“This is not a choice between one word or another.”

Today was the last day of the first week of COP24. The SBSTA plenary meeting began late, as expected. Many Parties are still attempting to find common ground on texts, which has delayed start times for plenaries.

During the SBSTA plenary, many Parties spoke about the need to accept the IPCC 1.5°C Report and make sure that the world does not see warming to 3°C. The report is part of SBSTA’s agenda item #6 on research and systematic observation. To the dismay of many countries in the room, paragraph 11 only “noted” the IPCC report. Thus the Maldives, on behalf of AOSIS, proposed to “welcome” it instead.  Parties discussed this language for more than an hour, because “note” connotes a weaker way of accepting this report.

This back and forth debate is what climate negotiators do: sit in meetings and small rooms all over the world to discuss the specific language that makes the international law of climate change.

Tonight, one negotiator spoke out about considering the lives of everyone. Rueanna La Toya Tonia Haynes, of Saint Kitts and Nevis, made a brilliant intervention about the IPCC and the acceptance of the report. Part of her speech is below:rueanna haynes

“This is not a choice between one word or another. This is us, as the UNFCCC, being in a position to welcome a report that we requested, that we invited the IPCC to prepare…If there is anything ludicrous about the discussion that is taking place, it is that we, in this body, are not in a position to welcome this report.”

After her intervention, she received a well-deserved round of applause. We, as lawyers, are often so caught up in language that we forget what brought us together in the first place. Sometimes we need an upfront and real speech to remind us of the important things. The UNFCCC is the body to help everyone confront and slow down the pace of climate change. To argue about this language in a report that essentially says we are running out of time is ludicrous. The UNFCCC should move forward and accept the report. After all, the UNFCCC did request it.

Ms. Haynes was steadfast and showed fearlessness while addressing her colleagues. Her tenacity and courage is what I hope others would show. I, too, am giving her a big round of applause. Well said, Ms. Haynes.

You can view the entire plenary here.


Adaptation in NDCs: To Include or Not To Include, That is the Question.

You could definitely feel the awkwardness in the conference room during the APA 1-7 agenda item #3 negotiations.This agenda item addresses the mitigation section of the 1/CP.21 decision (where we got the Paris Agreement). What caused such tension? Well, the parties have different positions on what to do with adaptation in NDCs, but were hesitant to speak about it during the session. The draft text for this negotiation issue briefly mentions suggested language for mandatory adaptation commitments within NDCs. But the history of international climate change negotiations hasn’t given much guidance on the issue.

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The UNFCCC first mentioned adaptation, but only to build climate change resilience in least developed countries. The Kyoto Protocol essentially ignored adaptation, and favored very stringent mitigation commitments for Annex I countries (a designation, assigned for the UNFCCC, for a party who could provide financial support to other countries). After over a decade of focusing solely on mitigation, the parties at COP21 decided to develop a new agreement with balanced representation of both adaptation and mitigation. As you can imagine, old habits are hard to break. And that was quite apparent in today’s session.

The developed countries tried their best to eliminate adaptation discussions from today’s informal consultations. The general statement in their interventions basically said that talks about adaptation were inappropriate at this session because it was being discussed elsewhere. If a party did decide to speak more on adaptation, the next typical response would reference the history of mitigation priority in previous COP decisions. The history of previous commitments shows an obvious pattern for making mitigation the priority for achieving UNFCCC climate goals. And although COP21 wanted to balance adaptation and mitigation, subsequent decisions did not reflect that goal. Instead, past guidance on NDCs has emphasized mitigation more than adaptation. Furthermore, the language of Article 4 (National Commitments) of the Paris Agreement (the treaty that created the concept of NDCs) outlines the general commitments of the parties without leaving any room for anything adaptation related.

Alternatively, the developing countries–primarily the African countries–(briefly) noted in their inventions the importance of including adaptation into NDCs. Though this issue has its own agenda item, some developing countries expressed their concerns about discussing adaptation at this session. Looking at the language of the Paris Agreement, Article 3 (NDCs) is ambiguous enough to include adaptation into the NDCs. Also, Article 7 (Adaptation) paragraph 11 lists NDCs as a document that may include adaptation communications. The purpose of the Paris Agreement itself is to increase adaptation consideration into climate change action. With such an open door, why not require adaptation commitments within the NDCs?

Negotiations are successful when parties talk through their differences to reach an acceptable compromise. Though today was just an informal consultation, it foreshadowed a rather frustrating next few days. With the constant dismissal of adaptation in this negotiation, it’ll be interesting to see how the advocates for adaptation will respond to the lack of dialogue at the table. Parties won’t be able to ignore the oversized elephant in the room for much longer.


Show Us The Money!

