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.

Counting On Big Bucks for Adaptation – More News from SB44

Time to Adapt - ClockFinancing Adaptation was a big topic in Bonn at SB44 last month (see our SB44/APA1 overview here), and rightly so, with the newly released UN Environment Program (UNEP) 2016 Adaptation Finance Gap Report. The report states that current international public finance flows for adaptation are only one-third to one-half the amount needed right now. Additionally, the roughly $22.5 billion in 2014 adaptation finance flows to developing countries will need to be 6-13 times that in 2030, or $135-$292 billion, and 12-22 times that by 2050. That’s $270 billion to nearly half a trillion per year.

In Bonn, we witnessed the launch by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) of its process to develop an accounting framework for climate finance under the Paris Agreement (per Decision 1/CP.21), a long-sought goal of developing countries. Other UNFCCC institutions and the secretariat held adaptation finance workshops and updates related to various COP directives. And, side events extended the dialogue, providing attendees insight into the principles of and country experiences with fossil fuel subsidy reform and fuel levies to fund adaptation activities, as well as the critical and growing role of private finance for adaptation programs and projects.newsletter_article_photo_1

Among the UNFCCC events was the second of two (one each in 2015 and 2016) in-session half-day workshops on pre-2020 long-term finance, held in accordance with 5/CP.20. Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, opened the workshop – one of her last activities before stepping down from her celebrated 6-year post on July 6. There were presentations, panel discussions, and breakouts covering topics ranging from enhancing the understanding of adaptation finance and the role it plays in meeting developing country needs, to scaling up and enhancing the transparency of that finance. (Presentation slides and audio can be found here.)

Three of the key needs identified in the workshop represented adaptation financing themes that reverberated throughout the Bonn meetings:

  • Scaling up of availability of funds – The UNEP Adaptation Finance Gap starkly underscored this need and buttressed arguments for fossil fuel subsidy reform and fuel levy policies to support adaptation finance.
  • A clear definition on adaptation finance to move tracking forward – Though not the most contentious negotiation point in the SBSTA’s agenda item 12 on developing modalities for climate finance accounting (referred to above), the informal consultations were marked by developing countries’ objection to using an un-vetted definition of climate finance (sourced from the 2014 Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance Flows Report of the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF)). We may see this issue come up again in Parties’ and observer organizations’ submittals of their views on the development of modalities (due by August 29) and in the in-session workshop now planned for SBSTA 45 (Nov. 2016). (Watch for our fuller coverage coming soon on the Bonn negotiations regarding “modalities for the accounting of financial resources provided and mobilized through public interventions” under Article 9.7 of the Paris Agreement.)
  • Private sector engagement – This major thread, building on the focus leading up to and at COP21 (see here and here), grew steadily across SB44/APA1, and we expect it’s continued weaving into approaches to address climate change across the board – in mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage. Many are hanging their hopes for sufficient adaptation finance on this sector.

Climate-change-adaptation.2jpgIt remains unclear, as yet, how the fast growing requirement for adaptation finance will be met, especially given how far behind current needs the flows already are. We are looking forward to the SCF’s 2016 Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance Flows, along with a number of adaptation finance events leading up to COP22 to help shed some light on the range and reach of the pathways. Many working on this critical issue are well aware that the price of inadequate adaptation is the tragedy of loss and damage.

Climate – Free Trade Policy Mismatch

bl09_free_trade_jp_2367461fThe Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was high on the U.S.-EU agenda last week (here and here), reigniting nagging questions about the continued disconnect between international trade policies and climate change policies that has been problematic for decades. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has acknowledged that the misalignment allows international trade policies that hinder the transition to low-carbon economies.

