International climate negotiations: Where we at?

This article is written by Sofia Kabbej.

Climate change is a global challenge, greenhouse gas emissions have the same impact on the atmosphere whether they originate from Beijing, Paris or New York. For that reason, it requires a global solution and so, international climate negotiations.

In 2011 (COP17), in Durban, Parties to the Convention committed to a new universal climate change agreement. Culminating a four-year negotiation round, the Paris Agreement was adopted in Paris, in 2015. But what does the agreement call for?

COP21 Paris Agreement

First of all, the agreement is built around three main objectives:

  • Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels (recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change)
  • Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production
  • Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development

The success of this historical agreement can be judged in the light of several criterias, starting, with its global and dynamic nature. It is clear that this deal aims to bring all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.The Paris Agreement also sets a long-term vision and establishes the principle that future national plans, to be communicated by Parties, will be no less ambitious than existing ones. Countries will thus have to submit updated climate plans – called nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – every five years (the next round is due in 2020).

 

 

Many crucial issues were discussed during COP21, including:

  • Mitigation – reducing emissions fast enough to achieve the temperature goal
  • Adaptation – strengthening ability of countries to deal with climate impacts
  • A transparency system and global stocktake – accounting for climate action
  • Loss and damage – strengthening ability to help vulnerable countries cope with unavoidable climate impacts
  • Support – including finance, capacity-building and technology transfer for nations to build clean, resilient futures

Also important to outline, the agreement reiterates the recognition of the Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) principle, while insisting on the importance to strengthen support to least developed countries and to mobilize climate finance ($100bn for developing countries). The CBDR principle has evolved since Kyoto, with the idea of improvement overtime and no systematic reference to countries Annexes. On another matter, it was agreed that mobilizing stronger and more ambitious climate action by all Parties and non-Party stakeholders is urgently required (Global Climate Action Agenda).

Overall, the obligations contained in the PA are of a procedural nature only, whilst the essence of mitigation, adaptation and finance obligations is left to the willingness of each party. So far, the Paris Agreement has been ratified by 144 Parties to the Convention. Yet, to become fully operational, the new procedures and mechanisms that were established need further elaboration. Parties still have to adopt an extensive set of decisions, known as the Paris Rulebook.

COP 22 Marrakech

COP 22 was an important transitional moment, signaling a turn towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement. When we talk about implementation, we talk about action. Yet, many organizations, included the Climates delegation that attended the COP, outlined the inaction that characterized this conference, calling it “a cosy get-together of a relieved climate community”. Indeed, the outcomes were not on the whole very significant, perhaps due to the early ratification of the agreement. Furthermore, a lot of attention was focused on the newly elected President Trump and the threat of his (still) possible withdrawal from the agreement.

Highlights

Firstly, it was in Marrakech that Parties agreed on the 2018 deadline to finalize the elaboration of the so called Paris Rulebook. Secondly, on the central issue that is finance, Parties reaffirmed their engagement to mobilize $100bn for developing countries but no advancement were made on its effective application. Moreover, Parties announced $23 million for the Climate Technology Center and Network (CTCN) and more than $50 million for the Capacity-Building Initiative for Transparency.

On matters under the responsibility of the APA, Parties made solid progress regarding the new transparency framework, as well as in their collective understanding of the Global Stocktake process and matters regarding to the guidance in relation to the adaptation communication. However, no solid progress were made on the most political agenda of the APA that is the development of guidance on features, information and accountability of Parties Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

COP 22 also marked the launch of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, which is designed to provide a strong foundation for how the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process will catalyse and support climate action in the period 2017-2020. Finally, the 2050 Pathway Platform was launched to gather long-term strategies from States & non-state actors.

 

In 2015, Parties succeeded to adopt a universal agreement that combines multilateral mechanisms and NDCs. This new deal aims at ensuring accountability, transparency and promote greater ambition overtime. Since Paris, negotiations have been focusing on elaborating the details of the new procedures and mechanisms established by the Paris Agreement as well as enhancing climate action. This year, from the 8th to the 18th of May, will be held the next round of international climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany. Known as SB46, this intersessional meeting is expected to further develop on the technicalities and guidance needed to successfully implement the Paris Agreement.

Find out more about the challenges of SB46 in the upcoming articles!

About the author : Sofia Kabbej has a background in political-science and sustainable development. She is the Project Coach of the Negotiation Tracking project within Cli’Mates and very passionate about ACE and gender issues.

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