| Valerie Volcovici & Alister Doyle |
LIMA (Reuters) – As UN climate talks enter their final days, the “Berlin Wall” that has for years divided rich and poor countries once again looms large as negotiators race to write a draft of a global deal that is meant to tear it down.
At the root of the problem is a 1992 UN climate Convention splits the world into rich and poor nations and obliges only the rich to cut emissions. Since then, however, nations such as Singapore or Mexico have grown rich but are still deemed “poor”.
In Lima, representatives of 192 countries are trying to craft a new accord that will hold developed nations responsible for their past emissions but that will also put on the hook some emerging economies that will emit most carbon in future.
Last month progress was made to break down barriers between rich and poor – defined in UN jargon as annex 1 and non-annex 1- when the United States and China announced joint action to curb emissions across a divide sometimes called a “Berlin Wall”.
Countries are grappling with how to redefine these distinctions in a draft deal to be finalised in Paris next year that is meant to limit more heat waves, floods, desertification and rising sea levels.
EU Energy and Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete warned Wednesday that some countries are propping up the firewall in the final days of talks. “Some parties have unfortunately reverted to standard positions,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s chief negotiator Khalid Abuleif stressed to reporters that the division between developed and developing countries should continue, “but we are open to discussing that, to ensure broader participation.”
Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said in a speech Wednesday that Lima talks were not the “right time or process to discuss these issues.”
US Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern, who has also spoken in the past of a “Berlin Wall, said retaining divisions defined in 1992 was politically “untenable” when the world economy has changed so radically.
Yvo de Boer, a former UN climate chief, said the wall between rich and poor started to crumble at talks in Bali in 2007 when governments launched talks on a global climate pact.
“I think the Berlin Wall was knocked over in 2007. There have been some very active bricklayers trying to put it back up,” he said.
The US and China agreement said a 2015 climate deal should honour the “principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.” This phrasing could be a template for Paris, Stern said.