The Paris Agreement’s Debut: Priorities at CMA1

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 7.59.17 AMOn October 5, 2016, the Paris Agreement passed the threshold required to go into force on November 4, 2016. Over 55 Parties to the Convention have submitted their instruments of ratification, accounting for over 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1) will occur in Marrakech in conjunction with COP22/CMP12. What will be the priority at CMA1? Currently, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website lists no CMA1 agenda documents. However, the Secretariat’s Progress Tracker of relevant requests from the Paris Agreement and Decision 1/CP.21 provides a good predictor of CMA1’s focus.

The Progress Tracker indicates renewed discussion of Article 6’s market-based mechanisms at CMA1, as Paris Agreement Parties redouble their efforts to establish the system to achieve their pledged contributions. Article 6  provides the starting point for market-based mechanisms. Interestingly, nowhere does Article 6’s language actually use the term market-based mechanisms. Instead, Article 6.1 refers to “voluntary cooperation” when implementing NDCs with Article 6.2’s “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” [ITMOs] and “robust accounting.” Roughly translated, Article 6’s voluntary cooperation works through a carbon trading, market-based mechanism, using ITMOs.

Recent meetings of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific Technology and Advice (SBSTA44) also point to Article 6 priorities during CMA1. At the May 2016 SBSTA44 meeting, Parties emphasized the Paris Agreement’s changed context, in that all Parties have NDCs. Now, with most Parties planning to consider some form of market mechanism to reach their mitigation pledges, they remain divided on how best to proceed. For example, Parties maintain varying views about whether Article 6’s scope should include REDD+.  Given these unresolved concerns, SBSTA44 agreed to continue Article 6 work in Marrakech and invited submissions on the Parties’ varying Article 6 views for discussion at SBSTA45.

Accordingly, over a hundred countries submitted their Article 6 statements, fueling continued Article 6 debate during CMA1.  Some countries’ submissions came as part of a broad range of major negotiation groups; submissions from the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), Forestry Commission of Central Africa (COMIFAC), Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), European Union (EU), and Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) addressed an equally broad range of priorities. Prevalent themes involved differences between developed and developing countries’ priorities, concerns regarding transparency in accounting, and the need for clarity in Decision 1/CP.21 § 36 language addressing emissions “corresponding adjustments.”

Additionally, multiple side events scheduled during the Marrakech meeting demonstrate strong support from civil society and the research community for Parties to clarify and implement Article 6. Organizations like the Green Climate Fund, Institute for Environmental Global Strategies, International Carbon Action Partnership and country representatives from around the world will present at these sessions.

Based on the Progress Tracker, SB44 discussions and submissions, and side event interest, Article 6 issues will not only appear on the SBSTA45 agenda. They will also likely play a major role at the inaugural CMA1 meeting, as the Paris Agreement enters into force on the world stage.


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.


Loss and damage at SB44 – Whither the WIM?

101803802-495496305.530x298While, as we posted last week, loss and damage (L&D) was not on the agendas of the Subsidiary Bodies or the APA at the UNFCCC intersessional meetings held in Bonn, May 16-26, some attention was paid to this important issue.

Four side events covered varying aspects of L&D policy and action, both inside and outside the UNFCCC. These included climate migration, climate litigation, non-economic losses (we posted on this last week), and existing disaster risk management tools. (Links to event presentations can be found at the SB44/APA1 side event site.)

In addition, the Presidencies of COP21 and COP22 held a meeting for observer delegations to provide input on Article 8.4Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 5.11.27 PM of the Paris Agreement and action areas of the 2-year workplan of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) Executive Committee (Excom). (As we reported earlier, the workplan is scheduled to be completed for review at COP22.) Among those presenting were: the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Climate Action Network (CAN) International, the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative, a range of NGO constituency groups, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum.

Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh, and one of the (Least Developed Countries) LDCs’ top advisors,Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 5.13.02 PM suggested that the purpose of this event was “to gauge the level of interest amongst parties and observers.” Given the throng of attendees and the passion with which many statements were delivered, it is clear that interest and engagement levels are high.

