Yesterday, co-chairs from the UNFCCC released a new version of the negotiating text for COP21 in Paris. While the document is not an official part of the UNFCCC process, being drafted by co-chairs and not party delegates, it provides greater clarity on what is likely to be included in the emerging legal agreement to be concluded at Paris.

In the words of one commentator, the co-chairs have been able “cut through the clutter” which has mired earlier versions of the negotiating text and have managed to draw attention to a number of key areas where consensus could be reached with relative ease.

The document, known as a ‘non-paper’, purports to offer “a fully streamlined, consolidated, clear and concise version of the Geneva Negotiating Text”, one that that presents clear options and separates the paragraphs appropriate for the Paris agreement from those more suited to the draft COP 21 decision. This distinction is critical as the former will be the internationally binding elements of the solution at Paris, while the latter while provide the impetus for the more flexible, party determined aspects of this solution.

The new text is split into three parts:

  1. Provisions that are, by their nature, appropriate for inclusion in an agreement (e.g. overarching commitments, durable provisions and standard provisions for an agreement)
  2. Provisions that are, by their nature, appropriate for inclusion in a decision (e.g. details of implementation, provisions likely to change over time, provisions related to pre-2020 actions and interim arrangements pending entry into force of the agreement)
  3. All other provisions, “whose placement requires further clarity among Parties in relation to the draft agreement or draft decision”.

This structure should provide some guidance for the parties in the lead up to ADP 2.10. ADP 2.10 is a five-day negotiating session commencing on the 31st of August and is the second to last session before COP21. The last session, ADP 2.11, will be held from 19 to 23 October and will be the final meeting of the parties before they convene in Paris on 30 November. It is hoped that this new text will function as an ‘additional tool’, which enables delegates to avoid excessive discussion on matters of procedure and instead focus their time and effort on the critical substantive negotiations.

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