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Australia and Canada are leading the wreckers at Warsaw

Ian McGregor is reporting from the Warsaw Conference of Parties for The Conversation. Australia’s and Canada’s extremely unusual action at CHOGM to deny developing nations any further climate funding has…

Response at Warsaw has been strong to those blocking climate change action. EPA/JACEK TURCZYK

Ian McGregor is reporting from the Warsaw Conference of Parties for The Conversation.

Australia’s and Canada’s extremely unusual action at CHOGM to deny developing nations any further climate funding has had strong negative repercussions here in Warsaw.

The other two developed Commonwealth countries, UK and New Zealand, agreed to including a statement in the final CHOGM text about the importance of climate finance. Australia and Canada decided to disassociate themselves from the statement. But providing much-needed climate finance between now and 2020 is a huge issue at Warsaw, particularly for many of the poorer developing countries.

They want an agreement on some kind of compensation for “loss and damage” they will suffer as a result of climate change, which they see as being primarily a creation of developed countries.

Both India and South Africa made strong statements severely criticising Canada and Australia for their stance at CHOGM. They shouldn’t have been surprised: Australia and Canada have been repeatedly blocking moves at Warsaw to improve climate finance.

The UK and the EU have been the most progressive of the developed country groups on climate finance. But even with that support, the total commitment on climate finance within the process falls way short of what is needed by 2020.

Without more funding, poorer countries won’t be able to get on a path to low-carbon development. Nor will they be able to deal with the huge issues of adapting to the temperature increases, extreme weather, ecosystem collapse and sea level rise that will result from climate change.

The Philippines delegate - Naderev “Yeb” Saño - has made the strongest connection between climate change, the plight of the developing world and the need to address it with climate funding. He said the suffering of people in the Philippines should motivate the delegates to make this year’s climate talks count.

Russia is competing with Australia, Canada and Japan (who have backed away from their emissions reduction target) in stopping climate progress. Russia is trying to get back emission credits that were eliminated by the agreement at the last Climate Summit at Doha.

Russia earned many carbon credits when its dirty industry collapsed following the end of the Soviet Union. These were taken away from them in Doha in order to enhance the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol. But Russia and Ukraine continue to fight this decision.

I hope, but I am not optimistic that the second week of the negotiations will be more fruitful and make significant progress towards an effective global agreement. One major challenge is getting the Developed Countries to do much more to address climate change before 2020, when the new global agreement comes into force. This is due to be finalised at the Global Climate Summit in Paris in December 2015, and they seem to be holding off on any new action until then.

Meanwhile, they are focusing on trying to create strong commitments for China and India in the post-2020 agreement.

What may yet shift the dynamic is the ongoing impact of Typhoon Haiyan. While Australia’s government may not be accepting scientists’ views that this storm was worsened by climate change, others are. David Cameron, the UK prime minister, said “I’ll leave the scientists to speak for themselves about the link between severe weather events and climate change. The evidence seems to me to be growing.”

Will these last weeks result in a more constructive stance from Australia? Will Australia stand with the Philippines and return to using its power to influence the talks for the better? Only a crazy optimist would hope for such a thing. It seems far more likely Australia will continue to be an action wrecker with Japan and more quietly behind the scenes with the US and Canada.