Bonn negotiations 31st August – 4th September

The negotiations from the 31th of August – 4th of September in Bonn, Germany provided yet another piece for the ‘Paris puzzle’.

Bonn was the penultimate session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP 2.10); which leaves a single session remaining between now and the Conference of Parties (COP 21) in Paris this December.

The ADP2.10 was predominantly characterised by procedural debate within contact groups, and disagreement over how to move the negotiations forward beyond the session. The lack of progress was, most notably, due to confusion over the construction of the co-chairs’ tool, as well as the lack of ‘low-hanging’ fruit left to negotiate, with important issues yet to be discussed in great detail. However, the parties do want to succeed in creating a ‘Paris Package’ (legal agreement and complimentary decisions passed by the COP), and the process remains optimistic.

Before the 2.10 sessions, the co-chairs released their ‘tool’ that streamlined the Geneva negotiating text into a more coherent form. Parties accepted this document rather well, and readily used and build upon it throughout the session. Issues with the tool were predominantly over the placement of the sections and the paragraphs within them. Sections were; Part One (the draft agreement), Part Two (the draft complimentary decisions), and Part Three (the contestable provisions – or the waste bin).

Negotiations for the week held back by two main reasons. Firstly, parties were confused about the importance of each section; and were advised to work dividing the parts of the “Paris Package” (into either the agreement or the COP decisions), rather than ‘listing’ what they wanted (as they had when creating the Geneva negotiating text). Secondly, procedural issues occurred; with many developed parties wanting to work on conceptual issues and deal with wording and bridging options as they arose, whereas developing countries wanted to work on text negotiations and skip the conceptual discussions.

Negotiation sessions were held 5 times a day (10am – 9pm), for 90 min with at least two negotiating area’s running concurrently. In addition to this, when large disputes arose in the contact groups, spin-off groups were established. Each session was held on one the main area’s of negotiations (A-L), and involved discussing what concepts, paragraphs, and wording should either stay (in the agreement or complimentary decisions) or go (to the waste bin). Throughout the 5-day ADP2.10 there were 174 facilitated contact-group meetings and spin-off meetings with an additional 34 formal bilateral meetings. The intensity of meetings was a huge issues for the underrepresented parties in the G77+China, an issue that was acknowledged as a severe disadvantage exacerbating procedural inequality during a stock-taking plenary mid-week.

Negotiations and the issues arise varied widely. Developing countries were extremely concerned about the lack of paragraphs concerning Loss and Damage in the agreement text, as well as complimentary decisions. Saudi Arabia objected strongly to including a reference to human rights, questioning whether this would extend to capital punishment, rights of women, gays and transgender people. While in the discussions on finance, Norway questioned the long-term implication of having a specific fund for adaptation anchored in the agreement, which the G77+China was asking for. Some Parties in the contact group on mitigation struggled to understand what non-market mechanisms were, and how differentiation will operate within the new agreement. The United States made it clear that they while they fully support development, they do not support the legal ‘right to development’ of parties,. They also removed their support entirely for an ‘objectives’ section within the Paris agreement.

This round of negotiations was in a very confused state, and any issues that did move forwards did so at different paces. The co-facilitators of the contact and spin-off groups have made reports of the discussion undertaken during the sessions. These notes will be used for the new Co-Chairs paper that will stream line the Geneva text again. This text will be made available in October, and the ADP 2.11 Bonn session will focus on wording of this text – and not continue conceptual discussions.

New Zealand had eight formal negotiators present. New Zealand was able to attend most meetings, and in some cases had three negotiators in one contact group meeting, when other parties had none. They have a very refreshing ‘kiwi’ styled dialogue that they bring to the sometimes-dreary plenary sessions. For example, they explained to China that “the low-hanging fruit is all gone, and there wasn’t much to start with,” adding in their love for potatoes, requesting more potatoes.

However ridiculous New Zealand’s comments sounds, they are true. There has been a stalemate in positions; and highly contentious issues have not been addressed. Finance, differentiation in mitigation, as well as loss and damage are yet to major components yet to be agreed upon. Furthermore, the negotiations themselves are caught in procedural debates, and have not made much progress on catching even the lowest of hanging fruit. Five negotiating days until Paris are all that is left. Substantial progress needs to come from the new co-chairs tool and the ADP2.11 conference in October. This is required in order to develop a strong core text and complimentary decisions that provide an ambitious ‘Paris Package’ that ultimately achieves the objectives of the Convention.

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