Climate Talks, Road to COP21

On the #RoadtoCOP21, The Trust We Need!

This article is written by Sabrina Marquant.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opened the Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) 2-4 session by reminding countries that “2014 will be the year of ambition”. In less than nine months, States party to the UNFCCC have to deliver at COP 20 in Peru a draft version of the future climate agreement that they will negotiate during the following year. In December 2015, just twelve months later, an agreement will have to be made. To get there, confidence building and trust will be paramount.


2011-2014 – The Durban Platform: an original and innovative discussion process with the objective of building trust between countries.

From its establishment in 2011, the ADP has gone to great lengths to create inclusiveness for all stakeholders, and the conditions of mutual trust that have been missing since Copenhagen. Firstly, the presence of two co-chairs, equally represented by one Annex I and one Non-Annex I Party that have been nominated by their peers, helps build confidence that views are objectively taken into consideration. Second, transparency is guaranteed by having all submissions uploaded onto the UNFCCC website, available for all to download and to help countries to better understand the expectations of the others and come to consensus quicker. Third, the co-chairs have always maintained that civil society and observers should be allowed to participate in the negotiations and took the time to meet with them and hear their views, despite affirming that it is a Party-driven process.

However, the ADP is not without its critics. Even though this innovative process gives the opportunity for countries to negotiate in relative peaceful atmosphere on all relevant issues to the future agreement, several countries argue that the ADP has been slow in creating a formal mode of negotiations whereby all views are drafted into text and fully taken into account. This argument was illustrated recently during the stocktaking meeting at the ADP session in March with violent opposition between Saudi Arabia and the co-chairs.

Moreover, since COP19 in Warsaw last December, the positions seem to clot behind North/South lines, which highly reminds the state of the negotiation before COP15 in Copenhagen. The global and binding agreement mandate at stake is not the easiest one, because countries have to find the perfect balance between the respect of national sovereignty of all States Parties and the reinforcement of international cooperation. In addition, the juxtaposition of the different regional and national based calendars solidifies the state of paralysis of the negotiation process. As that happens before, the climate negotiations fall into a state of freezing. Countries are waiting to see what offer other countries will put onto the table before moving forward.

2014-2015 – Reshaping coalition : the cornerstone to build trust between countries and secure a climate agreement by 2015.

In June 2014, the Durban Platform will enter into more formal negotiation process. In order to break the deadlock in the negotiations process, reshaping coalitions is essential in terms of opportunities and not anymore in terms of rivalries. To this, the political meetings outside and inside the UNFCCC process are tremendous talk spaces, which have to give the opportunity to overcome the North/South lines and to build trust between countries.

Unlike the previous Climate Summit organized by M. Ban Ki-moon only few weeks before COP15 in Copenhagen, this time one will be held in September 2014 – much more in advance in the climate negotiations agenda – and will be a real opportunity for States Parties to the UNFCCC to promote understanding and to build the trust between countries. Other relevant political meetings have been also planned under the UNFCCC process, as well as the two oncoming ministerial meetings (in June 2014, during the second UNFCCC intercessional session and lately in 2014 during COP20 in Peru).

In parallel to these officials meetings, countries have to seize opportunities offered by informal fora as well as the Cartagena Dialogue and the St Petersberg Dialogue. Although these are assimilated to opaque processes, their objectives are to discuss deeply on the reasons behind each country’s position in order to explore the areas in which convergence could be finding. Finally, meetings organized by the troika Poland-France-Peru with key actors of the negotiations are also strong opportunities. Yet, countries must not get too bogged down in these talks as the UNFCCC process remains the relevant arena.

Moreover, countries have to intensify dialogue with civil society in order to bridge the gap between the position they will adopt at the international level and the concrete actions and strategic plans they already lead at the local level. Linked the local to the global, bridging the gap between the top-down and the bottom-up are essential today to raise the level of confidence between countries, and thus to raise the level of ambition. Nonetheless, it is important to find the right balance between the top-down and the bottom-up, because even if this association can bring the multilateralism on more modern ways, this could also bring some perverse effects, as well as breaking down the dynamic of negotiations.


With so little time left, it is not helpful that some existing coalitions (G77 & China, BASIC, AOSIS, etc.) and their respective statements still represent an outdated perception of the world. Countries are still observing each other wearily. They are waiting to see whose will bring the first offer. In the end, countries do not trust each other. However, international climate negotiations are a tremendous opportunity to drive the world into a new area of multilateralism, more modern and better mirroring today’s geopolitical realities. So, currently only twenty-one months to build trust between countries and bring the climate talks into a new area of international cooperation.


About the author : « Passionate about climate negotiations since Bali in 2007, Sabrina Marquant decided to join CliMates in order to develop a better concrete and critical analysis on the blocking points slowing down the negotiations process and to work on innovative solutions to re-invigorate this process. In December 2013, at the COP19, she had the opportunity to integrate the Official French Delegation as a Youth Delegate. This gives to her a new vision and understandings of the negotiations process. More determined than ever to work on these issues, in January 2014 she decided to put apron as CliMates Communication & Partnerships Director away and to focus on COP21. She is currently co-coordinating a research project within CliMates on tracking climate negotiations toward COP21. She is also the YOUNGO Global North Focal Point to UNFCCC. »

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