A vocal South Africa took a tough stance this week at the climate change conference in France, accusing developed nations of blocking negotiations around finance.
Finance, as expected, is emerging as one of the most contentious issues at this year’s crucial meeting where negotiations will likely give birth to an agreement that will curb future carbon emissions.
Economics and who pays what are at the heart of the high-stakes talks. And a key financial deal that will determine how developed countries fund developing countries is a major sticking point.
The first week at COP21 showed how wide the gap between rich and poor countries remains. Both sides have accused each other of not living up to the promises they made at previous climate talk meetings.
Developing countries say the principle of rich states taking the lead – the cornerstone of the UN climate convention – is being eroded because the US and other developed countries are pushing for a deal where nations will act voluntarily according to their ability and without legal liability.
South Africa, as chair of the G77 and China bloc of developing nations, has been particularly scathing this week. The G77 bloc, a group of 134 developing countries, has been strongly represented at COP21 and despite its differences, has emerged as a united front in Paris this week.
South Africa has not held back. Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, South Africa’s ambassador to the UN and G77 chair, told a meeting at the talks that certain developed countries were undermining the agreement reached at Durban’s COP17 that paved the way for this year’s talks.
Mxakato-Diseko said there were attempts to redraft the convention, adding that principles could not be redrafted. The notion of developed countries shirking their responsibilities to commit to finance was at the heart of the disagreement.
But Mxakato-Diseko also said the G77 was deeply concerned with the attempts to introduce economic conditions in the finance section currently under negotiation in Paris that will leave countries such as Brazil, India and South Africa out in the cold.
“Finance must be negotiated,” said Mxakato-Diseko. “A specific group is not negotiating and is trying to change the terms of reference. Finance will make or break [the talks]. It is critical.”
She also accused certain developed countries of inflating the draft text, the backbone of an agreement.
“New language is emerging that has nothing to do with the convention. It puts us in a precarious position. We do not understand what this language is and where it is coming from. It creates conditions which do not enhance trust,” she said.
“This group of countries feels free to waste time … with no sense of responsibility. The world should ask them what their responsibility is. They are ballooning the text, yet we are being cast as the villains,” she said.
At the same time, Mxakato-Diseko also offered an olive branch to the developed nations.
“We are mindful that we will have to meet our partners halfway. It will be a process of give and take,” she said, allowing for bridges to be mended.
There is still a week of negotiations left in Paris. Negotiators will take a break this weekend before turning up the heat next week as the world's nations work towards signing a treaty that will likely be known as the Paris Accord.