Two factors contribute to this climate vs trade regime conundrum. Firstly, national boundaries specifically apply for global warming emissions, but are quite porous for international trade agreements. The UNFCCC and the new Paris Agreement provide for countries to determine their own efforts to reduce emissions. (The Kyoto Protocol’s specific emissions caps for Annex I Parties were part of the reason that system failed.) International free trade instruments, on the other hand, hold that purchasers should be able to buy from whomever they want and sellers should be able to sell to whomever they want, with little hindrance in crossing those national boundaries.

As a result, countries with large economies and growing imports (e.g., the U.S.) have driven increased global warming without acknowledgement or constraint, and outsized multinational corporate influence over trade deals has been unfettered, to the climate’s detriment. tppp-cc-cc-565x318Also part of the problem is the World Trade Organization (WTO), which does little to address fossil fuel subsidies that continue to incentivize extraction.

Secondly, trade deals have strong accountability provisions and consequences, whereas, the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol do not. Even the Paris Agreement, in its final form, will have to rely on “naming and shaming” to counteract Party foot dragging on current and future mitigation goals.

On the other hand, countries can and do sue other countries through WTO dispute settlements under trade deals. For instance, the U.S. sued India over its domestic solar energy industry protections designed to accelerate its economic and energy sustainability.

Additionally, an arbitration process known as Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) common in investment agreements (another form of international “trade”) allows corporations to seek damages from governments for domestic policies that limit their activities. Trans-Canada sued the U.S. over Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. Plus, anti-fracking bans and other measures to limit extraction of fossil fuels are subject to such claims. tpp_shutterstock_590Multinational corporations have used the ISDS process and the threat of it with great success. (Elisabeth Jeffries explores this and more in a January 2016 feature in Nature Climate Change [subscription required].)

Granted, environmental protections within free trade and investment agreements have expanded over the years. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), recently agreed to by 12 Pacific region countries, including the U.S., for the first time “embed[s] conservation commitments” into the main text of the agreement, ensuring they are subject to the agreement’s dispute resolution process. (The Senate has yet to ratify the TPP.) For the TTIP, the EU has proposed an alternative to the ISDS – an Investment Court System (ICS), curtainling grounds for corporate compensation, that some believe could introduce a more transparent and balanced arbitration process to trade agreements.

Environmentalists and climate change policy advocates are not swayed. ISDS trade deal shares 1.5In particular, the TPP is expected to undermine sovereignty and incentivize U.S. hydraulic fracking for natural gas exports. The TTIP is criticized for its failure to ensure environmental factors can moderate economic ones in the ICS, and for its broad definitions favoring investors over governments. Overall, according to prominent economist and scholar, Joseph Stiglitz, both instruments are expected to “undercut” the Paris Agreement, and “cement in place a system that treats the environment as distinct from – and subordinate to – international trade and investment.”

Aligning the global climate and international trade regimes is, apparently, unfinished business.

How “well below 2°C” flew well-below the radar

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 10.09.47 PMOn December 12, when the Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus, it contained bold new language on the long-term global temperature goal. Article 2 reads:

“Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels…” (Article 2.1(a))

But, from where did this language come?

All through Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 3.59.10 PMthe ADP’s final year of negotiations, from Lima to Geneva to Bonn and back to Bonn, it never appeared in the successive drafts. The “well below 2°C” finally emerged in brackets at the last negotiating session before COP21, on the final day of ADP2-11.Photo-SBs June2015-Bonn

The likely source? Something called the structured expert dialogue (SED).

The story begins back at COP16 in 2010, when Parties agreed to reduce emissions so that global temperature would not exceed 2°C above pre-industrial levels. They also agreed to periodically review this goal to determine whether it was sufficient to meet the UNFCCC’s objective, and whether the Parties were achieving it. Importantly, the Parties decided at COP16 to consider strengthening the 2°C goal, “including in relation to a global average temperature rise of 1.5°C.”

This mandated review happened between June 2013 and February 2015 at a Joint SBSTA/SBI meeting. It was supported by a structured expert dialogue (SED) to “ensure the scientific integrity of the review through a focused exchange of views, information and ideas.” The SED involved more than 70 experts and Parties over 4 sessions. The group released its final report last May for all UNFCCC Parties to consider it at the 42nd session of the subsidiary bodies in June.

