Almost 45-minute ahead of schedule, on Thursday afternoon the Co-chairs convened the closing plenary of this ADP session in Bonn.
As it fits into a wider pathway and a very complicated context, evaluating the outcome of this conference is definitely not easy. Nevertheless, it is possible to compare what was achieved and what was missed.
Before undertaking this exercise, it is useful to go back to the scenario note released by the Co-chairs well in advance of this session. With regards to the objectives, it reported:
The June session affords Parties the first opportunity to begin negotiating on the basis of the positions contained in the Geneva negotiating text. These negotiations will help to prepare concise, coherent and streamlined text so as to facilitate negotiations of substantive issues among Parties.
So what did we accomplish?
If you were around the Bonn World Conference Center in the last two weeks, you may have heard this word a few times.
In fact, the entire process established in Geneva last February was aimed at building confidence among Parties, who were not satisfied by the outcome of COP20, which produced the 37-page Lima text.
It can’t be denied that this approach has indeed re-established a good “climate” between negotiators and the Secretariat, and was even called as a “unprecedented exercise of inclusiveness” by the representative of COP20’s Presidency.
However, it led to a tremendous increase of the negotiating text, which reached 90 pages after Geneva thus making its management extremely hard even just engaging Parties in a merely mechanical streamlining work.
2. A roadmap
In the last two days of SB42, the Co-chairs illustrated their suggestions on the way forward.
On 24 July, a new scenario note will be released containing a new tool for Parties’ use consisting of a single document that will include a “fully streamlined, consolidated, clear and concise version of the Geneva negotiating text that will present clear options and will not omit or delete any option or position of Parties”.
Basically, the Co-chairs will propose the final text issued last Thursday with one substantial difference: it will separate, for the first time, paragraphs into a COP-decision and an Agreement.
All of them?
No, only those “obviously appropriate for inclusion” in either one or the other document.
“We propose, you dispose”, said Ahmed Djogholaf: the Co-chairs do not want to undermine the confidence built so hardly, so they will simply try to lead the example and get the game started without touching sensitive topics.
After a 1-month time to analyse the document, Parties will then meet back in Bonn from 31 August to 4 September, and again from 19 – 23 October, to continue their work.
If timelines will be respected, as of the 24 October we should have indicative versions of an Agreement and a COP-Decision, although it is likely that most of the options will still be there: it will be Paris’ mandate to remove the last brackets and alternative paragraphs.
3. A consolidated structure
Some sections were significantly and successfully re-structured, raising coherence throughout the text.
This was important as paragraphs were mainly organized according to how Parties – independently – proposed them, with their different views, terminology and priorities.
As we will see in a moment, no substantial decisions were taken: but at least now Parties have a general agreement on how sections should look like.
On the other hand, there are a few tasks we missed.
1. A proper streamlining
Although the text was consolidated, these 11 days of talks in Bonn failed to deliver what many wanted to see: a deeper reduction of the text, which only dropped by 5 pages, reaching the current 85.
2. An adequate pace of work
These talks have been among the slowest I ever attended. The very little progress achieved in reducing the text, as well as the concrete difficulties in identifying a methodology to satisfy all groupings’ desires, raised a lot of frustration between civil society and a number of Parties who left Bonn disappointed.
3. A first split of the Geneva text
Despite not being included in the scenario note, the Co-chairs and the Secretariat secretly desired negotiations to allow providing the issue of a draft Agreement and COP-decision by the end of this conference, to give Parties the chance to dispose of more time to reflect on it.
Instead, the first discussion on splitting the Geneva text only happened on the last two days and the task had to be postponed to next month.
In conclusion, we shouldn’t throw away what we achieved. However, time is a dangerous constraint and a solution has to be found to give negotiators a few more days to work on the text.
If extending the dates of one of the next two Bonn sessions seems problematic for budgetary reasons (although rumors say the October session could be slightly extended), the only other solution right now seems finding an innovative way of involving Heads of State (or Ministers) at COP21.
For instance, if they were invited to attend the summit at the beginning, rather than (or in addition to) the end of the conference, political decisions could be addressed immediately; if the most debated pending issues were solved at high-level, negotiators and experts would know clearly on which options they should work on to define the details.
In my opinion, this could potentially save a lot of precious time. However, nothing will make sense if the August and October sessions will not deliver what they are expected to: it’s a matter of time.