Science, Tech & Environment

Climate talks in Warsaw get stuck over who pays for climate-linked damage


Activists protest during UN Climate Change talks in Warsaw, Poland.


Kacper Pempel / Reuters

Global climate change talks are never a cake walk. 

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But this week they faced something of a full-fledged revolt when representatives of dozens of developing nations and activist groups stalked out of UN talks in Warsaw in frustration at the lack of progress. 

BBC correspondent Matt McGrath says the central dispute is as old as the talks themselves: Who will pay for the "loss and damage" caused by climate change?  

Developing nations would like to create a mechanism so richer nations would be legally responsible for paying for damages caused by extreme weather events that are linked to climate change. 

"The richer countries, as you can imagine, when they hear the words 'legal mechanism' they start running for their lawyers. They say it's a red line for them," McGrath says.   "They will not be 'on the hook,' as they say, in their words, for every storm in every part of the world forever." 

Negotiators in Warsaw might hammer out a modest deal on "loss and damage" before the talks end on Friday, according to McGrath. But he suspects that, for the most part, delegates will be "kicking the can down the road" to the next talks — slated for 2015.  

"Part of the problem here is that they have a 'get-out-of-jail' clause, which is, essentially, they've got two more years to negotiate a deal," McGrath says.