Two of the SED’s key messages were:

  • “The world is not on track to achieve the long-term global goal, but successful mitigation policies are known and must be scaled up urgently.” (Message 8)
  • “While science on the 1.5°C warming limit is less robust [making it difficult to compare differences between 2°C and 1.5°C], efforts should be made to push the defence line as low as possible.” (Message 10)

Message 10 also suggested that Parties consider a precautionary path: “aiming for limiting global warming as far below 2°C as possible, reaffirming the notion of a defence line or even a buffer zone keeping warming well below 2°C.”

While not offering the exact language on 1.5°C found in Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, the SED report clearly articulates climate change impacts already being experienced, limits to adaptation, and certain and non-linear increases in those impacts expected between 1.5 and 2°C.1.5DegC

Both IISD’s Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) and the Third World Network (TWN) reported strong differences at the June UNFCCC meeting about what action Parties should take on the Review and SED report. AOSIS, the LDCs and others pushed for sending a draft decision to COP21 for a new long-term global temperature goal of “limiting warming to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” Saudi Arabia and China were both firmly against changing the long-term goal, and sought language simply acknowledging and appreciating the work/report. Though most Parties supported crafting a substantive conclusion and decision, the lack of consensus on content meant postponement to the SB43 (December 1-4) meeting in Paris. With Saudi Arabia and China (joined by Oman) continuing to block action at SB43, the COP Presidency was ultimately called on to shepherd its direct consideration by the COP.

On the ADP front, the Review and SED report found no apparent foothold in June. By Paris, though, its “well below 2°C” was in the draft and part of the hot debate on long-term temperature goal. The LDCs, AOSIS, the Africa Group and the 40+ country-strong Climate Vulnerable Forum (on which we’ve reported), fought hard for the goal to reference only 1.5°C. The “High Ambition Coalition” (on which we reported here), which included the EU and the U.S., offered strong support. The Saudis, backed by India and China, and unchallenged by the rest of OPEC, firmly blocked it, along with any reference to the SED report. The final compromise language was, in the end, a big step toward acknowledging the climate change dangers already present and the peril posed by a 2°C change.

COP21 did close with a decision (10/CP.21 para 4) that referenced the Review, “took note of the work of the structured expert dialogue,” and offered appreciation for those who participated in it. It also stated the new long-term temperature goal utilized in the Paris Agreement’s Article 2.1(a). “Well below 2°C” is well beyond what could have been.images

Paris Agreement and the Clean Air Act – New Tools for the EPA?

Courtesy of Creative CommonsDoes the Paris Agreement open up new avenues for EPA regulation of greenhouse gases? A new paper – co-authored by law professors from the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School, the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA School of Law, and the Institute for Policy Integrity, NYU School of Law – asserts that the global agreement reached in Paris allows the EPA to enforce the rarely utilized Section 115 of the Clean Air Act to cut GHG emissions.


Section 115 of the Clean Air Act addresses international air pollution and empowers the EPA Administrator to take action when the public health or welfare in a foreign country is endangered by pollution emitted from the United States. The EPA Administrator can take action if two conditions are met. First, there must be finding that emissions from the United States endanger the public health or welfare in a foreign country. Second, there must be reciprocity between the United States and the affected foreign country on how they prevent or control air pollution. Section 115 only applies to countries that the Administrator determines has given the “United States essentially the same rights with respect to the prevention or control of air pollution occurring in that country as is given that country by this section.”


The scholars argue that both conditions can be met. The endangerment finding is supported by science and the Paris Agreement enables the EPA to make the reciprocity determination needed to activate Section 115. If both conditions are met, the paper states that the EPA would have a new set of tools to cut GHG emissions including the power to regulate emissions from the transportation sector and to use market mechanisms to achieve the lowest-cost reductions.


