Down to the Wire

This post co-written by Rebecca Davidson and Cynthia Siriois

The ADP train rolled on today. hella-lineWe began the morning waiting outside Paita, a 550 person capacity negotiation room. While waiting in the long observer line, I overheard a Party delegate from an African country complain to a UN security guard when he was denied access to the room because it was already over capacity. He demanded to speak to the Co-Chairs and it seems as though his and others’ voices were heard. The meeting was rescheduled for the much larger Cusco Plenary hall, which can seat over 1000. Even so, space was at a premium and parties and observers alike were packed into the pressure cooker.

A new draft text was released late last night that condensed the previous days 56 pages of alternative text into 7 pages of paragraphs with no more than three options each. Parties were given the opportunity to speak to which options they preferred and offer solutions if they were not satisfied with the specific language of a particular option.

Consensus of preferred options crossed and bisected “typical” negotiating bloc lines. For example, the USA, Colombia, and South Africa all preferred the language of paragraph 9’s option 3 which relates to communication of INDCs, and that includes a much broader list of scope and specifics. Japan, Australia, and Switzerland all supported option 2, which limits the “laundry list” approach to elements included in INDCs. Pakistan, Nicaragua, and the EU all preferred option 1 of paragraph 13 which discusses accelerating the full implementation of the decisions and enhancing pre-2020 ambition, while China and Cuba like option 3, which again provides a more detailed description of how that will occur (including an “Accelerated Implementation Mechanism” which everyone is questioning). Despite the seemingly odd preference spread, most parties commented that they were willing to find “common ground” and continue working to meet the COP President’s goal of finishing this decision before leaving Lima by Saturday.

Some Parties’ statements were particularly compelling, and stood out like a bright ray of sun in an otherwise dark (and sweltering) room. The EU was surprisingly vocal about coming back together and finding convergence, essentially wanting to move from a positions-oriented negotiating stance to an interests-based dialogue. They noted that many Parties are simply repeating statements made previously, and not helping to finalize a decision – especially with only hours remaining. As a model of their proclaimed flexibility, the EU crossed the mitigation-INDC line and suggested their willingness to be flexible on adaptation on a voluntary basis. The Philippines also proclaimed their interest in compromise. And of particular note (and with a round of vibrant applause) suggested that the human rights of indigenous people and women be included in the decision in Paragraph 14. Mexico also received a rousing applause. Both for their support for gender and indigenous people, as well as for their very recent contribution to climate funds. This is a landmark move made by a developing country, showing their willingness to open climate-finance doors and acknowledge the importance of addressing the needs of developing nations.

CuscoFor the first time this week, the sense of urgency was visceral and real. Parties will be working into the wee hours this morning, as we just learned that the Closing Plenary is scheduled (possibly) at 2 am Saturday December 13th, at the conclusion of the Contact Group finalizing a decision text. Keep your eyes out for it!

As the representative of Uganda quipped earlier today, we are “dancing to the tune of Mr. Climate Change”. Time to make a decision, and start heading toward a substantive agreement in Paris, 2015.

Walking the Path of Hope

The UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10th as Human Rights Day in 1950…and over 60 years later, we continue to celebrate the day, but with so much more work left to do. human rights day

Today as part of the COP20 Human Rights day I attended an event hosted by several faith-based organizations, which brought together a panel of experts to talk about the devastating impacts that climate change can have on those most vulnerable without adequate resources to respond, including the indigenous peoples of the world. John Knox, UN Independent Expert on Environment and Human Rights, Reverend Henrik Grape, Church of Sweden, Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples came together to discuss the increasing impacts of anthropogenic climate change on human rights and on principles of equity and freedom. Specifically the group discussed solutions based on incorporating the human rights element into ongoing climate negotiations as part of COP20 and beyond.

As explained by Mr. Knox, in what started as an open letter signed by 28 human rights experts, efforts are today being taken to underscore the need for urgency in bringing forward discrete language in the development of a new climate agreement – and to reach a concrete solution.

