NDCs Registry Update: Pandora’s box remains closed

3K1A8294Yesterday,  the Parties reached a conclusion on the NDC registry. But it was a procedural conclusion, with the substantive discussion to take place at SBI46 in Bonn next May. Even so, it still took additional SBI informal sessions to come to agreement:  the registry agenda item had been limited to three sessions, but the Parties’ disagreements on the draft conclusions led the co-facilitators to add two informal session to reach an agreement. However, don’t let the word agreement fool you. The Parties were able to agree on the text because they went back to the SBI decision adopted in Bonn for this agenda item. Thus, the agreement was on a previous agreement! Nonetheless, the Parties insisted that discussion will continue next week at the SBI Plenary on two items of disagreement: 1) whether the Parties should have one registry or two registries that deals differently with NDCs and adaptation communications, and 2) whether the text of the draft conclusion should include a call for Party submissions.

Diplomacy is indeed the art of the possible, although sometimes it seems that some negotiations will never end and the Parties will never reach a consensus. That is why I think this conference is so important. We often hear about the devastating impacts of climate change all around the world.  But it is sometimes hard to understand what the respective country and their people are going through when you are not directly experiencing it. This conference puts a face on the devastating events and brings together representatives from all over the world who will fight in the negotiations for the insertion of an “a” or a “the” because that choice makes a whole lot of difference in their world.

With this blog post, my week at COP22 ends. It has been a wonderful week where I was surrounded by amazing people, and participated in exciting negotiations and side events where I learned that we are not alone in the fight against climate change. 3K1A8496


Young and Future Generations Day at COP22

Away from the negotiation sessions, contact groups, informal discussions and other exciting diplomacy exercises, COP22 devoted its fourth day to young and future generations. This focus explored the intergenerational equity dimension of climate justice. The principle of intergenerational equity is concerned primarily with the distribution of “public goods” and “public bads,” as expressed by John Rawls’ definition of justice between present and future generations. It mainly rests yse_yfgdon the belief that future generations are entitled to a future that is not diminished by our the current pattern of living, such as high energy consumption and over depletion of natural resources.

Young and future generations deserve to be heard and should have the chance to influence the climate negotiation. They are the ones that will inherit this planet. Climate change is threatening their inheritance and right to development. A series of side events, workshops and activities presented today showcases the important role that young people already play in climate actions implementation worldwide.

NDCs Public Registry – Pandora’s Box – Who would’ve thought?


Today, at the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) second informal meeting related to the development of modalities and procedures for the operation and use of a Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) public registry referred to in Article 4, paragraph 12, of the Paris Agreement (PA), the discussion took an interesting turn of events when the Co-Facilitators, Ms. Madeleine Diouf (Senegal) and Ms. Traude Wollansky (Austria), presented the Parties a draft on the possible elements for draft conclusions regarding this agenda item.

By conducting negotiations under this agenda item, the SBI is complying with its mandate proposed at COP21. Also, at COP21 the UNFCCC Secretariat was requested to make available an NDCs interim registry, in the first half of 2016, pending until the modalities and procedures regarding a final public registry are adopted by the CMA.

At the SBI’s first informal meeting, held on Tuesday, Parties expressed their views on the agenda item, especially emphasizing that there is a difference to be struck and understood by the Parties between the SBI and Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) agendas. The APA is currently holding informal meetings on NDCs features, information and accounting. The Parties stated that while the APA will discuss the NDCs from a more political and substantive manner, the SBI should limit its discussion and draft conclusions/decisions on the technical issues raised by the utilization of the NDCs Public Registry. Most Parties agreed on Tuesday that the NDCs Public Registry should be accessible, user-friendly, contain a record for each Party’s NDCs, including historical records and keeping track of any amendments made by the Parties to their NDCs. Also, some Parties were in favor of continuing and building upon the work that has already been done with the NDCs interim registry. The Co-Facilitators even stated at the beginning of the first informal meeting that after the first meeting is over they will start drafting conclusions and bring them at the second informal meeting for Parties consideration.

At the second informal meeting, some Parties were surprised by the Co-Facilitators action to draft and present the respective draft to the Parties. Further, some Parties considered the Co-Facilitators expectation that Parties will start discussion on the draft as highly inappropriate, especially when not all Parties have expressed their views on the agenda item. The strongest voice in this regard was China’s, that took the floor more than five times, talking on behalf of the LMDC. He vehemently called for the suspension of the informal discussion until an outcome is reached on the APA’s NDCs agenda item. Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia echoed China’s statement, considering the Co-Facilitators decision to present a draft on the possible elements as premature. Tuvalu discussed China’s point, stating that from a procedural point of view the Co-Facilitators have acted correctly and within their mandate and the Parties have to discuss the draft conclusions. Also, Tuvalu did not understand China’s point on why the SBI should wait for the APA to complete its work on the NDCs agenda item. Canada was torned on the subject, as although recognizing the Co-facilitators authority to propose the draft conclusions it also sympathized with China’s position, as the ADP discussions are very delicate.

