Losing Loss and Damage? Or Will the Paris Agreement Adapt?

Last night marked the 4th meeting of the Comité de Paris, a group of ministerial leaders that carries out informal consultations “to make progress and facilitate compromise on the draft Paris Outcome and package of decisions transmitted to the COP by ADP.” At a meeting earlier in the day, COP President Laurent Fabius reported on the status of Adaptation and Loss and Damage (L&D) in the new Paris agreement.

Source: L'Express

Source: L’Express

Fabius explained that through informal consultations, Parties have almost concluded on the major issue of Adaptation to climate change impacts, which will enable focus on L&D. However, at the start of last night’s meeting, Fabius commented that he still had no updates from Parties on L&D in the agreement. The responses that followed suggest that negotiations are far from complete on Article 4 on Adaptation and Article 5 on L&D.

After the COP President’s opening remarks at last night’s meeting, 60 countries and groups shared their positions on the newest draft agreement text. Comments included a landslide outcry across developing countries and negotiating groups for increasing the ambition for Adaptation, and giving clear attention to L&D. Many developing countries and negotiating groups also said it was essential to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C.

Source: GCCA

Source: GCCA

South Africa, on behalf of the G-77 and China, pointed out that their group’s key proposals on Adaptation don’t appear in new text. They said that they trust that Parties will be able to engage further on Adaptation for developing countries. On L&D, the group acknowledged that there will be further consultation to advance on the issue. The current draft text has two options for Article 5 on L&D. First, to include it in its own Article, Article 5. The second option would be to incorporate it in Article 4 with the Adaptation provisions. South Africa, on behalf of the G-77 and China, stated that there should be a separate article on L&D, which must be clearly bounded by the principles of the Convention, particularly the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDRRC) that addresses permanent impacts of climate change. Many countries echoed South Africa on behalf of the G-77 and China’s position in subsequent remarks, including as described in yesterday’s ENB report, the G-77 and China, with Vietnam, Haiti, and Timor Leste, among others, emphasized the need for a distinct article on L&D.

Guatemala, on behalf of AILAC, agreed that Parties must continue to make progress in a bridging proposal for L&D, and said that in moving toward the final phase of negotiations, there is a need to catalyze actions in the area of Adaptation and the need to include a registry for adaptation actions. The most recent version of the draft text dropped the bracketed reference to a registry for adaptation communications that was included in the previous version. Chile echoed these sentiments, supporting AILAC’s proposal for Adaptation, including a registry for nationally determined priorities that would act as catalyst for short-term climate adaptation actions.

The coming hours and days will shed more light on the status of Adaptation and L&D in the Paris agreement.

Will it Be a REDD+ Letter Day for Our Forests?

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Yesterday, the Parties received a “clean” version of the draft Paris Agreement, and at 8PM the Parties convened to share their first impressions on this draft Agreement. One hot topic repeatedly discussed was the status of our forests. Many Parties are advocating that the Paris Agreement establish a mechanism that incentivizes the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and promotes the conservation and sustainable management of forests and enhances forest carbon stocks in developing countries, while also enhancing the non-carbon benefits (REDD+). Currently, a formal REDD+ mechanism is missing from the draft text, and many Parties are not happy.

In the ADP 2-12 Draft Paris Agreement, Article 3 bis established a formal mechanism on REDD+, but this mechanism was removed from the most recent draft Agreement. Instead, Article 3 bis in the most recent Draft Agreement simply encourages the Parties to conserve and enhance forests, and encourages them to incentive REDD+ actions without ever directly referencing the REDD+ acronym. The language of encouragement has received a variety of reactions from the Parties and from interested NGOs.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, Forest Trends, National Wildlife Federation, and The Nature Conservancy all issued a joint statement on Article 3 bis in the latest draft, saying:


Photo Source: Shields Energy Services

“This new text includes a specific provision that   would send a strong political signal to support better protections for forests in developing countries and encourage developed nations to provide the financial incentives to do so.”

Additionally, the joint statement declared:

“The new draft of the Paris Agreement makes it clear that countries can increase their ambition to address climate change by using the approach of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), as an enduring tool for reducing emissions and incentivizing countries to scale up their efforts to protect forests.”

While these NGOs support the language used in the most recent Article 3 bis, many developing country Parties raised objections over the language during the Comité de Paris meeting last night.

Panama, speaking on behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, explained that the Paris Agreement needs to demonstrate a collective, serious implementation of REDD+ through reinsertion of a REDD+ mechanism in Article 3 bis. Furthermore, Panama argued that no valid reason has been provided by other Parties explaining why a formal REDD+ mechanism cannot be launched in the agreement here in Paris. As a result, Panama submitted an edited version of the draft Agreement reinserting the formal REDD+ mechanism into the text to the COP Presidency. Panama closed its comments saying there must be a formal REDD+ mechanism in the Paris Agreement if the agreement is
going to truly be ambitious.