Reverend Grape shared inspirational words of hope. PERU-LIMA-UN-ENVIRONMENT-COP20Hope, he said is the first step to walk the path of transformation. The daughters of hope are anger and courage. Anger over the inequalities, and courage to start the transformation needed for a more just and equitable world.




Will Cities Join the Climate Club?

Yesterday I attended a side event at COP20 called Taking climate cooperation to a new level: Incentives and alliances for transformative action. The premise of the panel discussion was to showcase opportunities to achieve transformative change in the climate sphere by identifying institutions and incentives that can catalyze action through low-carbon climate clubs.

I had not heard the term “climate club” before yesterday, and was interested to learn more from panel member, Mr. David Waskow, Director of the World Resources Institute Climate Initiative, who described developing support for a new kind of international cooperation among smaller groups of countries or subnational regional organizations that are willing to lead on the transformation to a low-carbon economy. These, he described as climate clubs.

Through this dGlobal protocolialogue, Mr. Waskow revealed the launch of a WRI and C40 carbon initiative of the First Global Standard to Measure Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Cities. Cities are a big deal. World-wide, cities account for more than 70 percent of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, and may certainly represent a leading opportunity for tackling climate change. The first step for cities is to identify and measure where their emissions come from.

This new GHG Protocol is working to give cities a standardized set of criteria and tools to measure emissions, build reduction strategies, set measurable and more ambitious emission reduction goals, and to track their progress more accurately and comprehensively.

The full protocol can be found here.

Steering the ADP Decision Ship

You don’t turn a ship around quickly. A-U.S.-naval-ship-in-the--007Kishan Kumarsingh and Artur Runge-Metzger, Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) have had the Captain’s task of steering global negotiations on 1) defining Elements for a draft negotiating text for a 2015 Agreement and 2) drafting a COP Decision that is to be finalized in Lima to define the implementation of all the elements of Decision 1/CP.17.

Despite this slow-moving process, new draft texts were provided first thing this morning by the Co-Chairs – which were synthesized from last week’s negotiations – and were the focus of the morning discussion.


Immediate reactions by Parties were mixed. Some developing countries, including Bolivia, Nicaragua, China and others were very concerned about the nature of the new text documents, and in particular the draft COP decision.

In addition, many felt the new title on the Elements document indicated a shift from a more neutral Non-Paper format as was previously provided, and questioned the legal status of this new version. They also felt there was a bias, where some concepts discussed last week were brought forward in the new text, and some were not adequately reflected. Nicaragua stated that the new approach appears to be a “very well refined Copenhagen.” The bottom line was that all parties should be privy to drafting text, with opportunities provided for a line-by-line negotiating approach.

Norway, taking a bit of a different view, proposed in order to have a “fruitful discussion on a textual basis, it would be impossible to start with a compilation document.” Instead they proposed working with the current draft to identify where convergence lies. Japan also strongly relayed reservations with the new texts. But realizing that there is only a very short time left in this COP Japan suggested that steps must be taken on the basis of the new text presented.

Addressing the obvious wake of reactions by Parties to the new ADP texts, the Co-Chairs affirmed that there is NO legal status to these documents, and it is the Parties that must decide on the legal principles. The drafts presented by the Co-Chairs were self-described as a “synthesis in the true sense”. As Captains of the ship, they brought together different proposals presented from last week, to “let cook and boil”, but understanding that it does not necessarily reflect consensus by all. This is instead the challenge ahead for Parties to navigate.

Sausage-making on a Global Level

Otto_von_Bismarck As the first Chancellor of Germany and acknowledged master of complex politics, Otto von Bismark, is known to have said, “To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.”

Yet when thinking about arriving at the UNFCCC COP20 negotiations in Lima – commencing in less than a week from now – I see it as exactly the opposite.  The idea of watching the negotiating process – the proverbial sausage-making – play out in real time is an experience I would not want to miss.

