The 19th annual Conference of the Parties (COP) concluded in Warsaw on November 23rd with delegates unable to reach any major agreements on climate change mitigation. Expectations were low at the beginning of the summit and the lack of substantial progress had an air of predictability. There was, however, no shortage of heated debate. The destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, just days before the COP meeting began, added urgency to the proceedings and stoked the frustration of many participating representatives.
The lack of progress on the financial side of the negotiations was particularly pronounced. An agreement was reached on financing the crucial Green Climate Fund. However, although the parties agreed to “operationalize” it, the U.S. and Canada blocked strong financial language and the end result was too weak to ensure investment. While some countries pledged substantial amounts of money towards adaptation and mitigation funds, others avoided concrete commitments. As it stands, the COP is not on track to meet its target of mobilizing $100bn in climate finance by 2020.
Despite these financial failures, the summit was more or less successful in laying the groundwork for more meaningful agreements in Paris in 2015. Both a structure and timeline were decided upon for a 2015 agreement, forming an important basis for negotiations going forward. If this timeline is honored, the next two years could see more substantial agreements.
The most critical takeaway from COP19 was the continuing, and apparently deepening, division between the developed and developing country parties. This divide is decades old, however, worryingly it appears to be increasingly entrenched at these high level functions. At one stage, developing country delegates walked out over a debate on who should pay for damages caused by climate disasters. If the COP is to achieve significant progress in 2015, the increasingly difficult task of integrating these two divided groups will need to be taken on with urgency.