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‘Very little goodwill reciprocated by developed nations at Katowice so far’

Ambassador Wael Aboulmagd of EgyptAt the end of the first week, what are the key areas of concern for the G77+China group and what are the areas that you are happy about the progress made so far?Well, it is difficult to say what we feel good about because for any negotiator you look at the iteration of the text and then you automatically look for the things that matter to you which are missing. So that is an impulse that every delegate will have.Is there a long list of that?From the feedback I am getting from all our coordinators, there are significant issues on the Nationally Determined Contributions (targets under the Paris Agreement). The issue of differentiation – which is of great importance to G77 and China – is not reflected in any meaningful sense. Our stress is on article 4.4 of the Paris Agreement which very clear in indicating what developed countries must do and what developing countries should be doing and that clearly makes a differentiation. Logically, therefore, there will be different types of NDCs so you cant have guidance (rules) that fit all. That is something we are stressing upon and we are not happy with the manner by which differentiation is almost not reflected.We heard others from developed countries stressing the exact opposite. There are other smaller issues but this is the central one on NDCs.We have some concern about the transparency framework. We are worried about the limitation that some are trying to put on the issue of flexibility.Could you dwell two minutes on what is flexibility in transparency framework all about?Flexibility is intended to acknowledge the realities of the world. That developed countries have been reporting on multiple levels for a number of years under previous obligations. Under the Paris Agreement, they transition from their current state of reporting to an enhanced transparency framework. Their transition logically is going to be rather smooth but they are resisting even this enhanced part of the transparency framework. And in some iterations and some pronouncements on their part, we are seeing backsliding. So, they are defying the notion of enhanced transparency framework. The Agreement requires the transparency framework to be built on the existing one and eventually supersede it.For us (developing countries) we acknowledge it is going to be an enhanced transparency framework but the reality is that we have not been reporting the same type that they have. So for us to meet the requirements of a transparency regime that we have we need multiple types of flexibilities based essentially on capacity and also on national circumstances. So, this is what we are talking about when we talk of flexibility under transparency regime.For developing countries, these flexibilities are in kind but also in time. Developed countries want these to be very conditional, meaning we have to submit, explain, articulate and clarify why we think that we are eligible for these flexibilities – this is a non-starter from our perspective. We insist and I think most people will accept that these are nationally determined circumstances so no one will tell country X I am not convinced that these are your circumstances. It is up to every country to say.The other part of flexibility is time bounded nature of them. Are they open until we decide that are ready to graduate or will there be another arbitrary date imposed?Here we have several concerns at the moment about flexibility – without which we will be just setting ourselves up for failure. They need to realise that it is in no one’s interest to establish a regime that puts high demands and high burdens that will almost with some certainty lead to many countries not being able to deliver on it. That is just not wise in any kind of legislation let alone in an international agreement with sovereign states. That is the concern we have with transparency and then there are several others.On finance?Finance is one of the cornerstones of the agreement because without adequate support in general particularly finance it would be very difficult for us to meet the contributions that we would like to deliver. Whatever contributions we make will be bound by what support we are confident to find. Then this brings in the issue of predictability of finance and confidence. Which takes us of course to the famous article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement.As you well know it talks about an obligation on developed countries to provide ex-ante information, which means information on the finance they shall provide in future. They insist and according to their reading of the Paris Agreement, this is just information.When you say they you mean…Developed Countries.All of them? The US and the EU?In varying degrees but most developed countries, I have spoken to adopt the position that I am now describing. Basically, what is in Paris is a shall requirement but that shall requirement to only provide information. Almost as if in the abstract without any context without any elaboration, modalities or type of commitment beyond providing information. We, on the other hand, would like to see this communicated, then synthesised and have a meaningful discussion as to the content of that information. Because this provision is there for a reason. It was not put there haphazardly. It was to provide an element of predictability or at least confidence as to the general flow of finance coming from the totality of the developed countries. Of course, obligations here are on developed countries are individual responsibilities but there is also the collective aspect of finance.There you have other issues with finance. We have seen a lack of willingness