For me, it’s truly a “bucket-list” opportunity. The nuances of language, climate diplomacy, and the purposeful ‘constructive ambiguity’ in these upcoming discussions are as intriguing to me as a good mystery novel.  sausage making

So what is anticipated? Considering the high-stakes global implications, and the relative speed at which agreement among Parties needs to be forged before next year’s development of a new legal framework/agreement, I will be paying particular attention to the challenges surrounding how Parties agree on communicating their intended nationally determined contributions (known as INDCs) by early 2015, what elements those might include, and how Parties will come to the table to increase pre-2020 ambition to meet the below 2˚C objective. From a negotiating standpoint, the positions of developed nations vs. developing nations, the interplay between negotiating blocs, the framework of Common but Differentiated Responsibility under the Convention, and the quality of Equity remain on the forefront of these discussions.

And how do these dialogues play out? Negotiating theory instructs us that there are three basic modes of approaching dispute resolution: reconciling interests, determining who is right, or determining who is more powerful.

The relationship among these can be quite fluid, and the process of resolving disputes may shift from interests to rights to power and back again. As is clear in climate negotiations, not all disputes end with resolution. In some instances, interest-based negotiation (also known as problem-solving negotiation) cannot occur unless rights or power procedures are first employed. Yet, shifting the negotiating paradigm can be particularly sensitive in climate disputes, especially considering the climate impacts already felt by developing countries, and the reluctance of developed countries to assume ‘historical responsibility’.

In negotiating theory parlance, the recent joint announcement on climate change and clean energy cooperation by the U.S. and China marks an interesting shift of positions – from the traditional power play between these two Parties to one which shifts the negotiating paradigm from a power and rights-based dialogue to an increasingly interest-based negotiation. And this is no easy transition.obama and china

Reconciling interests involves digging deeper into deep-seated concerns, developing innovative and creative solutions, and sometimes making trade-offs and concessions where interests have previously been opposed.

For instance, China’s announced target to peak CO2 emissions around 2030 (or earlier) and to increase non-fossil fuel shares of energy to around 20% by 2030 represents a shift from the historical G77+China position that developing nations should not have to bear the burden of solving a problem they did not create. This strongly held position by G77 has precluded the adoption of emission targets by developing countries and focused their efforts on obtaining financial and capacity-building assistance from the developed countries to address climate change.

So, China’s willingness to take on these mitigation targets marks a compelling step outside the traditional G77 approach, and is the first time China, as the largest global GHG generator, has agreed to peak its CO2 emissions. China appears to be straying from the line-in-the-sand ‘binary approach’ of the Kyoto Protocol maintained by developing group negotiating blocs, and instead treating the global dispute of responsibility as a mutual problem to be solved by all Parties. Perhaps China realizes that a ‘better’ approach means minimizing transaction costs of inaction on an economy-wide scale, improving relationships bilaterally and internationally, finding better satisfaction with the overall climate outcome, and lessening the recurrence of future disputes.

Considering the comprehensive targets set in the last month by the U.S., China, and the recent E.U. pledge, we now have countries representing more than half of all global emissions making significant mitigation commitments, which in turn can put pressure on others to shift from positions to action, and from rights to interests.

Although in the U.S. the conservative backlash to this deal has been harsh, the fact is that the shift by large emitters and economic powerhouses, such as China, the U.S. and the E.U., can influence the negotiating dynamic in Lima, hopefully breaking the logjam, and allowing the negotiation system design to upturn – to promote the reconciling of interests but also to provide a lower-cost way to determine rights or power for those disputes that cannot be resolved by focusing on interests alone. All of which leads to an increased chance of a global agreement in Paris next December, shifting the world closer to an emissions path that can stabilize CO2 levels and keep total warming as close to 2˚C as possible.

