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Climate talks in Lima: Is EU bringing gifts to the poor?

A key challenge in international negotiations is how to strike a balance. As one part has initiated a first move, they await the counterpart to make the next. This is also the case for the ongoing climate negotiations in Lima. The true challenge is to agree on when a proposal is so important that the counterpart needs to make a corresponding proposal.

Leading up to COP20 in Lima, we saw many initiatives from the EU. First they made a new climate package with mitigation targets for 2030, and later pledges to the Green Climate Fund started to tick in from EU member states.

In total, the rich countries have now made pledges for about 10 billion USD to the fund, which was the minimum level set by the UNFCCC executive secretary, Christiana Figueres. These pledges are essential, and many developing countries have responded with appreciation. However, this positive response has not lead to the change in the developing countrie’s positions that the EU had expected. This has created frustration within the EU delegation – they have made a move, so why will developing countries not do the same?

Well, the EU’s climate target for 2030 is ambitious compared to the targets set by other countries. However, compared to recommendations made by science, the EU target is still not ambitious enough. If every country would follow the example of EU, global temperature would rise well above the levels recommended by science.

If global temperature rises above the 2 degrees Celsius, developing country governments are aware that it will have tragic consequences for their populations. This makes it difficult to perceive the unsufficient reduction targets of the EU, as a gift. Furthermore, the main part of the money used for the pledges to the Green Climate Fund has just been relocated from existing commitments and budgets for development aid, which may lead to a cut back in money for health care, education and other aid programs.

I am not sure which reaction EU would have expected from developing countries. That they would give up their positions? That is not likely to happen. Developing countries do not perceive pledges as gifts or new initiatives, but instead as implementation of old agreements, made in earlier climate negotiations. Therefore, they stick with the positions they brought to the conference in Lima.

Nevertheless, EU should get recognition for the initiatives, which have been taken. It is an achievement to reach an agreement about new climate targets within the EU, and long hours have been spent in negotiations between different national ministries in order for EU member states to allocate money for the Green Climate Fund. 

EU has now implemented, and delivered on commitment made in an earlier agreement. But developing countries do not perceive these initiatives as gifts, which should be “repaid” by changes in their positions.


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