UN climate talks in Bangkok made little headway on the thorny issue of how funding for poor nations to tackle global warming will be stepped up, an obstacle that could stymie progress at a summit in December, rights and aid groups said.
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the Bangkok negotiations, which finished Sunday, had made “uneven progress” on drafting a “rule book” to implement the 2015 Paris accord.
“This underlines the urgent need for continuing work in the coming weeks,” she said in a statement as the talks ended.
Environment and development experts were more damning, warning that a funding shortfall threatens the Paris Agreement to reduce planet-warming emissions and adapt to climate change.
“It is on the brink because developed countries are refusing to agree to clear rules governing climate finance,” said Harjeet Singh, ActionAid International’s global lead on climate change.
“If they remain stuck in their positions and fail to loosen their purses, the treaty may collapse. We have a mountain to climb before the climate summit in December,” he said.
Back in 2009, wealthy governments agreed to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help vulnerable countries grow their economies cleanly and withstand wilder weather and rising seas.
As that deadline nears, disagreements persist over where the money will come from, and what should be counted towards the $100 billion annual goal.
Those discussions were deadlocked in Bangkok, as the United States, Japan and Australia pushed for a flexible approach that would include commercial loans, insurance and export guarantees.
Campaigners also flagged troubles at the flagship Green Climate Fund, which is intended to channel a large chunk of the money rich nations have pledged, but is struggling to replenish its coffers after the US government signalled it would not deliver $2 billion of an initial $3-billion promise.
Espinosa told reporters the open questions around climate finance were complex, and that upcoming gatherings of leaders and ministers were an opportunity to address the issue.
At the December summit in Poland, governments will meet to finalise guidelines for putting into practice the Paris accord, which has been ratified by about 180 nations.
At the weekend, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in demonstrations across 95 countries calling for more action on climate change.
At the Bangkok talks, the role of civil society was limited, said Shradha Sreejaya of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, an advocacy group.
“There was no real progress on our demands on respecting human rights, gender equality, indigenous rights and public participation,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
No one had expected all outstanding issues would be resolved in Bangkok, but there was disappointment the gap between extreme positions had not been bridged, said ActionAid’s Singh.
“We have to come up with a rule book at year-end. This is not an artificial deadline – it’s a very real deadline if we want to implement the Paris Agreement in 2020,” he said.
Lidy Nacpil, coordinator at the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, said communities across the region were not waiting for governments to “do the right thing”, and were taking action themselves as climate-related disasters intensify.
“We cannot simply just pin our hopes on this (UN) process,” she said. “Every year that passes the situation gets more dire for our people.”