The Preamble – initial appraisal

Published on: April 22, 2015

Filed Under: Analysis, Draft Text

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A treaty typically begins with a preamble summarizing the contracting parties’ joint objectives. The Preamble to the Paris Text is not divided or numbered into paragraphs. However, for analytical purposes, it is possible to identify distinct parts, based on the subject matter.

What follows is a short annotated analysis of the entire text of the Preamble.

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Previous Climate Change Work: The Preamble begins with references to earlier climate change agreements, in particular Articles 2-4 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992 (UNFCCC). In the discussion of Article 3 of the UNFCCC, no reference is made to the precautionary principle which is invoked in that Article. Nor do the words ‘precaution’ or ‘precautionary’ appear in the main part of the Paris text.

[In pursuit of the [ultimate] objective of the Convention as stated in its Article 2,]
[All Parties to enhance action and cooperate on the basis of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities to further implement the Convention in order to achieve its objective as stated in its Article 2, so as to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner that ensures resilience and adaptive capacity to the adverse effects of climate change, while recognizing the local, national, and global dimensions of adaptation in accordance with the principles and provisions of Articles 3 and 4 of the Convention,]
[Option (a): Being guided by the principles of the Convention as set out in its Article 3, including that Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with historical responsibility, common but differentiated responsibilities, and the provisions of Article 4 of the Convention / evolving common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities / evolving economic and emission trends which will continue post-2020, in order to progressively enhance the levels of ambition,
Option (b): In accordance with the principles of the Convention as set out in its Article 3, including in particular that Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with historical responsibility and common but differentiated responsibilities,]
[Option (a): Recalling the provisions of the Convention and determined to further enhance its full, effective and sustained implementation from 2020 through a strengthened multilateral rules-based regime established by this agreement,
Option (b): Reaffirming the provisions of the Convention and determined to strengthen the multilateral, rules-based regime under the Convention through its full, effective and sustained implementation from 2020,]
[Also recalling the commitments undertaken by Parties under the Convention in accordance with its Article 4,] [Acknowledging the role of the Kyoto Protocol,]
[Further recalling all the existing decisions adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention and the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, including, in particular, the agreed outcome pursuant to the Bali Action Plan and the Doha Amendment,]
[Recalling the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference, titled “The future we want”,]

International Co-operation: The next few clauses are a short section inviting ‘acknowledgment’ that all parties need to co-operate to solve this issue.

[Option (a): Acknowledging that the global nature and urgency of climate change calls for the participation / widest possible participation, cooperation and ambitious action by all Parties,]
Option (b): Acknowledging that the global nature and urgency of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation of all Parties, as well as their participation and enhanced action in an effective and appropriate international response in accordance with [equity and] their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective  capabilities,  and   their   specific  national  and   regional  development  priorities,   [objectives  and circumstances / social and economic conditions,] with developed country Parties taking the lead,
Option (c): Acknowledging that the global nature and urgency of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation of all Parties, as well as their participation and enhanced action in an effective and appropriate international response in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances,]

The Current Predicament: The next four clauses set out the existing dire situation, the need to be guided by the science (in particular IPCC reports), and the fact that commitments to date by nations up to 2020 are insufficient to keep global average temperature increase below 2 °C or 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. This is the first time the draft text mentions those temperatures. There is inconsistent reference to them both later in the Preamble, and also later in the main text.

[Gravely concerned by the finding in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,]
[Recognizing that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires to be urgently addressed by all Parties, and acknowledging that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions,]
[Being guided by the best available scientific knowledge, including, inter alia, the assessment reports / the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and inputs and resources from Parties,]
[Noting with grave concern the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases up until 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with having a likely chance of holding the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C or 1.5 °C above pre – industrial levels,]

General Level of Cuts Needed: The next clause, with three options, gets to the meat of the issue.  Two of the formulations are similar, referring to ‘deep cuts’. The 3rd is quite different, bringing to the fore the idea of distinguishing developed & developing countries. This is an unfortunate mix and the different ideas need to be separated out.

[Option (a): Recognizing that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions will be required to achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention and the long-term temperature limit / hold the increase in global average temperature, and that such cuts must be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner,
Option (b): Recognizing that deep cuts in global emissions will be required to achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention and emphasizing the need for urgency to address climate change,
Option (c): Noting that the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries, that per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low and that the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs,]

Equations for Transition to Low Carbon Economies: The next clauses get even more specific, introducing two options for timing to reach net zero emissions. The options are (a) ‘substantial cuts’ by 2050 and ‘near zero or below’ by 2100, to keep within 2 degrees, or (b) ‘substantial cuts’ by 2050 and ‘zero emissions’ ‘within’ the period after 2050 to have a chance of keeping within 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels. In these words the document introduces what will likely be one of the most heavily argued issues in Paris – is the 2 °C goal too high? But note how much ground has already been conceded to the 2 °C goal, which frames these clauses.