It took four years to negotiate the Paris Agreement. It will take many more years to fully implement it. If this paper’s analysis is correct, COP21 just gave the EPA a powerful new tool to reduce America’s GHG emissions.




No Red Lines, But a Green Light for Adaptation and Loss and Damage

At this morning’s Comité de Paris meeting, COP President Laurent Fabius channeled Nelson Mandela, saying: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” At tonight’s COP meeting, Parties adopted the Paris Agreement in a historical and long-awaited moment. While past Agreement drafts have been full of brackets, options, and red line changes, these notations are notably absent from the final Paris Agreement.

Source: Takepart

Source: Takepart

With a green light (and ceremonial strike of a green gavel) for the Paris Agreement, it is worth taking a moment to pause and look at the final Agreement language in light of what came before it. Article 7 on Adaptation starts with a paragraph on the global goal on Adaptation. In the beginning of this week, it was unclear whether this goal for Adaptation would ensure Adaptation in the context of the global temperature goal. The final Agreement established the Adaptation response in the context of the temperature limit increase. This ensures that the global goal on Adaptation is grounded in a quantitative, and not only a qualitative, target. In the final Paris Agreement, this language was strengthened by adding that an Adaptation response must be “adequate.”

Paragraph 4 focuses on Adaptation needs and Adaptation in conjunction with Mitigation. The paragraph describes how greater levels of Mitigation can reduce the need for Adaptation effort. In the December 9th and 10th versions of the Agreement, this paragraph closed by referencing “that greater rates and magnitude of climate change increase the likelihood of exceeding adaptation limits.” This phrase referenced L&D from the permanent and irreversible impacts of climate change. It also acknowledged that Adaptation, Mitigation, and L&D are closely interlinked, and that attending to all of them is important. However, this phrase on L&D did not make it into the final Agreement text. This change is part of the larger uncertainty that has surrounded the issue of L&D.

In the beginning of this week, the fate of L&D in the Agreement was very uncertain. One text option briefly recognized the issue of L&D, with a footnote that the text could end up elsewhere in the Agreement — likely in the article on Adaptation and not as its own article. Adaptation and L&D are separate issues that require different approaches, and therefore the final Agreement’s inclusion of a distinct Article on L&D is an accomplishment for the Paris Agreement. The December 10th draft Agreement separated the intention on L&D from the implementation mechanism, the Warsaw International Mechanism on L&D (WIM). Importantly, the final Paris Agreement bridged this disconnect and integrated these issues, saying that “Parties should enhance understanding, action and support, including through the [WIM].” The duration of this mechanism will play an important role in ensuring the resilience of countries who face climate change impacts in the future.

After the adoption of the Paris Agreement, South Africa channeled Nelson Mandela again, in a statement that reflects today’s achievements and the many challenges that lie ahead in addressing climate change:

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.

The Power of One Word


Photo Source: International Partnership on Mitigation & MRV

In international legal commitments all the power is in the verbs. And in the most recent (and perhaps final) version of the Paris Agreement, the verbs used in Art. 4 on Mitigation strengthen the actions required by developed country Parties.

Article 4.4 is on the differentiated mitigation efforts required by all Parties to the Agreement. The text released this afternoon declares that, “[d]eveloped country Parties shall continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets.” Conversely, the requirement for developing country Parties is that they “should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.”

Even after a quick read, the power and effect of the verb “shall” compared to “should” or “are encouraged to” is instantly obvious. The language of “shall” is stronger; we’ve known this since biblical times. The commandment was “thou shalt not kill,” not thou should not kill, or thou is encouraged not to kill. Shall is an obligation, a command. Should is just an expectation.

Under the current Paris Agreement, developed country Parties have a positive obligation to lead on economy-wide GHG emission reductions. On the other hand, developing countries have no GHG emission reduction obligations under Art.4.4. Instead, developing country Parties are expected, or perhaps have a moral duty, to enhance their mitigation efforts. A statement supporting developing countries to voluntarily choose to try and move towards economy-wide GHG emission reductions furthers the expectation that they will enhance their mitigation efforts.

