Leaders Shorten, Tighten Draft UN Climate Change Draft

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Late on Friday, July 24, Algerian diplomat Ahmed Djoghlaf and US envoy Daniel Reifsnyder, who co-chair the group that will finalize a universal UN climate change agreement in Paris at the end of the year, issued a long-awaited new version of the draft agreement. It comes closer to setting all nations on track toward a sustainable future by keeping the average global temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius, or below.

The previous meeting of the UN’s Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform, held in Geneva in February, virtually stalled after spending days at the same task, although they did clarify some points of information from the Lima COP20 session. The body of nations party to the ADP then requested the co-chairs to streamline the 86-page document so they can negotiate more effectively when the larger group reconvenes in Bonn on August 31.

ADP co-chairs Ahmed Djoghlaf and Daniel Reifsnyder (unfccc.org)

The co-chairs have worked hard. Their new document—its central focus on requirements for all nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions only 19 pages long—seems to be a robust successor to help world governments through critical negotiations. It reportedly clarifies the earlier drafts and eliminates redundancies. The consolidated version builds on the concept of national climate action plans (INDCs), which now account for well over half of world emissions and are expected to increase in number considerably by September. Recent progress has included mechanisms for periodic assessment of INDCs.

The new draft retains the core principle that every country will contribute now and into the future based on these individual national circumstances, with adequate financial and technology support from more developed countries. It covers all six of the elements set up in earlier negotiations: climate mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, capacity building, and transparency of action and support. Alex Morales of BloombergBusiness reports the paring of emissions trading options in the new draft:

“The document cuts six proposed options on global trading of carbon emissions down to two. One would have nations continue to use the trading market and credits created under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, including UN Certified Emission Reductions, for compliance with post-2020 climate pledges, according to the draft. The other option was to have no provision on markets in the climate agreement.”

He adds:

“The document outlines options for the goals of the agreement and actions its signatories will take to cut fossil-fuel emissions blamed for heating the planet. It also spells out measures to spread green technologies and funnel aid to the poorest nations to help them adapt to the effects of rising seawater, increased droughts and more frequent flooding.”

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To seek reactions to and views on the suggested draft, the co-chairs have invited all the major negotiating groups to share ideas, proposals, and concerns with them before and during pre-sessional consultations to be held before the larger body of the ADP reconvenes for five days in Bonn in August. “The objective is to have an agreed modus operandi for ADP 2.10 before its opening so as to avoid any discussion of procedure on the tool and start substantive negotiations immediately after a short opening plenary.”

The consolidated document presents a much clearer road to a final outcome than either of its immediate predecessors. To facilitate inclusivity—a characteristic the Lima UN climate agreement established firmly over four agonizing drafts—the new version does not leave out any of the multitude of options on the table from Geneva. These remain for delegates to sort out.

Most importantly, the July draft specifies decisions with immediate effect that could be initiated the moment the agreement is adopted. It sets apart other decisions that will need to be made fully operational within the next five years before the Paris Agreement comes fully into effect. Bifurcating the task ahead and allowing more time to work out areas of difference should allow negotiators to move faster and more comprehensively toward an effective worldwide climate treaty this time than previous UNFCCC meetings have done.

Says Jennifer Morgan, global director of the World Resources Institute’s Climate Program:

“This streamlined agreement text gives delegates a strong foundation to advance the climate negotiations. The co-chairs have cut through the clutter to make the text more coherent, clarifying the key choices to be made. Coming shortly after a positive ministerial meeting, negotiators should use this text to keep the momentum going ahead of the climate summit in Paris. The co-chairs have separated what goes into the core Paris agreement from other key decisions to be taken by the COP and have created a clear structure for Parties to negotiate more efficiently and effectively.”

By specifying new commitments to improve worldwide response to climate change, the UN climate agreement can now cover all bases adequately but still allow the details of implementation, with any subsequent arrangements, to be worked out in accompanying or later decisions. Adequate funding and aid to developing nations facing catastrophic impacts of climate change remain the major stumbling blocks. While over 10% financed, the Green Climate Fund still lacks almost $90 billion of its starting capital, and other funding mechanisms are also behind.

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