200 governments involved in the U.N. negotiations include the criteria for any new climate treaty to enter into force, as well as how plans from both rich and poor nations to cut emissions and adapt to climate change should be linked with it, he added.

"Hopefully political decisions (in Paris) won't come so late that there isn't time to consider the legal ramifications," Bodansky said.

ACT 2015, an alliance of 10 thinktanks and universities from around the world, proposed at the Bonn talks that any deal in Paris should be built around a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero as early as possible in the second half of this century.

The agreement - which would take effect from 2020 - should also include a goal to support long-term adaptation to climate impacts, to help build the resilience of vulnerable communities, the coalition said.

Highly controversial issues such as boosting financial assistance for developing countries beyond 2020 - the deadline for a promise by rich nations to raise $100 billion a year - could be contained in a separate political declaration, said WRI's Morgan.

"For developed countries, it is very difficult to have numbers (on finance) in this agreement," she said.

Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Laurie Goering; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's rights, trafficking and corruption. Visit www.trust.org

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