Climate talks: The sticking points

2014-11-28 14:11
(Martin Meissner, AP)

(Martin Meissner, AP)

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Paris - Some of the sticking points at UN climate talks starting in Lima on Monday - the last scheduled ministerial-level meeting before a global pact meant to be sealed in Paris in 12 months time.


The 196 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have set an outside target of limiting global warming to 2°C over pre-industrial levels.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and other climate-vulnerable countries want a tougher 1.5°C goal.

Legal Format

Should the pact be a "treaty" to be ratified by national parliaments, a slightly less formal "protocol" or some other form of agreement? And to what degree will it be binding under international law?

These questions, crucial and explosive, are likely to be decided in the final hours in Paris, say insiders.


The deal is meant, for the first time, to bind all countries to a common climate text, with nations making pledges to curb emissions of Earth-warming greenhouse gases.

Developing countries point to the principle of "differentiation" and want rich economies, who have polluted more for longer, to shoulder a bigger burden for addressing the problem.

Wealthy countries, in turn, point to the rise of China and India as massive emitters of carbon from fossil fuel driving their growth, and insist on equal treatment for all.

Poorer economies fear the talks are too focussed on emissions curbs, known in climate jargon as "mitigation".

They want the agreement to spell out financing for their own mitigation plans, but also help for adaptation, technology transfers, and compensation for climate damage.

Not yet settled is the very wording of the pact - should the targets be called "commitments" or "contributions"?

Emissions pledges

Countries are being asked to submit their emissions pledges ("intended nationally determined contributions" or INDCs) by the first quarter of 2015.

In Lima, negotiators will be tasked with agreeing on the type of information the INDCs must contain, and whether they will be housed in an annex or attachment to the main accord or in less formal "national schedules".

Before they become formal, will the pledges be assessed to determine whether they are sufficient, combined, to meet the warming target?

And if they are found lacking, will parties reconsider their commitments voluntarily or would there would be a "top-down" adjustment based on a global carbon budget (the total amount of fossil fuel the world has left to burn without exceeding the warming limit)?

Countries also disagree on whether the pledges should be for five- or 10-year cycles, and how frequently they should be reconsidered, if at all.

Follow up and compliance 

Reviewing and disciplining countries that fail to live up to their commitments is another thorny issue.

Will there be an international review of countries' performance, a compliance mechanism or committee, or none?

Read more on:    un  |  australia  |  climate change  |  environment

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