Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — By the end of a two-week U.N. climate conference, which ended a day late with agreements watered down to a point where no country was promising anything concrete, sleep-deprived delegates spent hours wrangling over the wording of paragraphs and bickering over procedure.
Case in point: When Venezuela questioned why the U.S. got to speak before Fiji in the plenary session.
Philippine Climate Commissioner Naderev Sano, right, holds a sign during the closing session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (Image source: AP/Czarek Sokolowski)
Some observers couldn't help noting that the Warsaw talks were held in a soccer stadium where delegates were literally moving around in circles.
"It is hard to resist that as a metaphor" for the U.N. process, said Nathaniel Keohane, vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund and a former special assistant on climate and energy to U.S. President Barack Obama.
All of which left officials frustrated, noting that time is running out.
"I think that it has to deliver a substantial answer to climate change in 2015," European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said of the annual meetings during a Sunday telephone interview with the Associated Press.
The process needs to provide a "substantial answer" to global warming in two years to remain relevant, she said, adding that "if it fails to do so, then I think this critical question will be asked by many more."
"This was a missed opportunity to set the world on a path to a global climate deal in 2015, with progress painfully slow," said Mohamed Adow, a climate change adviser at Christian Aid. "We need a clear plan to fairly divide the global effort of responding to climate change and a timeline of when that will happen."
As the gavel dropped, negotiators emerged with a vague road map on how to prepare for a global climate pact they're supposed to adopt in two years — work Hedegaard said will be crucial in answering whether the world still needs the U.N. process.
Even if it succeeds, it's worth reconsidering whether the international confabs need to be held every year, and whether the scope of each session should be narrower, Hedegaard said.
"Maybe it would be time now to think if there should be themes for the conferences so that not each conference is about everything," she added.
Poland's Environment Minister and President of this years COP19 Climate Change Conference. (Image source: Marcin Korolec JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
The Warsaw talks advanced a program to reduce deforestation in developing countries but made only marginal progress on building the framework for a deal in Paris in 2015. Key issues like its legal form and how it will differentiate between the commitments of developed and developing remain unresolved.
"If we go to Paris and say we didn't completely get this done I think ... the world will draw the conclusion you really cannot trust the U.N. to deliver on this process," said Jake Schmidt, a climate expert at the Natural Resource Defense Council.