UNFCCC Interssessional negociations : the key issues

It has been standard practice in the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) negotiations to hold intersessional meetings in between the Conference of Parties (COPs). The first such intersessional meeting in between COP 22 (held in Marrakesh 2016) and COP 22 (to be held in Bonn in November 2017) started on 8th May 2017 and will end on 18th May 2017 here in Bonn Germany. It should be noted that the current presidency of the COP is under Morocco and in COP 23 Fiji will take over the Presidency. It is equally important to note that though Fiji will take over the presidency and host COP 23 the COP (COP 23) will take place in Bonn Germany. Fiji is a tiny island in the Pacific where logistics needed for organizing such a meeting face some challenges hence the arrangement for COP 23 to be held in Bonn.

Before explaining what are the key issues that are under discussion in this intersessional meeting let us first revisit the outcomes of COP 22 that was held in Marrakesh from 7-19 November 2016.

  1. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

COP 22 in Marrakesh was held while there was an on-going battle between developing and developed countries on the interpretation of what was agreed in Paris in 2015 (the Paris Agreement). The first item that different interpretations arose was disagreements over interpretation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). In the APA (Adhoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement) informal consultations on producing guidance on what constitute NDCs regarding their features, their scope and information needed there were clear disagreements between developing and developed countries. In Paris 9COP 21) there were ‘big fights’ that eventually resulted into the adoption of Article 3 of the Paris Agreement.

Article 3 states that ‘As nationally determined contributions to the global response to climate change , all Parties are to undertake and communicate ambitious efforts as defined in Articles 4, 7, 9,10, 11 and 12 with the view of achieving the purpose of this Agreement as set out in Article 2’.

Developed countries and some developing countries were of the view that the focus of work under the ‘further guidance’ requirement should be confined only to MITIGATION and not include the full scope of the NDCs as referred to in Article 3 of the Paris Agreement.

Majority of developing countries led by the main architects of Article 3 a group known as the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC), the African Group and the Arab Group strongly emphasized that discussions over NDCs should cover the whole scope of NDCs as elaborated in Article 3. Developed countries disagreed which led the co-facilitators of APA consultations to conclude that ‘there was agreement that Parties must respect the Paris Agreement (PA) and the ‘national determination’ character of the contributions’ but that ;Parties had divergent views on the features of NDCs’. Therefore here in Bonn, negotiations over the features of NDCs will continue to be a major contentious matter.

  1. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities

The differentiation between developed and developing countries and how it should be operationalized in the Paris Agreement affected other issues including the transparency framework on action and support, facilitating implementation and compliance, the global stocktaking and adaptation communications. Many developing countries stressed the need to integrate the principle in the design of various modalities, procedures and guidelines (MPGs) but developed countries demanded a common approach where every country will be subjected equally. Here in Bonn this topic is expected to generate more in fighting between developed and developing countries.

  1. Adaptation fund

There is was a hot debate on the future of the Adaptation Fund (AF) under the Paris Agreement. Developing countries demanded that the decision taken in Paris during COP 21 was for the AF to serve the Paris Agreement (PA) and that the work in Marrakesh was to give effect to the decision. Developed countries on the other hand disagreed that such a decision was taken and insisted that preparatory work was needed to clarify that the AF serves the PA.

  1. Transparency Framework for Action and Support

Four issues were at stake: i. guidance on features, information and accounting of NDGs, ii. Guidance related to the adaptation communications iii. Modalities, procedures and guide lines (MPGs) iv. Modalities and procedures for effective operation of the committee to facilitate implementation and promote compliance and iv. Further matters related to the implementation of the PA. In general developing countries demanded more transparency while developed countries demanded that issues under transparency should not take be divided into ‘developed’ and developing’ countries but rather focus on the capacity of countries to carry out the specific transparency MPs. These discussions will continue here in Bonn.

  1. Focus on Post 2020 or Pre 2020?

Developed countries demanded the focus of climate actions to be mainly on post 2020 contributions by all countries under the PA while developing countries demanded the focus to be on the implementation of current commitments of developed countries under the various decisions of the UNFCCCC and the Kyoto Protocol in the pre-2020 timeframe.

  1. Controversy over the roadmap to US 100 billion financing for developing countries

In COP 15 it was agreed that by 2020 an amount equaling 100 billion USD will be mobilized as climate financing for developing countries. Developed countries committed themselves to raise this amount of money. It was observed that mitigation consumed 70% of financing and that finance for adaptation that was extended to developing countries was only 25%. While developed countries claimed that this was a success developing countries on the other hand demanded more finance for adaptation, more compliance to commitments.

These were some of the issues that were hotly debated in Marrakesh. There were many other that for the sake of this brief report I could not cover.

However, there are new issues that these Bonn climate talks will have to take into account. These include:

  1. Uncertainty over the US

Bonn meeting started over uncertainty whether the US will stay put in the Paris Agreement or withdraw from it.

  1. Rise in temperature

The Bonn climate talks will begin amidst yet another warning of rising temperature and concentrations of Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere. New data released early this year from the UK Meteorological Office, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed that the Earth’s temperature has now risen about !.! C above the level seen before the industrial revolution.

  1. The issue of conflict of interest

Under Agenda 21 came out of the first Earth summit in 1992 in Brazil the United Nations adopted 9 Major Groups: Farmers, Workers and Trade Unions, Local Governments, Youth, Women, Indigenous people, NGOs, Industry and Business and Research and Academia. Recently a group of NGOs have complained that the Industry and Business major group has a conflict of interest as they represent major CO2 emitting companies. They are calling for adoption of a policy on the conflict of interest similar to such a policy in another UN Convention. There are other NGOs who are calling for a complete exclusion of the Industry and Business major group from UNFCCC process. Yet there are others who acknowledge the nature of the conflict of interest but do not support exclusion of one major group under the call that nobody should be left behind.

Of course there are many other issues that will be covered here in Bonn over a period of two weeks. There are also many interesting side events including on topics such as ‘The rights of Children and Climate Change’ and ‘Gender and Climate Change.

Learn more : http://newsroom.unfccc.int

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