The Parties frustration and fear with this agenda item comes from the slow motion of ongoing discussion and statements at the APA’s informal meeting on NDCs features, information and accounting. After three APA’s informal meetings, the Parties were able to reach consensus on few items such as: the principal characteristic of the NDCs is their national character and this should be included as a feature; the features are rooted in the PA; and the work under this agenda item should respect the PA.

Confusion and slow actions are reigning over the negotiation sessions of the APA and the SBI with respect to NDCs. We can only wait and see what the next days of COP22 have in store for these agenda items.


Opening the scope of NDCs: “Blue Opportunities”

thMENSJTZMIn a press briefing today, Natalya Gallo and Dr. Lisa Levin from the Scripps Institutions of Oceanography, USCD, Julio Cordano on behalf of Chile and Ronald Jumeau, Seychelles Ambassador talked about the importance of including oceans and marine ecosystems in the NDCs.

Natalya Gallo stated that out of the 161 INDC communicated by June 2015, 112 contained references to oceans, 14 included costal zones while the rest did not contain any reference to oceans and marine ecosystems. The oceans were included as part of the adaptation, mitigation or as a climate change marine risk. Also, most attention is given to ocean warming while ocean oxygen loss, ocean acidification receives little to no attention. Mangroves and coral reefs were almost always included. In terms of parties, the Annex I parties did not include oceans in their INDCs while the SIDS were leading the path in this area. The factors that influenced whether oceans were included in the parties INDC varied from percentage of population living in low lying areas to large exclusive economic zones areas and development status of the respective countries.

Julio Cordano, on behalf of Chile, emphasized that although the oceans were included in the Paris Agreement there has been no implementation endeavor. Nevertheless, we must state that the oceans are indeed included only in the preamble of the Paris Agreement, which is non-biding part of the agreement. Therefore, the inclusion of the oceans is a sign of a global awareness and symbolic victory. Mr. Cordano further believes that any future work should built upon the NDCs as a building block of the Paris Agreement. However, he acknowledges that the NDCs were a compromised formulation as first proposed and there is still a delicate discussion on what to include. The inclusion of too many sectors and perspectives may wash down on the content of the NDCs and lead to ineffective mitigation action.  Also, there is the fear that opening the discussion with respect to oceans would raise the question of whether the NDCs should include other sectors such as energy. Following last year Because the Ocean Declaration, this year, Chile plans to launch a second declaration on 14th of November.

Dr. Lisa Levin talked about the ocean research needs, as countries specifically provided in their INDCs the need for additional research in the following areas: sea level rise and coastal zone monitoring; fisheries; blue carbon; climate observation system; biodiversity research; oceanography and climate; ocean training and capacity building/academic collaboration. The research needs can be addressed by looking at the research infrastructure and the available funds in place today, such as the GEF and the Ocean Sustainability Bank.

Ronald Jumeau, Seychelles Ambassador for Climate Change and SIDS Issues, recognized that it is natural for them to include oceans in their NDCs. However, they recognize that there is a lack of research, as for example they do not have an accurate and complete overview, among others, on the impacts of climate change and the marine species in need of protection. That is why, the University of Seychelles started a research institute called the Blue Economy Research Institute to advance their knowledge and have access to accurate and complete information that can help them put forward an ambitious NDC. They also decided to be an example and lead the way by starting reviewing and upscaling their NDCs so as to achieve the 1,5°C goal.

We can only hope that at future APA meetings, the Paris Agreement will act as a spokesperson for the oceans and marine ecosystems, as currently they do not have one.

From INDC to NDC: Diversity in ambitions and fairness

APA1-2 Co-chairs: Sarah Baashan (Saudi Arabia) and Jo Tyndall (New Zealand)

APA1-2 Co-Chairs: Sarah Baashan (Saudi Arabia) and Jo Tyndall (New Zealand)

The Paris Agreement requires Parties to communicate their first NDC along with their instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement. However, this requirement is typically accomplished when a Party has communicated an INDC prior to joining the Paris Agreement, unless it decides otherwise. So far, 163 INDCs have been submitted, while the Paris Agreement has been ratified by 100 Parties out of the 197 Parties to the Convention.