to engage on long-term finance issues and the collective goal issues. I could go on and on. These are some of the main ones.Please give an overall view of where things stand please as your group sees themWe have bigger picture issues. Paris was a package. It was a comprehensive coherent unit like any agreement. In order for us to do this process – it’s been almost three years of trying to operationalise the agreement – we have had to dismantle it into its components and various articles. Then we have had to work on each one of them, which has become, for better or for worse, a siloed process. Where every track is self-contained. The linkages between all of them are very strong but in reality, the work is not taking those linkages forward as much as we would like to see. What are the consequences? One of them would be that we would have the completion of the work in the silo mode but you still have to be able to, at the level of a decision-maker, as heads of states and as heads of government, to be able to look at them and then see all the parts can be brought together again and have this entity work in a meaningful way. So, this is the overall balance we are looking.So, you are saying so far that balance does not exist at Katowice?I am saying, its difficult to do. When we use the balance in any context it means comparing two things to each other. But you continue to look at each one of them individually and not put them side by side it is difficult for you to make a decision whether the balance has been secured or it’s still lacking. This is something we shall have to look at with all the other issues in the coming days.You mean before the ministerial level starts?No, it’s too late. It will now have to be throughout the ministerial level. Saturday is the last day (for negotiations before the ministerial level). We have only a few hours before us and the process as we know it will come to an end and will resume in a different format. The Presidency informed us it will be based on the multiplicity of tools. They are rightly are going to use every track to achieve the objective of the talks.You mean heads of delegations, ministerial bilaterals…From top to bottom. Ministers will be involved. That is the sign we are getting. I think and this is my reading they shall entrust pair of ministers for example to take certain portions and parts of certain areas. They will tell them, here two ministers – presumably one from developed and another from developing – take this, lets say this issue differentiation or any other that the presidency in its own wisdom with the co-chairs and presiding officers decides more help to see the final product and tell them to talk to people and leave it to them. Of course with the help of the secretariat. They shall try to find the compromise solution and balance that we are all seeking.We have seen the utility of heads of states meeting to some extent. But that has its limitation. It is still a collective forum and you can imagine it’s not easy to negotiate text. Ministers will have a role in days to come and the heads of delegations. We wish the Polish Presidency Well.On how G77 + China has acted so far…We have demonstrated not by words but by action that we are sparing no efforts under Egypt’s chairmanship, to reach out and to take issues head on, talk frankly with our interlocutors from the developed world and to show the political will to reach an agreement with the willingness to consider reasonable compromises for the success. We are invested in the process as G77+China. We have never held back. We have been constantly engaging even on issues with very divergent views. We shall continue to do so. All that we have asked, and it’s on record with Egypt as chair (of G77+China), we shall show flexibility but we shall be reciprocated in kind and in extent.Have you seen this reciprocation from the developed countries at Katowice so far?On some occasions, we have managed to see very little goodwill come across. Nothing has materialised as yet. But we will continue because we have no choice. We understand as citizens of the world that the stakes are too high. And, the NDCs as we see them now still put us on a dangerous trajectory. The pressures are tremendous for social, health and economic reasons. It’s about our children. We must step up to the plate and do the best we can. Start a regime that will be effective in fighting climate change, help us achieve the 2-degree target and take us down to the 1.5-degree Celsius. But we must say we want an agreement, we shall work for an agreement but not just any agreement.We repeatedly say this to our developed country partners. If we set up a regime that is too demanding on developing countries what will happen in the best case scenario is that countries will implement the bare-minimum and show the bare-minimum amount of ambition. And, that is definitely not what we want. We want the widest strong contribution by everyone – small, mid-sized one. This is a collective effort under a unique agreement that is almost without precedent where everyone’s contribution counts. No one no matter how big they are can do it alone. We need everyone lifting their fair share of the weight.Since US President Trump said he might walk out of the Paris Agreement if it is not reworked to their convenience how have you seen things progress on the rulebook? What has the US been up to at the climate talks?It’s difficult to say. Of course, we regret that but the United States is a sovereign state and it takes its decisions based on what they determine to be their national interest. We are diplomats have to work with whatever situations we are confronted with. The United States delegation has engaged on many issues and continued to participate. Their official position is that they shall continue to