 

Tension in the global climate finance community is mounting as the Katowice climate change conference approaches. The September effort to advance the Paris Agreement Work Program (PAWP) exposed deep historic divides on climate finance (reported here, here and here). And though the Green Climate Fund Board thankfully “righted its ship” a bit in October (see our close look here), the relief did not ease the larger systemic angst.

At its core, climate finance is a highly political issue. For the most part, rich societies are suffering far less from climate change impacts than poorer ones, and have far more resources with which to respond to those impacts. Poor countries need substantial help from the developed world to do the same. Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 5.38.49 PMYet, many developed countries are not inclined to make the enormous financial investments required to address global climate change for outcomes that won’t be realized until the distant future and that will mostly benefit other countries. We get a glimpse of this reality in Climate Scoreboard’s just released Global Report #8, on which we reported yesterday.

Since the adoption of the UNFCCC, developed countries have committed to and provided some, but not nearly enough, climate finance to help developing countries meet the costs of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Their collective target of $100 billion/year by 2020, established in the 2009 Copenhagen Accords and reiterated in the Paris Agreement decisiScreen Shot 2018-11-01 at 6.17.35 PMon (1/CP.21), falls hundreds of billions short of predicted needs for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. (Numbers are hard to come by, but the World Economic Forum projected a few years ago that $700 billion/year in climate investment will be required by 2020, while UNEP has estimated annual adaptation costs alone could reach $500 billion by 2050.) Additionally, many are questioning the likelihood that even the $100 billion/year by 2020 will be realized (see here, here and here).

All of this adds up to a lot at stake for climate finance in Katowice in December, where Parties have promised to bring the Paris Agreement implementation guidelines across the finish line.

One of the most contentious climate finance issues we have been tracking is whether Article 9.5 will be fully operationalized. It stipulates that developed country Parties, and others as they can, “shall” communicate, in both quantitative and qualitative terms, financial resources they intend to provide to developing country Parties (ex ante support). However, decision 1/CP.21 calls only for identifying the information Parties will report, and not the modalities to be used in accounting of those resources.

Some feel this was an oversight in the rush to adopt the Paris Agreement back in December 2015, since it is unusual for a COP to decide what Parties are to report without also deciding how the information will be reported and used. For instance, for Article 9.7, decision 1/CP.21 sets in motion identifying both the what and how Parties will report on financial resources they have provided and mobilized through public intervention (ex post support).

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.01.22 PMDeveloped country Parties contend that Article 9.5 is sufficiently clear and that no action is required. They want to use the existing general guidelines from 3/CP.19 for the biennial submissions they were requested to make on “scaling up climate finance from 2014-2020.” Notably, only 7 Parties and the EU made such submissions.

Developing country Parties assert that predictability and transparency are at the heart of Article 9.5 and that it must be fully operationalized by also specifying accounting modalities. In particular, Parties should decide how the information will be compiled, made publicly available, transmitted to the global stocktake, and be subject to technical review, none of which is addressed by the earlier general guidance on reporting ex ante support.

Currently, the battle for and against establishing modalities for Article 9.5 is being played out under agenda item 8a of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA).Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 6.48.57 PM

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Stay tuned for more posts on climate finance issues for COP 24/CMA 1-3. And, may all Parties show up rich in political will.

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Wheels of climate change policy roll on in Bonn

trump+climate+environmentWhile angst about the pending Trump decision on the Paris Agreement (PA) remained a subtext of the annual intersessional climate meetings that wrapped up last week in Bonn, Germany, the technical work trundled on.

More than 3,300 (negotiators, observers [including a VLS delegation], plus secretariat and other agency staff) participated in:

  • the 46th sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI),
  • the 3rd part of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA1.3),
  • several COP-mandated companion events (e.g., indigenous peoples, climate finance reporting, capacity building), and
  • more than 90 side events.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin gave its usual comprehensive (if dry) lowdown of the meetings. By many reports (here, here, here, and here), the negotiations moved rather smoothly. In particular, positions on APA agenda items got clarified, even though negotiating texts are still out of reach. The APA must deliver a Paris rulebook by December 2018.

Aside from the Trump question, the media coverage (e.g., here, and here) spotlighted the contentious tussle over conflict of interest (read: corporate/fossil fuel industry influence on climate policy). But that shadow side of the SBI’s imperative to “further enhance the effective engagement of non-Party stakeholders,” was not the only thing we watched.

A few of our observations:

  • APA round tables got a thumbs up for the airing and clarifying of views and could speed introduction of “contextual proposals” for PA rulebook pieces. Five will be held ahead of COP23, though observers will be excluded.

