Week One and ADP comes to a close

Week one ends

On Saturday morning the ADP met for the final time. During this meeting, the co-chairs released their final proposed Draft Agreement. Included are two annexes; Annex I, which contains Thursday’s revised version of the text including the co-chairs bridging (compromise) proposals, and Annex II, which contains a table of last minute extra suggestions from Parties. See our analysis of Thursdays text here. While still riddled with square brackets, the draft agreement portion of the text is now down to 19 pages and generally reads more coherently than it did a week ago.

During the closing session, China made note of the connotations of the word “agreement”, noting that the idea contemplated a specific moment in time. It was proposed “outcome” would be a better term for reflecting the evolutionary nature of any Paris regime.

Laurence Tubiana, french envoy for the talks spoke. The content of her message was twofold; firstly the lauding the effort being displayed and the obvious desire to come away from Paris with a usable agreement. Progress made in the subsidiary bodies was specifically mentioned. Because of the dedication to the process up until this point, the next phase will not be a “leap into the unknown”. Secondly, she acknowledged there is much more to be done. The most contentious issues will generally be left until last, and ultimately “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.  She seemed optimistic that the agreement will be made on time (Friday 11th of December).

The main negotiating blocks also spoke. All the major state collectives (EU, umbrella group, G77+china etc) echoed the president’s sentiment as to the goodwill and genuine desire to work together that has been evident thus far. Even Saudi Arabia echoed these statements, despite being a notable blockade to many negotiations throughout the week.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) spoke about the nature of this global crisis urging parties to the negotiations to push aside short term national interests in pursuit of better global outcomes by stating they are there “to convey a message a from a global movement demanding a safer future”. These countries, being the first in the cross hairs of the devastating effects of climate change, noted how encouraging it was that so many countries this week have been reaching out beyond their traditional groupings. 

Finally the co-chairs spoke, drawing a parallel to mind the Universal Declaration on Human rights adopted in Paris 77 years ago. The theme, in winding up the ADP (a four year long process) was the opportunity negotiators have next week to honor the UNHR by consecrating the right to life and the right to the environment.

Next Week

The ADP has now officially presented draft document to the COP. National Ministers arrive in Paris on Monday to continue the negotiations based on this document.They have more power to negotiate the political elements of the agreement and will hopefully bring the draft across the finish line.

Despite the closing sessions air of cautious optimism, there remains many issues on the table.

The long term purpose of the agreement is still unclear, in particular whether we are attempting to cap global average warming at 1.5 or 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. There has been a strong push for the 1.5 standard but the issue remains unresolved.

In setting these goals there is an understanding that actions must be incrementally taken and increased for them to be achievable. Many parties to the agreement do not have the capacity to meet these goals in 2015 and must slowly ratchet up their mitigation actions over time. Furthermore, in order to promote accountability and transparency, review mechanisms must be robust to ensure the agreement in Paris is just as effective in 2025 as it is in 2015.  In respect of these necessities, substantial uncertainty still remains as to the timing of ratcheting up mechanisms, the nature and details of a global stocktake and whether a 2020 review will be built into the final agreement.

Despite the co-chairs’ candour, the inclusion of concepts such as human rights, indigenous rights, and intergenerational equity in the operative clauses remains contested. The latter is not currently in the draft.

While it is clear from the text there will be no liability provisions for loss and damage there are still mechanisms which need to be fleshed out in this area.

The form of the legal agreement is also unsettled. Daniel Bodansky, in his article, discusses the potential positive and negative effects of a legally binding international instrument (compared to a political one). He notes that apparent increased accountability brought about by a legal agreement may actually go towards discouraging those states who under perform. Levels of ambition may decrease as states are less willing to “shoot for the stars” if they get reprimanded when they don’t get there. This interesting analysis clearly shows there is a lot to be discussed in the coming week as to what, and how elements of the package will be legally binding.

Finally, the underlying theme of this process is the current and historic global equity imbalance and how it plays into individual parties obligations. Questions around closing the financing gap are up to this point unsolved. Where will the new and additional sources come from? Can climate aid be separated from general aid, loans and other sources? While the idea of common but differentiated responsibilities is being discussed and significantly developed in some areas of the agreement, it has been avoided thus far in regards to finance. As a point of reference, the secretariat of the UNFCCC produced an interactive user graphic showing the financial commitments made so far.  

With the first week already past, the intensity of negotiations and the stakes for reaching a comprehensive agreement could not be higher.

Michael Fitzgerald and Jack Barclay | image by UNclimatechange

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