While differentiation between developed and developing Parties may seem intuitive, the “shall” “should” dichotomy is quite new in Art. 4.4. In the draft version distributed two days ago, on December 10, 2015, all the verbs were “should.”

The text read: “Developed country Parties should continue to take the lead. Each Party that has previously communicated absolute economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets should continue to do so, and all Parties should aim to do so in light of different national circumstances and stages of development.”

Photo Source: ThinkProgress

Photo Source: ThinkProgress

This previous version of the text was a conglomeration of expectations, and all Parties were expected to be doing something to mitigate GHG emissions. But, no Parties were actually obligated to perform certain actions. As negotiations have progressed over the past two days it is clear that a hierarchy of actions has developed, and this hierarchy ensures that all Parties know what the Paris Agreement requires of them. Under this hierarchy:

WHO:                                     WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO:

  1. Developed Parties          Must lead on economy-wide GHG emission reduction targets
  2. Developing Parties         Expected to enhance their mitigation efforts
  3. Developing Parties         Economy-wide GHG emission reduction targets encouraged

As the final text is considered by the Parties tonight, it will be important to note whether this hierarchy of mitigation actions is preserved with “shall” and “should” or if we return to a list of “should” expectations as contained in the earlier version of the text.

***UPDATE: During the final meeting of the Comité de Paris the term “shall” was changed back to “should.” Therefore, developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. The power of one word changed this obligation back into an expectation. The COP Presidency explained that the use of “shall” was a technical, unintended error and that the term “should” was meant to be used in the Agreement.

The new “High Ambition” Force Awakens in Paris

de brumA new group has been announced during the Paris Climate Talks – the High Ambition Coalition. It is not a formal negotiation group like the G77+ China or the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Rather it represents a block of countries with a common position – recognition of the need for a target of less than 1.5℃.  Apparently, it has been gathering strength for the past six months during secret discussions.

During the press briefing to an unusually packed room on Friday, December 11th at 4:00 pm Paris time, the founder of the group, the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister Tony de Brum, announced that Brazil has just joined. Later that evening Australia announced its acceptance into the group.  austrailia jjoins

The composition of the group of more than 100 countries is a mixed bag of other Parties as well. There are LDCs, SIDS, accompanied by the United States, the EU, and Canada.

During the press briefing, Minister de Brum made it clear that this was a serious group that did not take their commitments lightly. If the countries are to tackle climate change, high ambition coupled with political will are necessary. Simply stated, this is the pathway to survival.  Any country that wished to join must demonstrate dedication to that goal. He further expressed displeasure at some Parties that wished to “gut the text” with a minimalist approach to the Agreement. When asked why China and India were not members, Minister de Brum answered that while they welcomed new Parties to broaden their reach, they would not sacrifice this core belief that high ambition was required in the Paris Agreement. In a later press Conference, the Chinese deputy foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin, dismissed the Coalition stating: “We heard of this so-called ambitious coalition only since a few days ago, of course it has had a high in profile in the media, but we haven’t seen they have really acted for ambitious emissions commitments, so this is kind of performance by some members” .

Further, they underscore that the Agreement must be durable and legally binding with rigorous review every five years. This may be the reason that India is so reluctant to join as it has stood by its position for review every ten years. The member Parties agree that they cannot go home without the ambition that they are fighting for; they are determined for its inclusion in the Paris Agreement. During a Press Conference on Monday, December 9th, Secretary Kerry announced the United States’ participation in the Coalition stating : “Addressing climate change will require a fundamental change in the way that we decide to power our planet. And our aim can be nothing less than a steady transformation of a global economy.”  Minister de Brum called for decarbonization as well, this is not just about a temperature target. Clearly, to reach this goal, the framework for transparency will be critical ; “so everybody knows what we are all doing”. Finance, one of the hot button topics, is also critical to the success of a high ambition goal; the 100 billion pledged will need to be actually delivered. Other mechanisms for securing future finance flows, technology transfer and capacity-building must be included in the text for developing Parties for full implementation of their mitigation and adaptation plans. The German Environmental Minister, Barbara Hendricks, further noted that what was needed was a “fair and modern system of differentiation”, one in which every Party contributes to emissions reductions “as much as they can.” After all, she concluded, the Paris Agreement “is more than just a piece of paper.”


