Climate Talks, CliMates, COP21 - Paris, Negotiation Process

I thought I was going to the COP – ADP’s life and work

This article is written by Gwenaël Podesta.

The first time I had the chance to attend climate change negotiations, I thought I was going to the COP. What a surprise when I discovered that I ended up at ADP 2.11! A quick internet research told me ADP stands for Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. What a barbaric name… Considering how informative the acronym was, better telling you that I was not really advanced.

I’m sure I was not the only one in this case, wondering what the hell was this ADP all the negotiators talk about, but no one has heard of? Well, let me tell you about this mysterious ADP.

We all heard of “The Copenhagen failure” in 2009. Obviously that was a hard blow for the climate change negotiations and its intergovernmental process, but as we say “wounded but not sunk”. Indeed, this conference established 2ºC as a target for the maximum global temperature increase, and set the ambition of providing US$100 billion per/year to support the efforts of developing countries. Later, COP 16 in Mexico saw the creation of the Green Climate Fund to receive and manage these funds.

Things got even more interesting at COP 17 in Durban, South Africa. Indeed this COP set the objective of building a new agreement by 2015, that could be implemented from 2020. Given the mixed results of the climate regime so far, it was a very challenging target. No one wanted to take the diplomatic hazard to organize the 2015 conference, and risking a new failure that would wipe out all chances of combatting climate change through international cooperation.

For this reason, after 60 hours of negotiation, the Parties agreed upon the creation of a Platform that would regularly meet to ease the creation of this new climate deal by 2015¹. This is how the decision 1/CP.17 created the ADP, whose acronym makes much more sense now, right?

Just for the story, other Ad Hoc Working Groups (AWG) have been previously created under the convention, such as the AWG on the Kyoto Protocol created to negotiate further commitments under the Protocol for the post-2012 period, and the AWG on Long-term Cooperative Action whose goal was to pave the way for an agreement at Copenhagen in 2009 on further efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol.

Plenary of an ADP session in Bonn, Germany (IISD).

So this platform, a subsidiary body of the UNFCCC, aims to prepare a streamlined negotiating text to the Parties at the 21st COP, that France offered to host. The text should be on the form of a draft, containing several options with brackets to be negotiated later on. The work of the ADP is then mostly technical, identifying discrepancies and potential points of agreement so that fewer work remains to be done by the ministers and head of States and governments at the COP.

Parties met at the ADP no less than 15 times since its first session in 2012, and no negotiator would oppose when I say that it was the minimum that was needed to deliver its mandate. We can see it like a marathon. In the beginning, the runners try to find the appropriate pace to resist until the finishing line. And then, after COP 20 in Lima, the bell rings announcing the final lap – the sprint. In Peru, two co-chairs were elected to guide the Parties toward their objective: Ahmed Djoghlaf from Algeria and Daniel Reifsnyder from the US, both known for their in-depth knowledge of the UN processes.

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Ahmed Djoghlaf and Daniel Reifsnyder, 2015 co-chairs of the ADP (UNFCCC).

After this, Parties met in Geneva, Switzerland in February 2015. There, each of them included their “wish list” in the text, which ensured that all voices were being heard. Well, *sigh* that was the easy part. However, we logically left with a 90-pages text that compiled various and sometimes opposite demands from countries. The objective of the last sessions was then to clarify the text, and to make it manageable by December 2015.

During all ADP 2.9 and 2.10 held in Bonn, Germany (where the UNFCCC headquarters are located), the negotiators tackled the painstaking work of shortening the text streamlining the articles and finding bridging proposals. Many stakeholders were worried about the slow pace of the negotiations, especially the French Presidency and its Ambassador Laurence Tubiana.

After these two ADP sessions, the co-chairs were mandated to make a new text that would highlight the consensual points at the ADP2.11 in October. They presented a much shorter text (20 pages), but this latter had to face a strong opposition among the Parties, especially the developing countries. Indeed, the text was accused of lacking crucial points, and also of being “unbalanced”, in favor of developed countries. This was a major turn in the negotiations, as developing countries felt a deep sense of betrayal from the co-­chairs: “Trust has been broken. It’s almost irreversible” even declared the delegate from Malaysia. It was then agreed that the Parties would be able to reinsert in the text what seemed essential to them. The fear of having a Geneva-like inflation happening again didn’t occur, as in the end of the week, the negotiators left with a 51-pages more balanced text.

And now comes COP 21. Actually, the first week of the conference was dedicated to the last session of the ADP. Negotiators worked day and night to be able to deliver a balanced and handleable text to the COP. Split into 10 spin-off groups, the delegates had to go through 44 intense meetings during this exhausting week. In the end, despite very strong disagreements on finance and loss and damage, the ADP fulfilled its goal as Parties agreed on a Draft Paris Outcome (42 pages + annex) on Saturday 6th. “Significant progress has been accomplished”, concluded the US co-chair Reifsnyder, “we’re halfway there”.

This is how ended the story of the ADP, although a lot remains to be done on the second week of the COP. At the ADP closing plenary session, Laurence Tubiana declared that the text could have been better, but it also could have been much worse. Indeed, Parties succeeded in delivering a final negotiating text, which is an important milestone toward reaching an ambitious agreement in Paris. However, the spectrum of the options is so wide that it’s impossible to augure the outcome of COP 21. But this is now up to the ministers and head of States and Governments, as the negotiations will require highly political choices next week.

¹More precisely, the mandate of the ADP is “to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, which is to be completed no later than 2015 in order for it to be adopted at the 21st session of the COP and for it to come into effect and be implemented from 2020” (UNFCCC).


About the author: Gwenaël Podesta is a Master student in environmental economics at AgroParisTech (Université Paris Saclay). He participates in a research project at CliMates and attended ADP 2.11 in October along with 3 other Mates. He also participated in the COP 21 as liaison officer with the delegation of el Salvador.

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