  • Parties are determined to understand, manage and capitalize on the linkages between Paris Agreement articles, and between the APA work and PA work of the subsidiary bodies. This is important and rich ground for cohesiveness.
  • More frequent interventions are coming from the new “coalition” of 3
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    Marcia Levaggi, Argentina, speaking on behalf of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay (Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth)

    contiguous South American countries – Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. They constitute 3 of the 4 members of Mercosur, the Southern Common Market, which is on track to a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association. We’ve known them as part of multiple different negotiating groups: G77+China (all 3); Coalition of Rainforest Nations (Argentina, Uruguay); BASIC (Brazil); Like-minded Developing Countries (Argentina); and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). We’ll be keeping an eye on this development.

  • The Long Term Climate Finance workshops (LTF) may catalyze concrete COP consideration of strategies to address the confusing
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    Breakout during LTF event. (Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth)

    multi-lateral climate finance architecture and developing countries’ challenges in accessing finance. (See the World Resources Institute new pub out on this issue.)

  • The SBSTA’s agriculture agenda item hopped on a rollercoaster, disrupting the 4-year stalemate between developed and developing countries over adaptation vs mitigation. The excitement generated by delegates’ Week 1 mantras (“very substantive dialogue,” “feels like a family”) landed with a thud in the end. No mature elements moved forward to the SBI; nor was an agriculture work programme recommended. We do see slightly positive prospects looking ahead, given the Co-Facilitators’ non-paper. Stay tuned for our deeper dive on this.
  • The Gender Action Plan workshop wasn’t covered by anyone, but you’ll get the in-depth story with our next post.

Next up? Thank you, Carbon Brief, for the chart of steps toward COP23.Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 1.11.43 PM

 


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

 


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

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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.


Modalities, Procedures, and Guidelines (MPGs) for the Transparency Framework of the Paris Agreement

Transparency is critical for building international trust, facilitating progress, and ensuring commitments for climate action. This is why one key outcome of the Paris Agreement last year was the agreement of an enhanced transparency framework (TF) set out in Article 13. Before the Paris Agreement, Annex I Parties and non-Annex I Parties had two different sets of reporting requirements. Once the Paris Agreement is in force, the new TF will apply to all Parties, while allowing flexibility to take into account Parties’ various capacities.

Moroccan Foreign Minister and COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar (L) and French Minister for Environment Segolene Royal launch the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

Moroccan Foreign Minister and COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar (L) and French Minister for Environment Segolene Royal launch the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22).

In Bonn this May, the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) released a set of questions to the APA Co-Chairs to help guide Parties in their deliberations under APA provisional agenda item 7 (modalities and procedures for the effect operation of the committee in Article 15 of the Paris Agreement) to help prepare for COP22. The APA also invited Parties to submit their views on other agenda items concerning the TF, in hopes of facilitating the TF sessions at COP22.

Today, Nov. 8 2016, the Parties met in several informal consultations to discuss the modalities, procedures, and guidelines (MPGs) of the Paris Agreement’s TF. The MPGs for action and support referred to in Article 13 of the Paris Agreement are not fully developed yet, which is why the Parties met at an informal consultation today to begin discussions and developing a work plan for MPGs of the TF. The Secretariat asked the Parties to discuss and prioritize the following three main topic areas:

(1) what should be the key elements of the modalities, procedures, and guidelines for the TF? (2) with respect to the elements identified under question 1, how should experience from the existing MRV arrangements under the Convention inform the MPGs and how should flexibility for those developing country Parties that need it in the light of their capacities be reflected? and (3) how should we organize work in 2017 and 2018 to ensure that the MPGs are created on time?

At this consultation, Brazil and Singapore both emphasized the urgency to complete a work plan given the tight timeline (the Paris Agreement was ratified almost four years before most Parties expected), and therefore believed that creating a work plan was the most important issue. The European Union (EU) emphasized its desire to focus on clarifying the MPGs in terms of the “flexibility” aspect of the TF. The EU stated that the submissions of the Parties in response to the APA questions after Bonn already provide a lot of information, so the APA should draw on those submissions and move forward here at COP22.

All Parties agreed on the need for a pragmatic approach to design a system and be deliberate to use the information available, while seeking staff and tech means to finance the work as well. There will be three more meetings on the MPGs of Article 13, at which the Parties will seek to develop a work plan to be completed by 2018. Hopefully these meetings will develop effective MPGs for the TF before leaving Marrakech

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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.

 

 


Global Goal on Adaptation: work has begun

The next in our series of posts on SB44/APA1adaptation mosaic

Work on the Paris Agreement’s (PA) global goal on adaptation was launched by the Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) and Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) in Bonn in May. We reported earlier on the global goal here and here.