[Recognizing the importance of long-term efforts to transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the global temperature goal of 2 °C,]
[Option (a): Also recognizing that scenarios consistent with having a likely chance of holding the global average temperature increase to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels include substantial cuts in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by the mid-century and net emission levels near zero gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent or below in 2100,
Option (b): Also recognizing that scenarios consistent with having a likely chance of holding the global average temperature increase to below 2 °C or 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels include substantial cuts in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by the mid-century and zero emissions within the second half of this century,]

Approaches to GHG Reductions:

This includes three clauses refer to the importance of certain approaches to reducing emissions. 1) ‘economy-wide reduction budgets’, 2) carbon pricing and 3) the complications of balancing different land use imperatives. The draft text does not propose to define any of these.

[Further recognizing that economy-wide emission reduction budgets provide the highest level of clarity, predictability and environmental integrity,]
[Acknowledging that carbon pricing is a key approach for cost-effectiveness of the cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions,]
[Recognizing the special characteristics of land use systems, including the importance of food security, the diversity of global land management systems, and the need to manage multiple sustainability objectives, may require particular consideration within actions under this agreement,]

Adaptation: The next four clauses refer to adaptation, proposing different ways of addressing the balance between mitigation and adaptation. They introduce the idea of ‘loss and damage’, that is distinct from adaptation being, ‘sometimes more than can be reduced by adaptation and therefore distinct from it’ and that it will exist even if global average temperatures keep within the 2 °C limit (1.5 °C is not mentioned). They also refer to adaptation being a ‘global responsibility’ because all parties have failed to undertake adequate mitigation.

Option (a): Emphasizing that adaptation is a global challenge and a common responsibility that requires global solidarity and must be addressed with the same urgency as, and in political / legal parity with, mitigation,
Option (b): Emphasizing that adaptation is a global challenge that must be addressed with the same urgency as, and in balance with, mitigation, and that enhanced action and international cooperation on adaptation is urgently required in order to enable and support the implementation of adaptation actions [and recognizing that both climate- resilient development and adaptation to the impacts of climate change will be essential],
Option (c): Emphasizing that enhanced action and international cooperation on adaptation is urgently required to enable and support the implementation of adaptation actions aimed at reducing vulnerability and building resilience in [developing country Parties][Parties not included in annex X], taking into account the urgent and immediate needs of those [developing countries][Parties not included in annex X] that are particularly vulnerable,
Option (d): Notes that adaptation is a global challenge that must be addressed with the same urgency as mitigation,] [Emphasizing that the integral relationship between the level of mitigation action and the efforts of all Parties will be required to adapt to climate change and address loss and damage,]
[Affirming that adaptation needs are a consequence of the temperature rise that results from inadequate mitigation action by all Parties and that adaptation is thus a global responsibility,]
[Recognizing that loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change includes and in some cases involves more than what can be reduced by adaptation and is therefore distinct from adaptation,]
[Recognizing that the best available science acknowledges that even if warming is kept below 2 °C with high levels of adaptation, there will be residual loss and damage, in particular in developing countries,]

Public Awareness: The next clause refers to public education and awareness and the need for lifestyle changes.

[Reaffirming the importance of education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and international cooperation on these matters for promoting changes in lifestyles, attitudes and behaviour needed to foster low-emission and climate-resilient development and to mobilize public support for climate policies and action,]

Finance: The next 3 clauses refers very generally to finance being important to this issue. The term ‘climate finance’ is introduced.

[Also reaffirming the need for [developed country Parties][Parties included in annex Y] to provide new, additional, adequate and predictable financial resources, including financial resources for the transfer of technology to and capacity-building in [developing countries][Parties not included in annex X] for addressing mitigation and adaptation needs and complying with their obligations under this agreement, while ensuring a balanced financial resources allocation between adaptation and mitigation,]
[Recognizing that all Parties are responsible for the effective and efficient provision and use of support, and that finance, technology development and transfer and capacity-building are connected and should be treated holistically,]
[Also recognizing that climate finance is flowing and will continue to flow, and that growing the base of donors, enhancing enabling environments, efficiently deploying support and leveraging private sector investment is critical to catalysing the transformational change required in our common effort towards the objective stated in Article 2 of the Convention,]

Small Island States: Two clauses refer to the particular vulnerability of these states. A third clause refers to lower stabilization levels meaning lower impacts. It isn’t immediately clear if is linked to the concern about islands states. Surprising, this important concept has not been noted elsewhere in the Preamble.