The Sustainable Development Mechanism AKA The New Carbon Market Mechanism



Photo Source: IBNLive

The Sustainable Development Mechanism is a new mitigation mechanism established in Art. 3 ter of the draft Paris Agreement. The purpose of this mechanism is to “promote the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions [in developing country Parties] while fostering sustainable development….” In order to achieve its goals, the mechanism provides incentives for successfully mitigating GHG emissions. Under this mechanism, Parties that contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions in a host country Party can benefit from their mitigation activities by using the resulting emission reductions to fulfill their own mitigation ambition requirements.

Overall, the structure of the Sustainable Development Mechanism closely resembles the Clean Development Mechanism, which is the carbon market mechanism in the Kyoto Protocol. Carbon markets and offsets were created under Art. 6 of the Kyoto Protocol, which states that “…any Party included in Annex I may transfer to, or acquire from, any other such Party emission reduction units resulting from projects aimed at reducing anthropogenic emissions by sources or enhancing anthropogenic removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in any sector of the economy….” Additionally, the Clean Development Mechanism was established under Art. 12 of the Kyoto Protocol, which provides a process for handling all of the carbon credits created under Art. 6.


Photo Source: YaleNews

Ultimately, the major difference between the new Sustainable Development Mechanism from the Clean Development Mechanism is that carbon markets will no longer be limited to developed country Parties. Instead, all Parties will be able to participate in this mechanism. Expanding the scope of a carbon market mechanism to allow all types of Parties to participate in transferring mitigation GHG reductions is unprecedented. We don’t know how all Parties will use this mechanism or how successfully it will address sustainable development issues. Therefore, a  s a successful Paris Outcome appears to be on the horizon, this new carbon market mechanism is one more aspect of the Agreement that will be worth watching develop.



The weaving of the Paris Outcome

dovecot-studios-weavingThe unfolding Paris Outcome is a web of complexities, in both the package and the process. In the package itself, there are cross cutting issues; there are a myriad of details; and there are interlocking linkages among Articles and Decision sections that make multiple circles back to each other. It can be a dizzying endeavor to really grasp it all. And there are plenty of threads under a lot of tension.

The process, too, is multi-layered and multi-faceted. We’ve done the in-depth reporting here and here on its various parts, and how it all spins together, and shared a description of this week’s ministerial level action.

After last night’s Party and negotiating group comments on the December 9 draft text, the ministerial-led informal consultations were shifted into open-ended indaba-type consultations (a South-African consensus building approach), on the three key political issues: Differentiation, Support and Ambition. Alongside those consultations were open-ended informal ones on Loss and Damage, Cooperative approaches and mechanisms, Forests, and the Preamble. At this point, we are waiting for a December 10 draft that compiles the work of those early morning negotiations.

For those nervous about getting lost in the web of it all, a short, simple construction of where we are now comes to us today compliments of seasoned South African delegate, Alf Wills:

Reaching a Paris Outcome requires that 3 interrelated levels be addressed:

1) Those High level political issues = Differentiation (how to fairly account for differing levels of development, capacity, and financial resources between Parties for determining responsibilities), Support (how much, from whom, to whom, for what purpose), and Ambition (how much in emissions reduction, toward what goal, and when)

2) Medium level issues = including cycles (for reporting/reviewing/increasing ambition and support), non-market mechanisms, and adaptation

3) Technical issues related to the rules.

