Despite the extreme cold (even for Vermont standards), the negotiations sessions were really heating up today. Yesterday, the secretariat released the first round of iterations–basically edits to the draft text the parties were negotiating during this past week. Theoretically, iterations are suppose to capture all the parties’s options they would have to decide on next week. But if I had a dollar for every time a party said the word “disappointed” in their interventions, I’d have enough to buy my ticket back to Vermont.
Of the many disappointments, the most heated I’ve experienced was during the common time frame negotiations. The discussion here is about (1) when to require the parties to communicate their second NDCs, and (2) whether that decision should apply to all subsequent NDCs. The original draft text (page 41) contained four options: (1) communicate every five years, (2) communicate every ten years, and either communicate or update the NDC every five years, (3) communicate by 2025 and decide on either a five or ten year timeframe (yeah, it is a blend of options #1 and #2), or (4) each country can nationally determine when they want to communicate their NDCs.
These discussions had distilled the options to two main proposals: China’s flexible proposal or “5 plus 5” proposal. China wants the second NDC communication to start in 2025 (5 years after the first NDC, as required by the Article 4.10 of the Paris Agreement), and have the NDC submitted by either 2030 or 2040. This proposal purposely excludes language mandating a five or ten year time frame to keep flexibility in the process. It also wants to decide on subsequent NDC time frames later for the same reason. The “5 plus 5” proposal suggests that parties will have the option to either submit or start working on their NDCs every five years, but can choose to extend it another five years if they want. This is basically option #3, but eliminates the need for options #1 and #2.
The newest iteration for this agenda item contained two options that were nothing like the proposals that the parties wanted to debate. It essentially blended together every parties’ proposal instead of listing each of them out separately for deliberation. Of all the parties upset, Saudi Arabia was the most emotion. Apparently, in the intercessional meeting the parties had in Bangkok in September, the co-facilitators promised Saudi Arabia that certain text discussed there would not end up in any iterations of COP24. Guess what was in this iteration. Saudi Arabia even went as far to express his distrust in the co-facilatators moving forward.
How can they mend the broken hearts of the session in the second iteration? Well first, put what the parties actually want! Parties worked long hours to get to those two proposals. It’s a shame that the hard work of everyone’s original proposals was lost when morphed together in an incoherent way. Second, no more new proposals. The Marshall Islands always makes a point to remind the parties they must come to a decision this COP. Adding more ideas to debate is pointless if countries already agreed on those two proposals. Third, find time for parties to hold more informal negotiations outside of the sessions. Parties have consistently complained about the lack of time, so work with them to secure some additional time.
If all else fails, at least they all agreed that they hated the text.