The APA, SBTA and SBI agendas contained three items directly addressing elements of the PA’s Article 7 (Adaptation) and Article 9 (Finance) in support of this important qualitative goal:

  1. Further guidance in relation to the adaptation communication referred to in Art. 7.10 and 7.11 (APA)
  2. Development of modalities and procedures for the operation and use of a public registry referred to in Art. 7.12 (SBI)
  3. Modalities for the accounting of financial resources provided and mobilized through public interventions in accordance with Art. 9.7 (SBSTA)

Consideration of these occurred in contact groups and informal consultations, supplemented by bi-lateral meetings.Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 2.34.09 PM

There was also work on capacity building, technology development and transfer, and transparency of action and support under the PA, all of which relate to adaptation planning, financing, implementation, and reporting. Beyond that, the SBs addressed existing Convention components and programmes that will ultimately serve the global goal on adaptation, including national adaptation plans and the Nairobi work programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change. Capping it off during week 2 was the Technical Expert Meeting on “enhancing the implementation of adaptation action.”

While this was a robust intersessional for action related to the global goal on adaptation, it was not all smooth sailing. (See our upcoming coverage on items #2 and #3 above.) For instance, further guidance on adaptation communications (item #1 above) was added to the APA agenda during week 1 following objections from G-77/China that the original provisional agenda did not follow the PA and its implementing decision. Additionally, spirited discussions on this item in open-ended informal consultations honed in on what adaptation communicatiohom1ns are intended to achieve, and the nature and scope of the guidance for those that should be developed. Developing countries asserted the need for flexibility in communications (highlighting differentiation), while most countries supported at least some common minimal communications parameters in order to achieve the critical linkages with the transparency and stocktaking components of the PA. It was a good first step, even with historic geo-political lines still visible.

The conclusion adopted on this agenda item calls for Parties to submit their views on adaptation communications by September 30, in order for the APA Co-Chairs to prepare for further work at the resumed first meeting during COP22 in Marrakesh in November. We will be watching those submittals and the next meeting, given that adaptation communications bear significantly on the success of the Paris Agreement.


SB44 – Next Steps After Paris

IMG_1518During the last two weeks of May, the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathered in Bonn, Germany for their regular midyear meeting.  This session is called SB44, which simply means the 44th meeting of the climate change convention’s subbodies, which include two standing groups, the SBI (Subsidiary Body for Implementation) and SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice) and one temporary one, the APA (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement).  SB44 is the place where the rubber meets the road.  Few world leaders attend and even fewer members of the media.  Instead, career diplomats who focus on international environmental law in general and climate change specifically come to Bonn to work out the technical realities of translating treaty words into governmental actions.

At SB44, the Parties continued work on climate change mitigation and adaptation programs initiated under the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol (KP).  But it’s fair to say that this work was perpetually overshadowed by the future impacts of the Paris Agreement (PA).  IMG_1517What would happen to pre-2020 commitments under the KP’s Second Commitment Period if the Paris Agreement entered into force early? How do the NDCs or nationally determined contributions required under the Paris Agreement relate to the pre-2020 Cancun pledges? How will existing governance mechanisms under the UNFCCC and KP, like the KP’s CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) Executive Board, UNFCCC’s Standing Committee on Finance and Adaptation Committee, and the COP19-created Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage, serve the Paris Agreement?  Will we simply learn from their track records of what (and what not) to do when creating new governance structures under the PA?

IMG_1520The Paris Agreement seized the center stage for at least a third of SB44’s agenda, given the number of tasks assigned by COP21for moving into implementation. While on the surface, this work has the appearance of being technical, in reality it is rooted deeply in international politics.  Hence the first week of the APA’s SB44 work was held up while the Parties disputed their agenda for the midyear session.  The G77+China — the largest negotiating group in the UNFCCC negotiations — filed a request before the opening plenaries with concrete suggestions for “balancing” the agenda so that it was less mitigation-centric — a hangover from the UNFCCC and KP’s work programme foci.  Through these agenda corrections, the G77 also sought to launch the next phase of work using the precise language that Parties forged last December when agreeing by consensus on the COP21 decisions.

Forging North American relations at a biergarten on the Rhein.

Forging North American relations at a biergarten on the Rhein.

The APA agenda dispute (and to a lesser extent, those in SBSTA and SBI) served as the opening salvo of a consistent campaign to address the constructive ambiguity that Parties had built into the Paris Agreement’s provisions very carefully. The art of compromise on display in Paris does not transition easily to the technical exercise in Bonn of translating those words into action. This difficulty stood out most strikingly for me on two agenda items: Paris Agreement Article 6 (“cooperative approaches”) and its relation to Article 5 (forests and other land use) and transparency and global stocktaking under Articles 13 and 14, including on finance.  More to come soon on these specific topics.