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UN climate meet clinches decision, Paris deal up for negotiation


UN climate meet clinches decision, Paris deal up for negotiation

UN climate meet clinches decision, Paris deal up for negotiation
Photo credit: ICTSD

Delegates from over 190 nations meeting in Lima, Peru have agreed to a text framed as a key stepping stone towards building a new climate regime to come into force at the end of the decade.

The deal, secured early Sunday morning, will see all nations come forward with self-determined plans for emissions-cutting contributions and reiterates support for poor countries in preparing these.

Developed countries are also urged to provide financial support to developing countries for ambitious mitigation and adaptation actions, and the Lima text provides recognition to complementary support by other parties. The latter tones down language from earlier drafts that invited other parties willing to do so to complement developed country finance, in other words suggesting room for some developing country finance responsibilities, which prompted backlash from some parties.

Consensus was reached after the Twentieth Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) laboured into extra time, some 30 hours beyond the initial scheduled closing session.

Late night consultations between the COP20 President and party negotiating groups helped bring the talks back from the brink after an impasse emerged during the day on Saturday around a draft text discussed in the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP), the body tasked with negotiating the new deal.  

The COP20 President, Peruvian environment minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, gavelled the decision through in a record thirty seconds, after a final hour of informal consultations within party delegations revealed no objections to his proposed decision, publicly released just before midnight.

“Even if it seems the world is on opposite sides, there is just one planet,” said Pulgar-Vidal in welcoming the ADP decision.  

Some civil society and environmental groups reacted strongly against the final text, however, suggesting that it represented a lowest common denominator outcome.

Lima climate action

The new seven-page text, dubbed the Lima Call for Climate Action, confirms parties’ intention to develop and adopt a global climate deal by next December’s climate meet in Paris, France. The new agreement will apply to all parties and address in a balanced manner mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity-building, and transparency of action and support.

Sunday’s decision acknowledges progress made in Lima towards elaborating elements of a draft negotiating text for the 2015 deal, which now sits in an annex. This move helps formalise a 37-page non-paper on Paris deal options issued by the ADP co-chairs on Wednesday based on views previously expressed by the parties.

Agreement was also reached on the type of information parties may include when communicating their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) – the building blocks of the eventual Paris deal.

However, options for more detailed complementary information for parties’ INDCs have been scrubbed. One paragraph now suggests that the information to be provided would include a reference point against which emissions cuts would be made; timeframes in which this would happen; scope and coverage; methodological approaches; and how each party considers its submission to be fair and ambitious.

While the INDCs are framed in the context of Article 2 of the Convention – in other words, the ultimate objective of stabilising harmful emissions – parties are also invited to consider including an adaptation component.

The final ADP decision requires that INDCs be posted on the UNFCCC website and that the Secretariat prepare a technical paper by early November 2015 on their aggregate nature. This section cuts text from previous drafts that would have seen an ex-ante or review process framed around a dialogue on the contributions – an apparent concession to the Like-Minded Developing Countries group.

In a bid to assuage expressed concerns by the African group and others, one paragraph specifies that the INDC arrangements are made without prejudice to the shape or legal nature of the Paris deal.

Some paragraphs refer to scaling up climate action before 2020, including through technical expert meetings on actions with high mitigation potential, including those with adaptation, as well as health and sustainable development co-benefits. 

A UN emissions gap report ahead of the Lima meet had warned that carbon emissions will need to peak by 2030 to avoid disastrous climate impacts and that the world was not currently on track to achieve this. 

The final text also adds language recalling past decisions on the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts, a compensation instrument held dear by countries particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Emissions cutting responsibility?

In a victory for some developing countries, the agreed ADP text underscores a commitment to reaching a Paris deal that reflects the UN principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR).

In the final negotiating stretch, the African group and others had insisted on a clear delineation between climate efforts undertaken by developed and developing countries. Other parties said that while no one wished to deny the importance of CBDR, they would not accept a bifurcated approach to differentiation.

The UNFCCC annexes with lists of countries were established in 1992 as a means to operationalise CBDR through assignment of differing level of commitments according to relative degrees of industrialisation. This so-called firewall between countries has since proved a major source of contention in the UN climate talks.

Moreover, ever since the commitment to a universal climate regime at the 2011 meet held in Durban, South Africa, debate has been ongoing as to whether the ADP strays too far from the principles of the Convention and CBDR.

Non-state actors

A penultimate paragraph in the decision also welcomes a high-level climate action meeting held last Thursday geared towards a formal recognition of the engagement of non-state actors in the efforts of the intergovernmental UNFCCC and encourages future COP presidencies to continue to convene such occasions.

At a joint press conference early Sunday morning COP President Pulgar-Vidal and next year’s COP President Laurent Fabius, French minister of foreign affairs, announced a new Lima-Paris Action Agenda to this end.

Thursday’s event saw the launch of a new web portal showcasing climate efforts undertaken by cities, regions, companies, and investors. Dubbed the Nazca Climate Action Portal, after Peru’s World Heritage listed site of ancient lines depicting wildlife and geometric forms, the tool highlights a range of undertakings to action from increased energy efficiency to carbon pricing policies.

“It is clear the governments are finally bringing the non-state actors into the process,” wrote James Cameron, a non-executive Chairman of green asset management group Climate Change Capital, underlining the role played by non-state actors in implementing governments’ climate pledges.

A house divided

A strain in the ADP began to show mid-week as line-by-line negotiations on a revised text released on Monday resulted in 58 pages’ worth of tracked changes and alternative paragraph proposals.

Some observers said that the textual disagreements demonstrated the extent to which parties were starting to grapple with the dynamics of a new, universal climate regime.

