COP19 Warsaw: The Big Fights, Red Lines and Initial Predictions

by Anna Odell and Maria Alejandra Escalante

Thousands gather in Warsaw as typhoon Yolanda (internationally named typhoon Haiyan) ravages the Philippines, leaving up to 10,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands of people displaced, and destroying entire communities and towns. This catastrophe, the largest typhoon in recorded history, cannot go unacknowledged, and those parties responsible for excessive historical emissions must be called out and assume blame for this tragedy.

It is in the shadow of this disaster that negotiations must continue, and here in Warsaw we must remember the urgency, devastation, and injustice of climate change.

Below are some of the crucial topics to be addressed in negotiations this year, the expected course of discussion under these big fights, and the red lines that climate justice driven groups say must not be crossed.

Loss & Damage  

  • Even if mitigation and adaptation are addressed fully and equitably, there are already some unavoidable losses and damages due to the impacts of climate change that must be addressed based on historical responsibility, vulnerability and comparability of efforts. To know more about Loss and Damage see this blog.
  • The worst impacts of climate change are already being felt in countries in the Global South, resulting in economic and non-economic loss and damage. Loss and damage is an important battleground in the climate justice fight because countries in the Global South are among the least responsible for climate change, yet are suffering and will suffer the worst effects of climate change.
  • Annex I countries are generally not willing to compensate the Global South, who are often less equipped to address the impacts of climate change, despite the obligations of the Convention.
  • AOSIS, supported a certain extent by the G77, is pushing for a mechanism that will address compensation. The United States, Australia, and other developed countries, however, refused to have a mechanism on loss and damage mentioned in the text.
  • Negotiations on ‘institutional arrangements’ (ex. a mechanism, fund, etc.) should be framed around historical emissions and responsibility, the legal obligation of a country not to cause harm to another’s environment, and, clearly, human rights. Creating a mechanism without the space for compensation is unfair, and delays necessary urgent action to avoid seriously destructive impacts of climate change.


  • There has been almost no equitable or historically responsible transfer of financial resources from developed to developing countries. 
  • Developed countries obligations to finance mitigation and adaptation in the developing world have been followed with sparse or empty funds. They must follow through on their words and fund not only their own projects but also those in the developing world, who are the least responsible for climate change.
  • Developed countries will flood Warsaw with talks and texts on false solutions to climate finance. Central to this discussion will be the possibility of a new market mechanism (NMM) that could replace the burnt out CDM. Negotiations will also address the possibility of launching a pilot program for Framework for Various Approaches (FVA), to attempt to allow international trading between domestic emissions trading schemes. To read more about FVA read this blogpost.
  • Market solutions are false solutions for climate finance. The invisible hand of the market cannot solve the inequity of access to and distribution of climate finance.
  • There is an urgent need for a financial framework with legal obligations for developed countries where funds and resources are transferred in the form of grants to the Global South as soon as possible.
  • For more detailed information about finance under the UNFCCC read this blogpost.


  • The work of the ADP will no doubt be one of the largest and most contentious issues this COP. With an outcome scheduled for 2015 in Paris, the next two years will be crucial for the development of what has been framed as the “last chance” for the world to come up with an ambitious (or not so ambitious) decision for the course of international action.
  • The elements of the agreement that are scheduled to be discussed are mitigation, adaptation, technology development and transfer, finance, capacity building, and transparency of action and support.
  • The inclusion of principles, the legal design, and the term “applicable to all parties” are still being vehemently debated.
  • Current pledges and contributions have clearly been inadequate, with global pledges currently leaving us with a stark ambition gap. Therefore, a weak pledge and review system with contributions from all countries has no place in the 2015 outcome.
  • Common but differentiated responsibilities, equity, and historical responsibility must be reflected in legally binding emission reductions obligations for Annex I countries which are informed by what is scientifically needed to avoid 2-degrees of temperature rise. A top-down, rules based system, which comparability of efforts from developed country parties, is essential to a fair and adequate treaty.

Energy and Corporate Capture

  • The issue of energy will play a central role in Warsaw. While the discussion of energy does not yet have a specific place in the talks, it clearly is central to the question of mitigation.
  • The UNFCCC process is captured by corporate lobbying, keeping dirty industries safe from the text. Civil society and climate justice movements are demanding that the issue of dirty energy be brought into the UNFCCC and the corporate lobby out (for more information see here.
  • The hypocrisy of COP19 running alongside the World Coal Summit must be acknowledged, and civil society is demanding that fossil fuels are no longer seen as “part of the solution.”
  • The youth gave Christiana Figueres a choice between attending the Conference of Youth and speaking at the World Coal Summit, Christiana chose the fossil fuel industries over the current and future generations, which she so often tokenizes. Her choice reflects the corporate capture of the UNFCCC.


3 thoughts on “COP19 Warsaw: The Big Fights, Red Lines and Initial Predictions

  1. This is really helpful for those of us trying to follow things from far away. I am going to send the link to this post to the reporter who contacted us last week if that is okay.

  2. Thanks Anna and Maria; it’s a lot to take in, but seeing it laid out like this makes it easier to follow along. I look forward to future reports!

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