I am inspired watching developed and developing Parties create the negotiating space to delve into action-based dialogue and consider the impact and weight of inaction – and the recent stratnegotiating theoryegy brought forward by the U.S. and China. I am inspired watching the dispute resolution system play out in Lima: will it shift from a ‘distressed system’ where few disputes are resolved by interest-based negotiations, to one of an ‘effective dispute resolution system’ where power and rights-based negotiation are lessened, and more Parties are making trade-offs and developing an interest-oriented dispute resolution goal?

We are losing ground on meeting the global 2˚C objective, and rights or power-based positioning by Parties will likely not create the dynamic required to bring all effected countries to the table.  Yet, countries are expected to devise their individual contributions early in this upcoming year, and agreement in Lima will be pivotal for development of a new legal agreement/framework planned at next year’s COP meetings.

“Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” Au contraire, Mr. Bismarck, I am inspired by this process.  I couldn’t be more excited to see this global sausage-making in action.

Would you like a balcony seat for COP20?

William Ury, a recognized expert on negotiation and mediation, has the secret to negotiating difficult world conflicts. He calls it the “third side”. He reminds us that in most conflicts there are two sides angling against each other to determine who is right. But there may also be another angle to consider – a third side “balcony view” that can imbue a broader perspective. classic theatre balcony

The fundamental role of the third side is to remind parties of what is at stake and to move beyond positions, recognizing the underlying interests of the stakeholders, and in this way moving toward reconciliation for the greater good.

So is there a “third side” for ongoing global climate negotiations?

Perhaps. A recently created negotiating group known as the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), representing six countries – Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, Guatemala and Panama – have come together and carved a niche that many believe may bridge the North-South gap in U.N. climate negotiations. Notably, AILAC has stepped away from the powerful Group of 77 + China, and is now pursuing its own ambitious interests for low-carbon development; it is setting an example by putting up its own money and financing projects that reduce GHG emissions domestically.

By creating this space for ambition, AILAC is becoming a recognized leader in climate negotiations. AILAC logoTimmons Roberts, a professor of environmental studies at Brown University, referenced AILAC’s approaches as “a third way in Latin America.” AILAC has bridged negotiating bloc divides and formed important alliances with the EU and developing nation groups, which in turn has helped catalyze movement toward a legally binding agreement in 2015.

And at last week’s ADP2-6 meetings, while there was a recognized divergence in Party positioning about how to form the foundation, content and legal framework for a 2015 Agreement, AILAC referred to its own “ambitious yet pragmatic” approaches as “solution oriented and flexible”. The group specifically referred to itself as “bridge building engineers,” favoring a consensus approach, and urging bold actions in Lima that recognize top-down elements as necessary for delivery on objectives. Indeed, AILAC was recognized as a potential “bridge builder” through its more concrete proposal addressing short- and longer-term goals for finance.

Ury proposes that the “third side” perspective can help remind parties of what is at stake.


Last week AILAC provided its vision of this broader perspective for reaching a carbon neutral global economy, stating “We want a planet that is resilient to the impacts of climate change and where all investments are directed towards low carbon and climate resilient development. This will provide the required longer-term guidance that will support a global transformation.”

Even while some Parties acknowledge disappointment at the outcome of last week’s meetings, and lament the significant work yet to be accomplished in Lima, AILAC asks that we “keep the focus” on defining a long-term system to operationalize an effective and meaningful 2015 agreement: one with a balanced outcome that reflects all the elements of the ADP and not just mitigation. Lastly, it urges that work under ADP Workstream 2 address the necessary pre-2020 enhanced mitigation ambition in the short term by all Parties.

Instead of traditional conflict negotiation regimes that aim at recognizing who is right, AILAC may provide a fresh perspective aimed at identifying interests with a view toward commitment, action and results. Currently, Parties are divided on what a new agreement will encompass. Perhaps AILAC can help bring some heightened perspective beyond labelling differences as the “one-size-fits-all”or “bifurcated” approaches.

It will be interesting to see how bridges are engineered, and if AILAC can provide the third side balcony view. I will be up there watching.

Bonn ADP