LDCs approach Fiji COP with high expectations

When COP23 starts next week, the least developed countries will again be in the spotlight. In a special guest blog, LDC Group chair Gebru Jember Endalew outlines the group's detailed preparation and hopes for Bonn

Gebru Jember Endalew's picture
Gebru Jember Endalew is chair of the LDC Group in the UN climate change negotiations
01 November 2017
UN climate change conference (COP23)
A series of pages related to IIED's activities at the 2017 UNFCCC climate change summit in Bonn
Nazhat Shameem Khan, Fiji's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and chief COP23 negotiator, addresses the LDC Group and chair  Gebru Jember Endalew. IIED principal researcher Achala Abeysinghe, who provides legal support to the LDC Group chair, is pictured right (Photo: Collin Beck)

Nazhat Shameem Khan, Fiji's Permanent Representative to the United Nations and chief COP23 negotiator, addresses the LDC Group and chair  Gebru Jember Endalew. IIED principal researcher Achala Abeysinghe, who provides legal support to the LDC Group chair, is pictured right (Photo: Copyright Collin Beck)

With the 2018 deadline for the completion of the negotiations on the Paris Agreement "rulebook" around the corner, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have been very busy this year.

In advance of the intersessional UN climate change negotiations in May, also in Bonn, the LDCs made submissions on all the key issues in the rulebook negotiations. We worked with other Parties to advance a shared understanding on the rulebook based on these submissions, and worked with other progressive countries to ensure a balanced approach to the negotiations going forward.

But although we need a balanced approach to these delicate negotiations, we need to start making tangible progress that Parties and the rest of the world outside the negotiations can see and build on. 

On this point the LDCs were among the most vocal countries in Bonn on the need for substantive progress this year – capturing progress, cashing in on the good will of all Parties, and banking easy (or at least easier) wins.

One of the main outcomes from the Bonn intersessional that will help us make this progress was the hard-won agreement on a series of roundtables planned for just before and at the start of next week's Fiji 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23)

Staying on track

This outcome wasn't a sure thing, and the closing plenary of the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) was on the verge of derailing on the last day of the Bonn intersessional. 

But a collective spirit of compromise and focus on the urgency of the work prevailed, with LDCs at the heart of the huddles and side negotiations.

So, six roundtables on key aspects of the Paris Agreement will be held from 4-6 November on APA agenda items 3-7, covering issues related to mitigation, adaptation communications, transparency, the global stocktake and the mechanism for facilitating implementation and promoting compliance. 

These roundtables are in addition to the next round of APA submissions to be prepared before COP23, so we've been busy over the last few months.

There are also various other submissions and roundtables not under the APA. Roundtables under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) on the Article 6 mitigation and sustainable development trading mechanism, cooperative approaches, and non-market approaches, as well as workshops on response measures, will also be held on 4-5 November.

The LDCs began preparing for all these submissions, roundtables and workshops immediately after the end of the May intersessional.

Resetting the rulebook negotiations?

The rulebook negotiations are fraught with complexity because many issues are deeply interconnected and there's a lot at stake with the rulebook negotiations as a whole. 

Some issues are also more complex than others. For example, most Parties agree that transparency negotiations are the densest and most complicated. On the other hand, negotiators working on the global stocktake are developing an essentially new process under the UN climate regime, so it's more likely that those discussions will take longer to move from a conceptual phase.

At the May meeting, some issues were taken forward much more than others, while on the topic of the global stocktake, which is to be undertaken every five years to review progress and ensure that action on climate change increases over time as part of the ambition mechanism, some Parties wanted to effectively press the reset button on discussions. 

Due to the informal and dynamic nature of the negotiations at this stage, of course all views are valid. But it's very difficult to see how a restart of negotiations on any issue could be acceptable to other Parties – what about all the work done since the Paris Agreement was adopted, including the multiple submissions and sessions? 

No doubt there are different Parties who'd like to reset negotiations on different issues for different reasons, but that's clearly an untenable option if we're to have any chance of finishing the rulebook negotiations by next year.

One thing that did become very clear during the Bonn intersessional is that a balanced treatment of issues includes the need to progress issues in a balanced manner. This raises important questions for us as LDCs and for all Parties: how do we deal with the need to devote time and energy to all the issues in a balanced manner while avoiding letting some issues fall far behind others – especially when some issues are more complex or novel than others? 

Should we devote more time and energy to issues that are lagging behind? And would that still be an option if it means parking issues that have progressed more to date? There are no easy answers.

Adaptation role for LDCs

On the substantive issues themselves, the LDCs made significant contributions in all the thematic discussions during the Bonn intersessional. In particular, our views on the committee under the mechanism for facilitating implementation and promoting compliance feature prominently in the co-facilitators' notes capturing discussions and submissions to date. 

On adaptation communications, LDCs have spent considerable time and effort developing National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) so our position has been that Parties need to have the option to submit NAPs as their adaptation communication. 

Because LDCs have a lot of experience and a solid understanding of adaptation-related issues, we also have an important role in shaping adaptation-related discussions going forward. In Bonn, the APA tasked the secretariat with preparing a technical paper synthesising adaptation-related information from different types of communications that will be useful to LDCs as we build on our current thinking on adaptation communications.

One issue LDCs hoped would be clarified is that of having the Adaptation Fund (AF) definitively serve the Paris Agreement. From Paris to Marrakech, Parties took only incremental steps to decide that the AF "should" and then "will" serve the Paris Agreement, but haven't yet put this issue to rest by deciding that the AF "shall" definitively serve the agreement. 

In Bonn, we pushed for this decision to be taken during the Fiji COP so that we can focus on the important question of how the AF can best serve the Paris Agreement and give LDCs access to the financial support we need for our adaptation plans and actions.

Preparing for COP23

One of the things the LDCs have been working hard on is improving our internal coordination so we can be more effective in developing our positions and strategy to negotiate outcomes that reflect our priorities.

In early October, LDC ministers, UNFCCC Focal Points and lead coordinators in the negotiations convened in Addis Ababa to discuss the implementation of the Paris Agreement and devise a strategy on how to take forward our climate change and sustainable development priorities.

Since then we've further developed our LDC positions, which we'd already begun to update to reflect this year's developments.

Our lead coordinators have also been preparing the LDC Group submissions. The APA submissions in particular are very important in preparing for the pre- and intersessional roundtables, since they'll inform the roundtable discussions.

The LDCs have been busy in many arenas. Representatives of the LDCs have been attending a series of key meetings, such as climate week in New York, a gender workshop in Montreal, and a workshop on transparency in Georgia. 

Engaging in these various forums gives the LDCs opportunities to strengthen progressive alliances and find common ground with partners in the negotiations. We can also use these different platforms to push our messages and priorities to wider audiences inside and outside the negotiations.

Between developing positions, preparing submissions, elaborating strategies and participating in meetings, the build-up to COP23 has been particularly hectic. But the LDCs are up to the task and eager to continue to advocate for the poorest and most vulnerable.

Gebru Jember Endalew is chair of the LDC Group in the UN climate change negotiations. IIED supports the LDC Group at the negotiations by providing legal, technical and strategic advice. This blog was originally posted by the Climate and Development Knowledge Management Network.