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Climate talks end with the promise of climate ‘reparations’ to poor countries

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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The 19th annual United Nations climate talks ended with a promise of more talks.

Nearly 200 countries hope to bring the world closer to reaching a more comprehensive agreement in 2015, including funding to poor countries for the damages caused by global warming.

Last week, more than 130 nations walked out of the negotiations as rich countries — including the U.S., Australia and the European Union — opposed creating a separate mechanism to dole out funds for “loss and damage” from global warming to poor countries. However, diplomats compromised as the talks officially ended on Friday and agreed to compensate poor countries under current treaties while not setting up a new institution to handle such a task.

However, the issue “loss and damage” will be revisited in 2016, reports Bloomberg BNA, meaning an institution to dole out climate “reparations” could still become a reality in the future.

“It’s important that the loss and damage structure has finally been created,” said René Orellana of the Bolivian delegation. “There’s a baby now, and we have to give him enough time to grow.”

Rich countries feared that creating a new UN mechanism for the damages of global warming would saddle them with new financial obligations — which would be unpopular in a time of slow economic growth, high unemployment and growing government debt.

The divide became so deep between rich and poor nations that 132 countries walked out of the climate talks when the U.S., Australia and Europe urged pushing back discussions over climate reparations until 2015.

American diplomats were specifically told to reject proposals to create a separate financing mechanism for climate reparations, but the U.S. supports existing efforts to fund climate mitigation efforts in poor countries under the already existing treaty.

“A central issue will be whether loss and damage continues to fall within adaptation or whether it becomes a separate, third pillar (alongside adaption and mitigation), which we believe would lead the [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] to focus increasingly on blame and liability, which in turn would be counterproductive from the standpoint of public support for the convention,” reads a State Department memo.

Poor countries hoped to use the recent Typhoon Haiyan as the catalyst for a more robust climate agreement that would carry more international aid with it. China and other poor countries have demanded $70 billion a year in climate aid by 2016.

However, no major country offered any action that would further cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Japan is no longer seeking to reduce its carbon footprint in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, and has instead opted to allow emissions to grow by 3 percent.

Australia’s new conservative government has introduced legislation that would repeal the country’s tax on carbon dioxide emissions. The bill has already passed the Aussie House of Representatives and is on its way to the Senate.

“We did not achieve a meaningful outcome,” said Naderev Sano, the Philippines delegate who opened the UN climate talks with a tearful call to action and vowed to fast in solidarity with his country for the duration of the climate talks.

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