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Warsaw clears climate path

Warsaw, Nov. 24: Negotiators from some 200 countries stitched a deal yesterday to keep nations on track towards a new global climate pact to be rolled out in 2015 and offer vulnerable populations better protection from the effects of extreme weather events.

The deal from a 13-day UN climate change conference has proposed a global mechanism to provide vulnerable populations improved protection from loss and damage caused by extreme weather events such as cyclones and slow onset events such as rising sea levels.

The climate conference itself appeared sandwiched between two extreme weather events, opening just as cyclone Haiyan had hit the Philippines and closing while a cyclone named Lehar has emerged over the Bay of Bengal and is approaching India’s east coast.

“The Warsaw deal sets a pathway for countries to work on a draft text of a universal climate agreement so it appears on the table at the next conference in Peru,” said Marcin Korolec, the Polish environment minister and president of the Warsaw meeting. “This is an essential step to reach a final agreement in Paris in 2015.”

The climate talks are intended to get both industrialised and developing countries to intensify actions that will curb the emissions of greenhouse gases. Climate scientists and environmental groups want action to keep average global temperature rise below 2 degrees C.

The text of the Warsaw deal emerged after tough negotiations, at times over a single word. On emission targets and its time-table, the word “commitments” by all parties was changed — under pressure from China and India — to “contributions”.

Countries will now have to make significant progress on their work plans and develop “national offers” that can become “the backbone of a new climate agreement”, said Jennifer Morgan, the director of climate and energy at the US-based World Resources Institute, who had been tracking the Warsaw talks.

Details of the proposed Warsaw International Mechanism to provide vulnerable populations improved protection from loss and damage from extreme weather events linked to climate change are expected to emerge next year. The mechanism will provide aid and expertise to cope with losses from such events.

“Let us be clear, we are witnessing ever more frequent weather events, and the poor and the vulnerable are already paying the price,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The UNFCCC said governments also provided some clarity on mobilising finance to support country actions to curb greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

There was little further progress on financing but for text that urged industrialised countries to set “increasing levels” of aid as well as introduce “a review” every two years.

The industrialised countries have made mere commitments of providing $10 billion every year till 2020 by which time the grant will be increased to $100 billion every year.

“The Warsaw meeting failed to provide immediately needed climate finance to address adaptation and mitigation in developing countries,” Sanjay Vashist, director of Climate Action Network South Asia, said in a media release tonight.