According to Mr. Wills, the ministers must solve the top level issues before they can unlock the medium level issues, which will then inform the technical issues. Other negotiators seemed to agree.

Certainly, Mr. Wills construction is a bit simplistic. Among other things, it doesn’t locate loss and damage. Still, it offers a short-hand way to think about the unfolding process, so it doesn’t unravel in your brain.

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.




Update on progress toward a Paris Outcome

Entrance to Le Bourget UN climate Conference COP21; UNFCCC COP21 flickrThe second stocktaking of the Comité de Paris was held yesterday afternoon for facilitators to report on consultations and bilateral meetings they had held with Parties during the day. The purpose of these meetings was to identify areas of convergence on key elements for the Paris Outcome.

Highlights: Terms heard repeatedly throughout the stocktaking were “progress,” “flexibility,” and “constructive engagement.” The following list provides a few report highlights, and illustrates the breadth of issues that will be part of the Paris Outcome:

  • Support: finance, technology, and capacity building – Parties made headway on capacity building and convergence on all of Article 7. Technology development and transfer, and its related decisions.
  • Differentiation- Divergence remains (this is a key political issue that pervades the entire text.)
  • Ambition, including long-term goals and periodic review – Discussions are continuing on the possible 1.5 degrees Celsius limit, and 2 possible framings have been articulated for the global mitigation goal.
  • Acceleration of pre-2020 action – No convergence is yet being achieved.
  • Adaptation and loss & damage – Compromise is emerging on a global goal, links between adaptation and mitigation, and adaptation efforts/actions. Loss and damage remains a sticking point, with some Parties insisting on clear protection against liability and compensation.
  • Facilitating implementation and compliance – Ideas are forthcoming on essential elements, though whether and how differentiation will be referenced remains a key topic.
  • Cooperative approaches and mechanisms – Mixed results, with uncertainty on whether provisions of, for instance, integrity and avoiding double counting will be included.

The informal consultation groups on the Preamble, Forests, and Response Measures were just launched yesterday, so had no report outs.

Next Steps: Evening consultations were held, with a midnight deadline for co-facilitators to submit recommendations to the COP Presidency based on Party input. A “clean” version of the text will be released today at 1pm. A reconvening of the Comité de Paris at 5pm today to receive Parties’ first reactions to the “clean text.”

More to come!

Civil Society keeps the heat on for climate ambition

UNFCCC PlenaryScene COP21As countries seek to arrive at a mutually acceptable text for the Paris Outcome this week, there is a lot of focus on ambition to reduce emissions, and on financial support to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. In fact, these are among the key high-level political issues that must be resolved. It is hoped that tomorrow’s new draft text from minsters will bring some clarity on these issues.


Civil society has been working hard to help move the needle in favor of stronger ambition and greater equity through action leading up to and at this COP.


As we reported earlier (here and here), among its contributions to the conversation is a recent report by a powerhouse group of NGOs in climate change work – Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs. INDCs are countries’ intended nationally determined contributions, statements of planned actions for mitigation (and, in some cases, adaptation) covering the next 10 or 15 years, that they voluntarily submitted prior to COP21, in keeping with COP Decision 1/CP.19 in 2013 and 1/CP.20 in 2014. (See our last week’s and previous posts related to INDCs)FairShars-CSO EquityReview of INDCs Rpt Cover

With negotiations on “level of ambition” in a seemingly precarious state, we thought it helpful to reiterate the stark reality of the shortcoming of the INDCs. These pledges represent wide-ranging levels of commitment that together, according to UNEP and others, won’t achieve the emissions reductions essential for a habitable planet. There is, in fact, a deeply alarming gap. The Fair Shares report is not alone in stating that, “even if all countries meet their INDC commitments, the world is likely to warm by a devastating 3°C or more.”

