Geneva climate talks launch pledge to understand climate change impacts on human rights

UNgenevaToday, the first of several sessions towards the Paris climate treaty concluded in Geneva. Countries delivered a negotiation text that will form the basis for discussions at the next session in June in Bonn.  Environmental groups applauded the launch of the Geneva Pledge, an initiative to better understand the connection between human rights and climate change supported by 15 countries with more countries expected to join.

By the end of 2015, the world’s countries are expected to flesh out an agreement to address climate change and advert dangerous global warming. Today, just before the 10th year anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol that entered into force on 16 February 2005, the first of probably five negotiating sessions concluded in Geneva, Switzerland.

The conference took place in the historic buildings of the United Nations Human Rights Council. It was in this setting that numerous countries highlighted in their very first interventions that all climate change related actions must respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights for all. The importance of human rights was emphasized by launching the “Geneva Pledge” as an initiative to better understand the connection between human rights and climate change. The Geneva Pledge was supported by 15 countries including Costa Rica, Chile, France and Sweden.

Perhaps it was because of the special setting that the mood of negotiators was rather positive. Perhaps the chatty air at the venue was also affected by the new style of the co-chairs that invited all countries to put forward their wish list for a climate deal. Contrary to previous sessions where the text was prepared by the co-chairs, countries were much happier with this approach that allowed everyone to depart with their own text included in the overall negotiation text contained in 86 pages.

While it is a good start to have a negotiation text that all countries are prepared to work with, the session also had its constraints. Many countries were upset and felt time was wasted as they were not invited to start discussing the actual content of the text which now has to be fine-tuned and streamlined, with the next session to take place in June in Bonn.

While content discussions were generally avoided, countries devoted about an hour today to share the views on the role of carbon markets in a future agreement. Many countries, including Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, China, Algeria and Saudi Arabia showed scepticism for the need for markets in a world where all countries will have to have high mitigation targets. Others, such as the US, EU, Norway and Switzerland highlighted the importance of markets. A crucial question will be the level of detail that countries will want to see included in the Paris climate deal and the elements that will be discussed and detailed at a later stage.

The June session will certainly be more challenging because it will have to start the difficult task to start discussions on contentious issues such as how to pay for climate actions and how to share the burden equitably amongst the different countries. The ambition put forward in the intended nationally determined contributions that developed countries will have to publish by 31 March 2015 will play a crucial role.

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