This article is written by Melissa Low.
In just 9 months, the UNFCCC process is due to deliver elements of a draft text for negotiations towards the 2015 climate change agreement.
Like any good delivery plan, the ADP process is now embarking on a more formal mode of work in the form of a single Contact Group. Like any pre-natal support groups, these are designed to increase knowledge and build confidence.
More importantly, the decision to form a Contact Group follows concerns from worried countries that the elements of a draft negotiating text will not be ‘Party-driven’. General discomfort was felt around the open-ended nature of the talks, and many countries reiterated the need for a formal process that would guarantee that inputs from countries would be taken into account toward the new agreement.
Everyone knows that with any baby, the first trimester is the most critical phase of development.
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “We are now entering a serious and significant phase in the evolution of international, cooperative climate policy as we look towards both Lima and Paris.”, underlining the importance of the next 9 months.
Countries need to get the foundations right if they want a healthy and well-rounded text by Lima.
The priorities for now include:
- preparation for developing meaningful mitigation commitments by the 1st quarter of 2015 ;
- clarity on countries’ understanding of the concept of ‘contributions’, which elements it relates to, and how ;
- clarity on the types of mitigation commitments (or national determined contributions) that countries can put forward ;
- clarity on what ‘upfront information’ will be needed to ensure that proposed mitigation commitments are transparent, quantifiable, comparable, verifiable and ambitious (or to be able to estimate expected emission reduction effect in a consistent manner) ;
- clarity on the provisions for transparency and accountability, including scientifically sound and robust provisions for monitoring, reporting and verifying how countries fulfill and meet their proposed commitments ;
- clarity on the procedures to regularly revisit and enable countries to raise the ambiton of their own mitigation commitments in a timely manner to ensure that we collectively stay on track for below 2 degrees Celsius ;
- greater certainty about legal obligations through the agreement (legal form).
As week-long negotiations ended in Bonn, Germany, several nations known as Parties outlined ideas, proposals or pathways towards raising domestic ambition and transitioning towards more low carbon economies.
Technical expert meetings, like support groups, launched at this session of the ADP helps to support countries in delivering their own babies – or mitigation commitments (since Warsaw, better known as Nationally Determined Contributions).
2014 needs to be a year where countries realise that their individual contributions need to be ambitious, fair and in accordance with responsibilities and capabilities. Further, all Parties to the UNFCCC must contribute collectively to an agreement that will help the world stay on track for the below 2 degrees Celsius target.
Kishan Kumarsingh and Artur Runge-Metzger, the co-chairs of the ADP, will act as mid-wives, facilitating the delivery plan towards Lima, then Paris.
One Baby… or Quintuplets?
The ADP must address all ambiguities, and the divergence of views between various countries and associated groups. As the co-chairs noted in their Informal Note released ahead of the talks in March, clarity is needed as to how Parties understand the concept of ‘contributions’, which elements it relates to, and how.
Old divisions still plague the talks, leading to diverging views on whether ‘contributions’ should cover only mitigation or also the other 5 pillars from the Bali Action Plan, which are namely, Adaptation, Finance, Technology Transfer, Capacity Building and Transparency of Action and Support.
By June however, the ADP process to Lima should have at least outlined some key elements that countries desire to be included or not included in the text to be negotiated on in 2015.
In the third trimester, the ADP will be additionally pressured by the call of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to New York City for a Climate Summit in September 2014.
All this is happening while the IPCC is already underway for a five-day general meeting in Yokohama from 25-29 March to discuss the IPCC Working Group II’s Fifth Assessment Report on the impact global warming will have on humans and ecosystems.
The Months Ahead
The next ADP session will resume in June in Bonn at the Maritim Hotel. This is be held back-to-back with the sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 40) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 40) where key issues such as the UNFCCC reporting guidelines for the review of national communications, furthering the understanding of the diversity of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) by developing country Parties, issues relating to technology transfer (Technology Mechanism), Adaptation Fund, REDD and the Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage will be discussed.
About the author : Melissa Low is a Research Associate with the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore. She holds a Master of Science in Environmental Management and a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Geography (with Honors) and a minor in Urban Studies, from the National University of Singapore. For her Master thesis on past and contemporary proposals on equity and differentiation in shaping the 2015 climate agreement, Melissa was awarded the Shell Best Dissertation Award 2013. She is currently enrolled in the LLM in Climate Change Law & Policy (distance learning) at the University of Strathclyde. Her research at ESI centers on climate change, focusing on analyzing countries greenhouse gas emissions and evaluate their mitigation potential. Other areas of interest include equity questions and understanding the climate negotiation dynamic. She has participated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) talks since December 2009.