After a controversial COP20, climate talks resume this week in Geneva, Switzerland.
The clock is ticking as we have less than a week to get a working draft for the new global climate agreement.
So here we are again. After a two-months break, UN climate circus is back in session. This time we are meeting in Geneva, and set to get the hot coals rolling through the bitter Swiss winter.
At COP20 last December, Parties adopted the Lima Call for Climate Action. This includes a package of decisions that now make up the core elements of the new global agreement: mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity-building, transparency of action and support. Believe it or not, we’re closer to consensus than ever.
As usual, negotiations in Peru ran overtime with Loss & Damage, the ex-ante review, INDCs rules and the Secretariat’s role. All rolled on into the final hours of Lima.
In order to come to an agreement, we watered down what could have been a good strong shot of climate action on the rocks.
Consensus came with a general weakening of the text: the ex-ante review was essentially lost, with paragraph 14 of the previous draft being deleted. Language on the INDCs became weaker, as the words “decides” and “shall provide” were replaced by “agrees” and “may include”. Yes, they are actually different.
Finally, the Secretariat’s technical paper which was supposed to compile (and to evaluate, somehow) information on the INDCs submitted from Parties, was turned into a Secretariat’s synthesis report on the aggregate effect of the INDCs. This is about as different as asking for a Pina Colada and a Pineapple juice.
However, we didn’t resolve everything in Lima, and there will definitely still be a few more bones to pick in Geneva. After being removed from the previous draft, Loss & Damage made it back in the text at the very last minute. However, it now appears in the preamble; meaning a lot this could mean less chance of it making it all the way down the yellow brick road of implementation.
Adaptation also was rewarded with a paragraph on its own in the preamble, which was seen by some as an attempt to partially divert from mitigation efforts. This particularly sparked some suspicions as the words “in a balanced manner” were added to paragraph 2, when referring to how all the elements of this negotiating package should be addressed.
Despite all that, I can’t deny the text also presents some positive aspects. We still have reference to the urgent need to close the gap between existing measures and those required by science for global temperature increase to stay below 1.5-2°C by the end of the century; and we still are urging developed country parties to “provide and mobilize enhanced financial support to developing country Parties”.
In Lima, Parties made available the “Elements for a draft negotiating text”, a 37-pages document containing all possible options and legal forms the new agreement may include. According to COP20 decisions, this document should be turned into a first, way shorter draft negotiating text before May 2015.
As Geneva is the only session before this deadline, negotiators and UNFCCC are required to making this text available by the end of the conference, i.e. on Friday 13.
And to guide us there, we have brand-new Co-chairs: Ahmed Djoghlaf (Algeria) and Daniel Reifsnyder (US).
This new (let’s hope) dynamic duo recently released an information note setting up the agenda for the first days of negotiating. They’re hoping we jump into mitigation on Sunday, slide into adaptation, loss & damage and finance on Monday 9, and let all the other topics breeze through Tuesday. Finally, we might even have time to jump into support for INDC national preparations Wednesday, before breaking for brunch.
Djoghlaf and Reifsnyder seem confident to get through all of this by mid week. However delays are always around the corner, especially in case of any nervous negotiators keen to start a playground punch-up on the first day back at school.
But time is running out. From Geneva on, any failure at the intersessionals could preclude the chance of reaching the agreement we need in Paris. A risk that we cannot take.
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