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By Kenton X. Chance

James Fletcher, St. Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development. (IWN photo)
James Fletcher, St. Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development. (IWN photo)

WARSAW, Poland — The G-77 and China, a bloc that includes Caribbean states, walked out of negotiations on Wednesday, saying they were frustrated by the non-agreement over who will take legal responsibility for the loss and damage caused by the changing climate.

The negotiation continued into the predawn hours of Wednesday and negotiators from the group of 133-member countries walked out around 4 a.m.

James Fletcher, St. Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development, said he was briefed on the development.

“They were not happy with the way the loss and damage negotiations have been proceeding,” he said in reference to negotiators from the bloc, which comprises the world poorest nations, many of which are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

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Fletcher said loss and damage, a contentious issue at the two weeks of talks, is “a very big issue” for the bloc, adding that the group fought hard to get the subject on the agenda of this year’s talks.

“…it is one of the outcomes that we are looking for from Warsaw,” he further said, adding that climate finance, and commitments to reducing carbon emissions are also important to the bloc.

He said that the announcement by Japan last week that it was decreasing its carbon emissions reduction target, did not help the negotiations.

“It is bad enough coming into a conference where ambition is already so low and to leave it with ambition even lower than when you came in is not a good thing,” Fletcher said.

“…I think the G-77 and China really was expressing its strong displeasure with the way in which loss and damage negotiations have been going. … I think it really shows how strongly we really feel about loss and damage and how we want the international community to listen to our issues on loss and damage,” he said.

Fletcher said that he was impressed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s sensitivity to the issues surrounding the Alliance of Small Island States, to which Caribbean Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change also belong.

“But I think it is necessary for us to reiterate to the international community that loss and damage is one of those lines in the sand for us.”

Asked to respond to criticisms that walking out does not help the negotiations, Fletcher said:

“In negotiations, there are always very many tools that you can use and sometimes it gets to the point where you figure you are left with no choice,” he said, but added that he could not say what precipitated the walkout.

“I do know there seemed to have been serious discomfort on the part of G-77 and China with the behaviour of at least one of the Annex 1 countries and that may have precipitated the walk out.”

Annex I countries include the industrialized countries that were members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1992, plus countries with economies in transition, including the Russian Federation, the Baltic States, and several Central and Eastern European States.

Fletcher said that Caribbean and other developing countries are still hoping for a satisfactory outcome of the talks.

“It is the whole reason for being here. You don’t come half around the world in this kind of weather for fun,” he said, referring to the single digit temperatures in Warsaw.

“You come expecting that you can go back and say to your residents, ‘We are on a better path that we were before,’” Fletcher added.

He said Caribbean nations want to see the beginning of a separate mechanism to address loss and damage and at least some better commitment for climate finance, particularly the Green Climate Fund, which is intended to make a significant and ambitious contribution to the global efforts towards attaining the goals set by the international community to combat climate change

“The Green Climate Fund is extremely important for us and we would like to leave here with something more tangible where climate financing is concerned, and an understanding, an appreciation, and even more so, a commitment on the part of our Annex 1 countries to come in with higher ambition where emission reductions are concerned.”

Fletcher said the world is on course to register up to a 5-degree Celsius increase in global temperatures, adding that such a situation would be “catastrophic for us.

“We said anything above a 1.5-degree warming would be too much for us. We are grudgingly coming to accept the fact that we may have to settle for 2 [degrees]. But, certainly, we can’t keep shifting the goalpost, saying, now 3, now, 4, now 5 [degrees Celsius].

“But, if we continue at the rate at which we are emitting, then we really are on a path to a 4-degree warming. That’s unacceptable. That will spell doom for many of our small island states. So, we want to see something done right now so that we can have greater pleasures and more serious action in reducing emission,” Fletcher said.

The 19th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 19) and the 9th Session of the Conference of Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 9) are being held here from November 11 to 22.