Although the Parties have the choice to submit new and more ambitious NDCs with their instrument of ratification, few choose to do so. One reason for this is the lack of guidance on what an ambitious NDC should look like and what it should contain. The importance of guidelines is currently being discussed under the APA1-2 meetings, including features of NDCs, information to facilitate NDC clarity, transparency and understanding, and accounting for Parties’ NDCs. More ambitious NDCs are needed as the submitted INDCs are not consistent with the goal of having a reasonable chance of avoiding a rise in global average temperature of more than 2°C above its pre-industrial level. However, it is important to note that even if a country is on track to meet its targets it does not necessarily mean that it takes on more stringent action than a country that is not on track, as it depends on the level of ambition and fairness of the INDCs.

Before achieving the level of ambition needed, the Parties also need to sort out through the divide created by the role of CBDR-RC and national circumstances in the adoption of the guidelines, thus reaching on the issue of fairness. The developing world is asking for support from the developed countries in the form of capacity building, financing and technical assistance in order to adopt and implement ambitious NDCs. For example, 85% of the developing countries ask for financing for their INDCs.

But, how can you measure the level of ambition and fairness? In their INDC, the parties have adopted a subjective rationale approach on the basis of what they think is fair and ambitious, ranging from development status, share of global emissions, per capita emissions, improvements against past developments and current trends, past action or mitigation potential, vulnerability to climate change impacts. Also, how do we know what approach is better?

What is clear today is that the ambitions reflected in the NDCs are not sufficient. A decision is needed on how to asses fair and ambitious NDCs while taking into consideration the national circumstance of each country and the global climate goal of remaining under 2°C. While the APA1-2 is going to touch upon the implementation and guidance for the NDCs and the ambition and fairness mechanism, there are also some other global avenues through which support for NDCs ambition can be enhanced such as: broadening the field for new entrants with different professional expertise, establishing and linking partnerships between the research community and institutions, international organizations and national governments.

Guidelines on how to asses ambitious and fair NDCs will constitute a barrier for Parties wanting to invoke status quo and inaction for their climate procrastination.



EU Environment Ministers fast-track ratification of the Paris Agreement

Commissioner Cañete and Slovak minister Solymos spoke of the EU ratification decision historic moment (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Commissioner Cañete and Slovak minister Solymos spoke of the EU ratification decision (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The EU Environment Ministers voted on Friday at the extraordinary meeting of the Environment Council a historic decision to ratify the Paris Agreement. The decision proposal was adopted in June by the European Commission, thus starting the ratification process of the Paris Agreement on behalf of the EU, in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, articles 192(1) together with article 218(6). The decision, as adopted on Friday, now awaits action by the European Parliament, which must formally consent to the Council’s decision followed by the formal ratification by the Council, before the EU may submit its instrument of ratification with the UN: “It can be done very quickly, in one day,” Cañete said, pointing to 5th of October as a potential deadline. The EU represents just over 12 per cent of emissions and is considered to be the key to the entry into force of the Paris Agreement before the October 7 deadline, which is the last date when the parties can timely ratify the agreement for entry into force before COP 22.

This vote is a rare and creative political move, as it will allow the EU to ratify the Paris Agreement en bloc before each of the 28 member states ratify it nationally. According to Cañete, this decision will not create a precedent, as it “does not preempt or prejudge the decision by national parliaments.” This is possible because the Paris Agreement creates obligations for the EU and for the individual member states, thus it has to be ratified by both the EU and all 28 member states. So far, only seven EU states have individually ratified the Paris Agreement, namely Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Malta, and Portugal, with the UK promising to ratify by the end of this year. If the rest of the member states do not follow through with the ratification of the Paris Agreement, the states that have ratified it may be stuck with fulfilling the EU’s overall promised emission reduction goal. But Cañete believes that this is “a scenario I do not think is possible”. Still, when the EU presented its plan to cut emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, Poland objected to it, in an effort to protect its coal industry. Before Friday’s decision, Poland sought to secure its coal-fired economy by demanding an effective veto over future climate decisions. Nevertheless, the EU environment ministers found a way to get Poland on board.

The Council’s decision reflects both pride and climate leadership. The EU is regarded as a leader in developing clean energy technologies, but today countries like China are gaining momentum. The EU has to step up to the plate and be an example of unity, solidarity and global climate leadership for the entire world by demonstrating its commitment to the implementation and enforcement of the Paris Agreement. By ratifying the Paris Agreement, the EU has a place at the table “when the parties will start meeting to design the rules of how the Paris agreement will be implemented” said Jonathan Goventa, London director of E3G, a European climate and energy think tank. According to Cañete:“Today’s agreement shows unity and solidarity as Member States take a European approach, just as we did in Paris. This is what Europe is all about. In difficult times, we get our act together, and we make the difference. (..) Ratification is a crucial step towards implementing the Paris Agreement. But let’s be clear, ratification is not the end goal. It’s only the first step.”