Climate Talks, Paris Agreement

Baby steps in Bonn for the newborn APA

Article written by Alice Pauthier and Heloise Pichot

The 44th sessions of the subsidiary bodies in Bonn, halfway on the road from Paris to Marrakech, was shaped by the first meeting of the Ad Hoc working group on the Paris Agreement (APA), which goal is to prepare the implementation of the Paris Agreement (PA).

APA bonn

After four days of informal consultations, the newly elected co-chairs, Jo Tyndall (New Zealand) and Sarah Baashan (Saudi Arabia) finally got the approval of the agenda on Friday, May 20th. With an item on adaptation communication, the agenda finally allowed to debate equally on mitigation and adaptation, as requested by many developing countries. Was the second week as slow as the first one? The affirmative would definitely give a bad signal for Marrakech.

APA attracted a great deal of attention during this week as evidenced by the crowded room, in which latecomers could not find a seat.

Over the week, distinct stances emerged from the comments of Parties on the different items.

Entry into force of the Paris Agreement

After the success of the signing ceremony, already 17 ratifications were submitted. It still represents less than 1% of emissions, but many other ratifications were announced, in particular from China and the US. The Paris Agreement could thus enter into force sooner than expected and delegates working on the APA agenda must now rapidly work on the details that will ease the implementation of the PA framework.

In order to avoid overlaps between the three UNFCCC bodies, Parties highlighted the need for a coherent implementation of the PA, based on the existing mechanisms, and to learn from the structured expert dialogue (SED) for example, a contact group between the two subsidiary bodies SBI and SBSTA, whose aim was to ensure the scientific integrity of the long term goal review. Some countries such as Nicaragua also highlighted that the Paris Agreement could not prevail over the Convention. Other Parties insisted on the fact that the ratification of the Doha Amendment and other pre-2020 actions required to be considered as a priority before the implementation of the PA. Thus, the United States sent a promising signal to other Parties by pledging to ratify the PA in 2016 but also to fulfill their pre-2020 commitments to reduce their emission by 17% by 2020 compared with 2005 levels.

  • Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

As expected, NDCs were at the centre of long discussions. Some developed countries expressed the need for common guidelines on the preparation of NDCs. Countries suggested different categories of NDCs, inter alia, economy-wide emissions, reduction/limitation targets, deviations from business-as-usual, intensity and sectorial targets, and low-emission development strategies, plans and actions. No consensus could be reached on the scope nor on the metric used, but all agreed that comparisons should be possible. The metrics will then be reconsidered during SBSTA 46 and the scope in further SBI sessions. Behind these technical reflexions, the debate remained highly political and many delegates focused on the national circumstances differentiation promoted by the Paris Agreement.

  • Global stocktake

The Global stocktake refers to a five-yearly review of all actions taken against climate change starting in 2023. This issue appeared as a priority for many countries and non state actors as a facilitative dialogue will start review progress made in 2018 . Developed countries proposed specific tailoring based on the type of global stocktake, differentiating mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation, whereas developing countries were insisting on their need to develop the capacity to provide such required information. Links between the 2018 facilitative dialogue and the global stocktake received general recognition, although they would differ in scope. Generally, Parties called for early submissions to move forward.


  • Transparency

Transparency appeared as a leitmotiv during this week of negotiations. In order to enhance the implementation of a new framework under the PA regime, 13 developing countries presented their biennial reports, including information on mitigation actions and national greenhouse gases inventories, in order to show their goodwill to enhance climate action.

  • Compliance

Finally, on the creation of a compliance mechanism, many Parties emphasized that the mechanism should be facilitative, non-punitive and non-adversarial. Under these assumptions, if non-compliant countries cannot be subject to sanctions, the efficiency of such a mechanism will then mostly depend on the efficiency of peer pressure.

In the short time between Bonn and Marrakech, the co-chairs will have to elaborate on the talks from the past weeks and start proposing concrete modalities and features for the NDCs, global stocktake, compliance, and implementation. Otherwise the agreement might remain stalled at the conceptual stage. Even if the discussions were expected to be technical, they were often highly political, especially as regards differentiation. This is due to the three ways of differentiation in the Paris Agreement, consisting of: a binary distinction between developed and developing countries, on the topic of North-South financial commitments particularly, a special regime for the least developed countries (LDCs) and/or the small island developing States (SIDS) concerning priority access to financial resources, and a flexible regime based on national circumstances.

During the Bonn intersessions, the vagueness of some aspects that enabled the adoption of the PA in December reappeared and might disincentivize Parties to implement the PA. Therefore, the work Parties will do until Marrakech will be decisive to showcase the capacity of the PA to bring the states to implement more ambitious actions. Will the spirit of cooperation we saw in Paris resist the tensions on those different matters, or will it stay an exception?

12572962_10208160193307065_3978184584097933530_nAbout the authors : Alice Pauthier is a Master student in energy finance at the Université Paris-Dauphine. SB44 was the first UNFCCC sessions she attended with CliMates. This year, Alice is the programme director of Global Climate Politics.

photo cvHéloïse Pichot is a young French economist specialized in sustainable development. Her passion for the environment and people brought her to CliMates. She uses her travels around the world as an inspiration for her blog pieces. She is currently attending her first Intersessions at Bonn and she hopes it will not be the last.

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