The report’s assessment is based on the maximum carbon we can have in the atmosphere to provide the world “a minimal chance of keeping warming below 1.5°C and a 66% chance of keeping it below 2°C.” Its INDC analysis utilizes 2 parameters: 1) historical responsibility (based on the cumulative emissions of a country); and 2) capacity (based on national income “over what is needed to provide basic living standards”) – with these given equal weight in the calculation. The methodology appropriately accounts for “a breadth of perspectives” related to income and time benchmark complexities.

CSO FairSharesRPT Fig9Key findings for the 10 countries covered in the report are that Russia is not contributing at all to its fair share, and that Japan, the U.S., and the EU are all falling short at levels of just 10%, 20%, and slightly more than 20% of their fair shares, respectively. Conversely, the mitigation pledges of most developing countries “exceed or broadly meet their fair share,” even though the pledges of many of those are conditional.

Enter climate finance! Notably, the “fair shares” of many of the wealthy countries are beyond what they can achieve domestically. To ‘balance the books,’ so to speak, developed countries could ramp up actions to meet their own fair share, and make clear commitments to aid developing countries in achieving theirs.

It will take scaled-up and fair cooperation among countries to address the inequitable distribution across countries’ emission reduction pledges and close the emissions reduction gap. It is uncertain if COP21 Parties will achieve this.

Thankfully, civil society is keeping the pressure on.

Incorporating Oceans into the Paris Agreement

“We are at a tipping point,” warned Angus Friday, Grenada’s Ambassador to the United States, in today’s side event on “The Importance of Addressing Oceans and Coasts in an Ambitious Agreement at the UNFCCC COP 21.” Speakers at the event reported on mobilization efforts around ocean and climate issues taking place at COP21, with emphasis on the most vulnerable people and ecosystems.

Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain, President of the Global Ocean Forum, said that a new article in the Paris agreement on oceans is unlikely. However, she encouraged the more likely option—accepting the suggested revision referring to oceans in the December 5th draft agreement addendum. This textual suggestion to the preamble is in bold below:

Also recognizing the importance of the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d), of the Convention, including biomass, forests and oceans as well as other terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems, including through internationally agreed approaches [such as REDD-plus and the joint mitigation and adaptation approach for the integral and sustainable management of forests], and of their non-carbon co-benefits,

Whether this reference to oceans will be accepted in the final Paris agreement remains to be determined. Dr. Carol Turley, an ocean scientist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory stressed the pressing importance of this issue: “The ocean needs a voice, and the time is now to get the ocean into the text.”

What’s next and who makes it happen at COP21?

COP21 Comite de Paris

At COP21 on Saturday, December 5, the ADP transmitted the draft Paris Outcome (the Agreement, as we’ve called it all year) and its accompanying Decision to the COP. The text still contains many bracketed phrases (choices to be made), and there are key outstanding issues, such as on long-term goal, the timing of review of pledges, the provision of support to developing countries, loss and damage, and principles of equity and differentiation. (Be sure to see our posts from Week 1 for more details).

In its first action, the COP established the Comité de Paris (the Paris Committee), chaired by COP21 President, Laurent Fabius, to conduct informal consultations to facilitate achieving agreement by mid-week. These “informals” will cover thematic areas, and thus help to tackle cross cutting issue concerns such as differentiation, ambition, and adaptation/loss&damage. These launched on Sunday, and resumed today with closed meetings, along with bi-lateral meetings arranged by co-facilitators of each issue area to pursue compromise.

We will get a sense of the potential for progress at the Committee’s first Plenary tonight, where facilitators will share today’s outcomes by articulating their “assessment[s] of the possible concepts for solutions.”

The agreed upon facilitators, ministers from member Parties, are being paired for these consultations, and have received guidance from the COP President. Their mandate is clear: “Bridge differences with a focus on issues that require solutions to enable a timely and successful conclusion of the Paris Outcome.” And each duo has been given its “key issues.”

Stay tuned!