The ADP co-chairs were also criticised at various intervals last week for allegedly failing to listen to developing countries’ views and for not building these into two new iterations of a draft decision issued on Thursday evening and Saturday dawn, respectively. Fears were expressed that Lima would end the same way as the 2009 Copenhagen meet, where backroom deals announced at the plenary at the last minute helped derail the talks.

Sources report extensive dialogue throughout Friday – the last scheduled day of the COP – between COP President Pulgar-Vidal and various heads of delegations, after Norway’s climate and environment minister Tine Sundtoft and Singapore’s environment and water resources minister Vivian Balakrishna had also helped to reach out to fellow ministers in an effort to bridge divisions.

As various party consultations with the President dragged on into Saturday evening, one Peruvian official told BioRes that the COP Presidency was carefully weighing the risks and calculating the best way to introduce a new ADP decision text based on these talks.

Once agreement was eventually reached, US lead negotiator and special envoy for climate change Todd Stern praised the COP Presidency’s dedication to completing the task.

“It wasn’t always easy guiding this decision to a safe landing. Even this morning things looked somewhat uncertain,” Stern told the COP closing plenary. 

Climate finance

While much of the attention at the end of the week focused on the ADP, the UK’s energy and climate minister Ed Davey and South Africa’s environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa were helping to facilitate talks regarding a COP agenda item on climate finance. Observers had warned these negotiations would need to be resolved before being brought to the meet’s closing plenary.

A draft text on long-term climate finance, focusing on how developed countries will mobilise funds to the end of the decade, was ultimately reached by Saturday afternoon.

The hard-fought text recognises previous commitments by developed country parties to jointly mobilise US$100 billion annually by 2020 to help poor countries cope with their climate-driven needs. A call is made for a substantial share of public climate funds to be channelled into adaptation activities.

Parties also reached consensus on other tricky finance sub-items on Saturday afternoon, namely on the UNFCCC’s Standing Committee on Finance; a report on and guidance for the Green Climate Fund; the report on and guidance to the Global Environment Facility; and a fifth review of the financial mechanism.

Notably, pledges of US$6 million each were made by host nation Peru as well as Colombia last Wednesday, after Australia and Belgium also made pledges earlier in the week tipping the fund over its targeted US$10 billion mark.

Héla Cheikhrouhou, the Green Climate Fund’s Executive Director, told journalists in Lima that so far around 70 parties have set in motion processes to work with the new fund and that cash could start to flow as soon as 2016, pending project approvals next year.

Some parties expressed concern in Lima that Washington’s US$3 billion GCF pledge made in November may be blocked by Congress, which would have to sign off on appropriating those funds. Both legislative chambers will have Republican majorities as of January, while facing off against a Democratic White House.

No agreement on technology, finance linkages

Talks under the COP on linkages between the UNFCCC’s Technology Mechanism – tasked with boosting action on climate technology development and transfer – and the operating entities of its Financial Mechanism also continued last week based on a mandate granted in 2012.

On Wednesday, a draft text on this item was proposed by the co-facilitators, but some key paragraphs remained divisive. These involved the delivery of climate finance for technology projects and actions in developing countries as well as collaboration between the Technology Mechanism and the Green Climate Fund as it develops its operational modalities. The meeting closed with no text forwarded to the COP.

Disagreement on the degree of formalisation in linking these two Convention bodies reportedly proved to be the key source of contention, according to observers of the process.

The need to secure financial support to ensure the effective operation of the Technology Mechanism was among the key messages identified during the COP’s first week in the adoption of the joint annual report of the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), which together make up the Technology Mechanism.

Intellectual property rights (IPRs), which have traditionally been among the more contentious issues in UNFCCC technology negotiations, are likely to surface in ADP talks next year.

Response measures

Haggling on some unresolved issues under other UNFCCC work streams, the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), continued into the second week.

Parties remained divided by the COP’s end on how to continue work in a forum on the impact of the implementation of response measures, whose mandate expired last year.

Past disagreements on whether to establish a mechanism for enhanced action on response measures resurfaced in Lima, proposed by the G77/China, various sources informed BioRes. Proponents of the so-called mechanism have said it could exist in addition to the forum to facilitate the implementation of actions to address the negative social and economic consequences in third countries by measures taken to tackle climate change.

After attempts failed to find common ground throughout the week, parties agreed to continue work next June in Bonn, Germany at the subsidiary bodies’ forty-second session with a view to recommending a decision for adoption in Paris.

On that occasion, parties will continue working on a bracketed draft text with various options for the way forward, which was the outcome of the Lima talks’ first week.

“Loss and damage” mechanism set up

After extended talks, SBSTA-SBI delegates also eventually signed off on criteria for membership of an executive committee and two-year work plan for the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, established at last year’s COP.

Georgia, however, expressed a reservation based on some disagreement on the rules governing the composition of the executive committee regarding two rotating non-Annex I seats.

The COP Presidency suggested non-Annex I regional groups continue talks on coming to a “gentleman’s agreement” on these arrangements, with the meet adopting the Warsaw Mechanism Provisions based on this understanding.

Next steps

The next session of the ADP is scheduled for 8-13 February in Geneva, Switzerland.

Algeria’s Ahmed Djoghlaf and the US’ Daniel Reifsnyder will become the ADP’s new co-chairs and will focus on steering the group's discussions through the conclusion of their mandate next year.

According to Sunday’s decision, parties in a position to do so should submit their INDCs by next March, with other parties doing so well in advance of the Paris meet and by 1 October according to various sections in the ADP decision.

A COP decision also confirmed that a November 2016 climate meet will be hosted by Morocco, with the country’s environment minister Hakima El Haiti suggesting that the meet would focus on a review of climate action based on the hoped-for Paris deal.


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