partake in the negotiations and revisit the issue in light of the outcome and determine if they will go ahead with the legal steps of withdrawing. We have no luxury in just assessing, we have to deal with the situation as it is. The United States has a major responsibility for high emissions and also obligations for support to developing countries so we would, of course, hope that every country in the world – the US and others – continue to be part of the regime.Some developing country negotiators here suggest that EU is hiding behind the US belligerence and in fact happy to bend backwards to keep the US in Paris Agreement on whatever terms it wants. Would you agree with that portrayal?I try to resist sweeping judgements of positions of countries or group of countries. I take things at face value. I see what articulation come from my counterparts and I judge and interact based on those without worrying too much.And, what would your reading be then?The EU, at least in my interaction with them, have been honest interlocutors. We see things quite differently on a number of issues. But, we continue to interact with them and we see differences within them in their positions as developed countries and that is quite normal. At the end of the day, developed countries as a collective share a lot of positions and issues.They would like to create a very stringent regime with a high focus on mitigation. At least in the negotiating rooms, we do not see the comparable interest in issues of adaptation or even the urgency of understanding the issues of adaptation to developing countries.I do not want to deny any country their fair share. Some countries are trying to help. The Adaptation Fund relies on generous contributions from developed countries. All that is appreciated and would not be fair to deny. But, the needs of developing countries are so tremendous that they require more. But, there is no donor and receipt in this regard. This is not aid, this is a collective effort. I do not want to get into historical responsibility but there are reasons for developed countries to provide financial support. Developing countries have not contributed to any of the situations we are in historically and right now the share still remains very tilted in terms of emissions on the side of developed countries. They are making some efforts but they have their internal issues. We are trying to make contributions but we have our priorities including our legitimate right to development and to continue our effort to eradicate poverty.We have heard some countries and smaller developing country groups say there is an attempt to rewrite the Paris Agreement through the talks at Katowice negotiations. Is that an assessment that the G77+China group with all developing 137 countries agree with?I try to avoid sweeping judgements but yes by the very definition of multilateral diplomacy people will try to stretch whatever is open to interpretation to their interest. What you might consider on an occasion to be clear and excessive stretching of a provision, it might be a legitimate interpretation in the hands of others. This happens all the time in the courts. When we enter the negotiations we (diplomats and negotiators) are representatives of sovereign states and we have an obligation to our taxpayers to try to get the best deal possible.The wise amongst us are the ones who realise that the best deal is the balanced one that will continue to serve the global interest. Not the one that might appear on a short-sighted radar as a victory for my country or yours but then it will not just be workable down the road because it happened to be skewed and tilted. So that is what is pursuing as G77+China, and particularly as Egypt. We realise we have a stake here and we are of course approaching it with an eye on our own national interest but also to get a fair deal that allows us to get the maximum ambition while securing us the support that we need.G77+China is a big group with developing countries coming from very different circumstances and interests. We hear that they show fractures as talks reach the last mile. We hear some of that is already happening. Would that be a fair portrayal of the group right now?Let me put it in my own words. The G77+China is a very large group. By virtue of it being large, it is not going to be consistent with its positions on every issue. This not a bad thing. It is just a reflection of the reality. When you have a very large group which includes very large countries such as China and India and other more developed countries within the group compared to some who are least developed or small island developing states it is very normal and legitimate to have differences. I cannot imagine that the priorities and the interests and consequently the positions espoused by small island states to be the same to that of India, for example. Now that is all very legitimate. Our job is not to deliver unanimity for the group. That would be beautiful but that is unrealistic because of the very differences. Our job is to exert every effort to maintain the highest level of commonality in our positions on every possible issue. It would be unfair to measure our success in this mission by a numeric system, it has to be measured by what is possible in such a diverse group. I think we, Egypt, have managed to maintain the coherence and unified views of the group on a large number of issues. But it is inevitable that we shall have some fragmentation and that is not a betrayal of the cause, it is simply that priorities would vary for countries on the issue to issue. Egypt got this responsibility in the most crucial of years in the climate talks and we are doing our best to position G77 and China to achieve the maximum amount of gains given the circumstances.
Source: Business Standard