And, there is good reason – this is a highly political subject. According to presenters at the side events, developing countries are increasingly experiencing much worse L&D and sooner than expected from drought, heat waves, major storms, sea level rise, and salt-water intrusion. Climate-induced migration is gaining wider acknowledgement and attention. At the same time, L&D has essentially achieved recognition as a separate pillar of the climate regime through Article 8 of the Paris Agreement. Yet, the Paris decision included a clause preventing Article 8 from serving as “a basis for any liability or compensation;” on top of which, no specific reference to financing to address L&D is present in either the Agreement or the decision.

Concern is great, and the primary message is that the WIM should ramp up its engagement with the robust sphere of non-state actors and resources to both address current actual losses and damage and establish equitable, aggressive policies and strategies to avoid future L&D. Hotbeds of engagement exist for all of its current workplan action areas. (The 2-year workplan can be found here.) Dr. Huq considers migration and finance as “the two most critical,” and recommends fast-tracking those.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 4.50.21 PMThe urgency is mounting ahead of COP22. Among the questions we’ll be following, as the Excom holds its final 2016 meeting in September, is whether the 20-person body will seek an extension or try to meet the review deadline. Among its tasks is to “[d]evelop a five-year rolling workplan for consideration at COP22 building on the results of this two-year workplan…”

Will the Excom fail to deliver? Will a delay lose the political momentum of COP22? Neither those suffering now, nor those at current risk can afford that.


Loss and Damage in Bonn (sort of)

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 7.23.56 AMThe 44th meeting of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) and the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA), held in Bonn, Germany, May 16-26, were full of action. Our delegation report-back started earlier this week, here and here. Key work areas receiving consideration included, for example: preparation for the implementation of the Paris Agreement; adaptation planning and action (and the Adaptation Fund); capacity building in developing countries; gender and climate policy; and market and non-market mechanisms to incentivize mitigation action.

Yet, Loss and damage (L&D), what many consider the third pillar of the climate regime, 131206_loss_and_damagegot little attention in Bonn. A few observers noted they expected more than two posters and one side event on the work of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM), given the upcoming COP22 review of progress on the WIM Executive Committee (Excom) 2-year (2015-2016) workplan, and L&D now being the subject of a separate article in the Paris Agreement. Some also expressed confusion about a special event for observer delegation input on “issues related to the Warsaw International Mechanism in the lead up to and beyond COP22,” convened by the COP21 and COP22 Presidencies on May 24 (we’ll speak to this in an upcoming post).

The reason for the limited attention is that the WIM, created at COP19 to address L&D, functions under and reports to the COP independently, rather than being part of the work of the SBSTA and SBI. Additionally, though Article 8 of the Paris Agreement is devoted to the WIM, the Paris decision gave no additional instructions to the Excom for 2016 that might have tied it to the SB44. The Excom is heavily engaged in its 2-year workplan (2015-2016) through 3 meetings in 2016 (January, April, September). You can follow the work, including calls for submissions via the Excom meetings site.

The WIM L&D side event, Shining the light on non-economic losses: challenges, risks and lessons learned for addressing them, was well-crafted and well-attended. (The robust presentation can be accessed from the Side Event list, by scrolling down to the May 18 event and clicking on the “Presentations” link.) Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 7.20.03 AMNon-economic losses, the focus of Action Area 4 of the 2-year workplan, are losses for which a monetary value cannot be readily assigned, for which there is no market price. As defined by the UNFCCC technical paper, these are losses of “life, health, displacement and human mobility, territory, cultural heritage, indigenous/local knowledge, biodiversity and ecosystem services.” These can be, of course, the greatest and worst losses of all. The side event’s key objectives were to:

  • Raise awareness and understanding of the nature and extent of non-economic losses;
  • Put a spotlight on some of the challenges and risks that non-economic losses pose to developing countries;
  • Highlight some of the lessons learned associated with addressing non-economic losses, including how to integrate measures to reduce the risk of non-economic losses in comprehensive approaches to address loss and damage.

An upcoming post on L&D from Bonn will cover the special event for observer input on the WIM, and a couple of exciting unofficial side events addressing the limits to adaptation and progress on climate litigation. Also stay tuned for more info on the WIM Excom.


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.