[Further recognizing the particular challenges facing small-island developing States and the least developed countries,]
[Recognizing the growing existential threat posed by the impacts of climate change to low-lying small island nations,]
[Also recognizing that the lower the greenhouse gas stabilization level achieved, the lower the consequent impacts of climate change,]

Social Outcomes: These 4 clauses refer to the needs for actions to be consistent with gender equality, human rights, indigenous peoples, also references to Mother Earth and intergenerational equity. These clauses contain a ‘grab bag’ of concepts which are not laid out particularly clearly. ‘Mother Earth’ is a legal concept in some countries (Bolivia,  for example) which declares life-systems (human communities and ecosytems) as titleholders of inherent rights specified in the law.

[Stressing that all actions to address climate change and all the processes established under this agreement should ensure [a gender-responsive approach][gender equality and intergenerational equity], take into account [environmental integrity][the protection of the integrity of Mother Earth], and respect human rights, the right to development and the rights of [youth and] indigenous peoples, [as well as ensure a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work, in accordance with nationally defined development priorities and strategies,]]
[Noting that Parties should ensure in all climate change related actions full respect of all human rights,]
[Recognizing that all actions on climate change shall significantly contribute to the post-2015 development agenda of the United Nations with a particular focus on human rights, good governance, gender equality and the needs of particularly vulnerable groups,]
[Acknowledging the importance of promoting a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs, in accordance with nationally defined development priorities and strategies,]

Economic Growth: The next two clauses address sustainable economic development and ‘economic growth’. They refer to the developed/developing issue, and seek to ‘avoid’ impacts on economic growth. There is a mix of concepts in these clauses which is unhelpful. It is unclear why the stand phrase of ”sustainable economic growth and development’ or some other standard phrase from the UNFCCC (Article 3/5) is not used.

[Reaffirming that responses to climate change should be coordinated with social and economic development in an integrated manner with a view to avoiding adverse impacts on the latter, taking into full account the legitimate priority needs of [developing countries][Parties not included annex X] and their right to equitable access to sustainable development and to achieve economic growth and eradicate poverty,]
[Also reaffirming that all [developing countries][Parties not included annex X] need access to the resources required to achieve sustainable social and economic development and that, in order for [developing countries][Parties not included annex X] to progress towards that goal, their energy consumption will need to grow, taking into account the opportunities for achieving greater energy efficiency and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including through the application of new technologies on terms that make such an application economically and socially beneficial,]

Health: There is one clause referring to health as consistent with action on the climate.

[Recognizing that actions to address climate change simultaneously contribute to the attainment of the highest possible level of health and that climate change policies and health policies should be mutually supportive,]

Civil Society: There is one clause referring to non-governmental co-operation being essential.

[Option (a): Recognizing that action / cooperative action by and among subnational authorities, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, indigenous peoples, local communities, the private sector, financial institutions and Parties  can  catalyse  and  significantly  enhance  the  impact  of  policy  implementation  by  Parties  in  reducing emissions, reducing vulnerability and building resilience to the adverse effects of climate change,
Option (b): Recognizing that the implementation by Parties of reducing emissions and vulnerability and of the building of resilience to the adverse effects of climate change can be strengthened by cooperative action by and among subnational authorities, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, indigenous peoples, local communities, the private sector, financial institutions and Parties,]

Nature of the Agreement: These remaining clauses describe the nature of the agreement in international law. The options of whether it will be a protocol, or another legal instrument are left open.

[Also recognizing that fulfilling the ultimate objective of the Convention will require the strengthening of the multilateral, rules-based regime under the Convention,]
[Pursuant to the mandate adopted by decision 1/CP.17 of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention at its seventeenth session,]
[Recalling the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,]
[[Have agreed to further enhance the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Conventio n as follows] [Have agreed as follows][Have agreed to this protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force with the aim of furthering the implementation of the Convention and its objective][Pursuant to decisions
1/CP.17, 2/CP.18, 1/CP.19, and 1/CP.20, have agreed to further enhance the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention as follows]:] ]
Nathan Ross | Image by looking4poetry

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4 Responses to The Preamble – initial appraisal

  1. this looks very helpful – i mean the deconstruction not the preamble – thanks for doing

  2. Mr February says:

    I had not realised there was so much just in the preamble.
    Should n’t there be a link from the draft text page through to this post? So you can look at the preamble and then click through to the analysis?

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