Next steps for climate negotiations on the road to Paris

Some progress was made at the Bonn climate negotiations in June, but much remains to be done.

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17 June 2015

Achala Abeysinghe is the principal researcher and team leader of the global climate law, policy and governance team in IIED's Climate Change Group

An Ethiopian farmer arrives for a field day on climate change adaptation. Ethiopia is the first LDC to submit its intended Nationally Determined Contribution in preparation of the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC (Photo: ILRI/ZerihunSewunet, Creative Commons via Flickr)

After two weeks of meetings at the Bonn climate negotiations, it is clear that there is a strong political will to adopt a legally binding agreement at the summit in Paris in December, but progress on the negotiations was slow.

Progress

Crucially, the formal negotiating text on the table follows the format of a multilateral agreement (PDF) that can be applicable to all parties and addresses the full scope of the Durban mandate (PDF)

The political momentum in Bonn was also helped by the outcome of the G7 summit that emphasised a common vision for a global goal of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and complete decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century. The G7 also committed to developing long-term national low-carbon strategies, as part of their contribution to a global low carbon economy.

Another positive step came from Ethiopia, which was the first least developed country (LDC) to submit its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) (PDF), demonstrating their commitment to the process.

Slow progress

While parties demonstrated a spirit of cooperation, diligence and hard work in Bonn, boosting confidence that the final destination could be reached, many parties were concerned progress was far too slow. This meant not enough progress was made in developing a more structured and comprehensive text for the next step of negotiations.

After two weeks of deliberating, the negotiating text is still not in a form that can be used to engage and prepare political leaders. And only 10 formal negotiation days remain before the Paris Conference of the Parties (COP21). While many parties were expecting substantive negotiations on key issues (PDF), in reality little more than a mechanical editorial exercise took place. This meant there was only a minor consolidation of the Geneva text (PDF).

Another fly in the ointment is the small number of INDCs submitted so far. Only 11 nations, plus the European Union, have submitted their plans and some of these are too far below what is needed, with countries committing to do far less than they could to limit warming to below 2 degrees. 

Based on these commitments, if we are to limit warming to below 2 degrees, the remaining countries (who account for 66 per cent of global emissions) will need to make far deeper cuts and those who have submitted insufficient contributions will have to increase their pledges. 

If we are to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, as called for by the most vulnerable countries and the latest science, all parties will have to show a serious commitment to action.

Still to be done

Addressing the concerns about slow progress, the co-chairs of the current negotiations committed to producing a fully streamlined, consolidated, clear and concise version (PDF) of the Geneva negotiating text for the next level of negotiations by 24 July. 

This document will present three clear options:

  • Provisions that can be included in the legally binding Paris Agreement;
  • Provisions that can be included in other documents such as simple decisions by the COP; and
  • Provisions that clearly require further substantive negotiations among parties to determine where they fit. 

Parties have called (PDF) for these documents to be made available sooner so they can better prepare. 

Analysing the current negotiating text and the Durban mandate, it is clear that all Key aspects of all sections of the Geneva negotiating text should be reflected in the core Paris Agreement. Accompanying COP decisions may include provisions related to: operational issues; issues relating to the transition period between 2015 and 2020; issues that need further work beyond Paris; and financial pledges for support for developing countries.

Practical next steps

The negotiations need to maintain a sense of urgency during the remaining six months if they are to be effective. Crucial key steps include:

  1. Co-chairs should produce a scenario note, based on views expressed by all parties in Bonn, providing a streamlined, consolidated, clear and concise version of the Geneva negotiating text as soon as possible. The 24 July deadline indicated may be too late for parties to prepare for the next negotiating round;
  2. The co-chairs should pursue intensive inter-sessional consultations with all parties with a view to avoiding any procedural discussion at the opening of the August ADP meeting;
  3. All parties should be ready to engage in substantial negotiations from the beginning of the next session, which means engaging in an effort to reduce options in the text, seeking out compromises and exchanging views on the broad picture, and finding reasonable and responsible compromises which will make the Paris Agreement universal, dynamic, durable and transformative; and
  4. At the next session, the co-chairs should continue to hold inclusive and transparent rounds of facilitated negotiating sessions and inclusive bilateral consultations with all the negotiating groups.

The incoming COP presidency – France – has declared a formal ministerial meeting on 20-21 July, which it is hoped will build further momentum for a successful negotiating session in August. Much remains to be done.

Achala Abeysinghe (achala.abeysinghe@iied.org) is the principal researcher and team leader of the global climate law, policy and governance team in IIED's Climate Change Group.

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