During the ADP 2-6 meetings in Bonn last week, the Party negotiating groups seemed to be fragmenting, or perhaps undergoing realignment. (See our October 27 reflections on the overall meeting.) An interesting example is what appears to be a difference between the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group and the rest of the developing country groups on the scope of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The INDCs are expected to be a fundamental component of the new international agreement the UNFCCC has committed to produce by the end of COP21 in December 2015. Contrary to other developing country groups, the LDCs stated in the opening plenary that, “INDC’s should primarily focus on mitigation,” with adaptation and means of implementation (MOI) (i.e., finance, technology transfer, and capacity building) addressed elsewhere in the 2015 Agreement. One might wonder why the LDCs took this position, which actually aligns with that of the industrialized countries.
The 48 countries that make up the LDCs are those “last among countries in terms of many indices of development, but  first in terms of vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change.” Wouldn’t these countries want to make sure that adaptation (and loss and damage, for that matter) along with the means of implementation are equally embedded in those INDCs? What better way to ensure some degree of developed countries’ accountability for helping least developed countries reduce their vulnerability than make adaptation and its attendant elements part of what individual countries promise they’ll do on climate change?
The Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary of the March ADP 2-4 meeting noted that all-inclusive INDCs would “require targets for adaptation, finance and other elements to be subject to measurement, reporting and verification, and assessed within the context of the goal of maintaining a global temperature increase below 2°C.” It also reported that developing countries were strongly pushing for this broader approach. Apparently, though, the LDCs were not completely on board, though they insisted on adaptation and means of implementation becoming strong elements of the 2015 agreement.
In August, an email Q&A with LDC Chair Prakash Mathema conducted by Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) indicated again a clear choice for INDCs focused on mitigation, though he didn’t elaborate on why.
On October 20, the LDCs offered a document containing elements it feels should form the basis of the legal agreement to be concluded at COP21, in which mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage are addressed in separate sections.
Then, in the October 23 session last week, an interesting wrinkle emerged. As reported by the Third World Network, the LDCs expressed seeming openness to adaptation being a part of INDCs, or to adaptation INDCs as a possible companion to mitigation INDCs, with the proviso that these be limited to “how Parties will contribute to help other countries meet their adaptation needs.” Is this a shift? Maybe, though not yet a clear alignment with other developing country groups.
There are perhaps three drivers for mitigation-focused INDCs:
1. Plain and simple – mitigation is the single path to limiting adaptation needs and loss and damage. So, remaining targeted, and not diluting that focus, might seem a “must” for countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
2. Mitigation-focused INDCs can serve as an additional point of pressure, beyond the growing cacophony of voices insisting on serious efforts to enhance ambition in the pre-2020 period, and on ratification of the second period of the Kyoto Protocol (which includes further mitigation commitments on the part of developed country Parties) . Decision 1/CP.19 in Warsaw last December (COP19/CMP9) reiterated these goals.
3. There is quite enough to clarify and decide upon on the mitigation front alone for the INDCs between now and the close of COP20 in December, so why make that harder and possibly delay agreement? This would be especially true when considering the LDC’s quite comprehensive criteria for the INDCs:
• Type of commitment/contribution
• Base year or period
• Baseline emissions trajectory
• Peaking year
• Coverage in terms of GHGs and sectors
• Geographical boundaries
• Percentage of total or national emissions
• Expected emission reductions to be achieved
• Approach to accounting for the land-use sector
• Additional specific information depending on type of commitment/contribution,
• Indicators relating to fairness and ambition
Still, it is interesting that the LDCs seem to be the single developing country group sitting somewhat near the US and other industrialized countries on this matter. We’ll be watching this further at COP20 in Lima, and likely beyond. The ADP 2-6 meeting last week wrapped up with agreement to meet again in 2015 – twice!