Photo Source: Coalition for Rainforest Nations

Many developing countries supported Panama’s position on REDD+. These countries include: the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Tanzania, and many others commonly associated with the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. As Parties continue to meet and develop the draft Paris Agreement today and tomorrow it will be important to watch Article 3 bis to note if the language promoting REDD+ remains voluntary expressed through the term “encouragement” or becomes a formalized mechanism under the UNFCCC expressed in the terms “establishing a REDD+ mechanism.” In the end, this debate over language will determine the level of commitment the Parties agree to concerning the protection of forests under the UNFCCC.




VLS at COP21: Law for Community and the World Week 2!

VLS Week 2 Delegation (L to R): Sara, Annie, Katie, Catie

VLS Week 2 Delegation (L to R): Sara, Annie, Katie, Catie

As we begin the VLS Observer Delegation’s second week at COP21, a new team of students has arrived.  They came in on Sunday and hit the ground running yesterday.  Second-year JD student Catie Davis is covering mitigation, picking up the baton from her week 1 partner, Kelsey Bain, while her colleague Sara Barnowski takes on finance – an especially hot topic this week – taking the hand off from her week 1 partner, Madhavi Venkatesan.  Third-year JD student Annie Warner is our adaptation and loss and damage specialist, building on the work done by her partner, Bonnie Smith, last week.  Last but not least, 3L Katie Dressel is following three areas – technology development and transfer, capacity building, and pre-2020 ambition (known as Workstream 2) – and taking over for her week 1 partner, Rachel Stevens.


Waterloo has arrived!

While our student delegates have worked incredibly long hours, attending negotiation sessions and side events, analyzing their sections of text, and briefing Myanmar each day, they’ve also made time for some play.  Last Wednesday night, we hosted what has become the 3rd annual university delegation social gathering at our house.  Our friends from Wash U have co-hosted this event with us since COP19. We had a great turn out this year:  over 30 students, researchers, and profs from a variety of universities and think thanks, including American University, Buenos Aires Institute of Technology, U. of Copenhagen, U. Linkoping (Sweden), UCLA, UCSD, U. of Waterloo, Yale, C2ES – and, of course, VLS and Wash U.  On Thursday we had a late lunch/early coffee with representatives of theGovernors Climate and Forests Task Force, to learn more about its work with subnational governments in the US and South America.  On Friday we had a short conversation with Chuck Di Leva ’78 about his work at the World Bank and how the COP21

With VLS Alums in Paris

With VLS Alums in Paris

outcome would affect it. On Saturday we took the night off so that we could join the VLS Alumni/ae of Paris as they welcomed us to Paris.  Over wine, cheese, and charcuterie in a downtown restaurant, we enjoyed good conversation into the wee hours, much of it about the place that drew us all together – Vermont Law School.  The Paris alums include US and French students in our joint degree program:  Cergy-Pontoise masters students, who spend a year in cosmopolitan South Royalton earning their LLM

After our meeting with CEQ this morning.

After our meeting with CEQ this morning.

and preparing for a US bar exam, and US students, who spend one or two years earning their masters at Cergy and qualifying to take the French bar.  This week’s team has already fit in a small group meeting with the US Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).  Graduate students from VLS, Yale, U Michigan, Duke, and U Maryland were invited to talk informally with CEQ Managing Director Christy Goldfuss.  Tomorrow we’ll meet with Mary Nichols of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and on Thursday, with environmental grad students at Cambridge and Sciences Po.


Protest outside the Party delegation hall.

This week has shifted into high gear, with the COP as a whole taking on the ADP-recommended Draft Paris Outcome and its many unresolved issues.  As Archer described in her post yesterday, ministers from developing and developed countries have now taken on the role of negotiation facilitators.  Rather than organizing the negotiations by article of the draft text, these ministers are now tackling the harder “cross cutting” issues that have bogged down the negotiations since the June intersessional.  These issues include MOI or means of implementation, most notably finance; adaptation and especially, loss and damage; increasing ambition pre-2020, before this new agreement would start; how to include forests and land use issues in the agreement (or not); and of course, the elephant in the room, differentiation.  These ministerial consultations are not open to observers.  Moreover, they are designed to lead to smaller informal drafting sessions and “bilats” or one-on-one conversations with the COP21 president and these ministers he has tapped to extend his persuasive reach.  Consequently, it is abundantly clear to all here that the real work is taking place behind closed doors, as Parties work out their specific and deep differences.

Last night's Comite de Paris meeting.

Last night’s Comite de Paris meeting.

Until the evening “stocktake.”  The Comite de Paris, as it has been called, is the nerve center for brokering the new deal.  These minister facilitators report back to it throughout the day.  Each evening, from 7-9pm (more or less), we watch with anticipation to hear each report and then read the tea leaves.  Last night we heard generally about progress being made on some issues, and “red lines” being drawn on others.  We also heard Parties express frustration about being asked to be in too many places at once, and not always knowing the agenda of these bilats before arriving for their appointed sit down.  We’ll see tonight at stocktake what the last 48 hours of working this way has produced.  The COP21 president’s stated goal is to have ministers present conclusions on how to resolve most of these differences, and then to produce a revised negotiation text tomorrow morning reflecting them.  On verra. Stay tuned!