The Ad Hoc Working Group on Durban part of the COP21 meeting in Paris sewed up its last draft in the week just past. ADP delegates from every country expressed their views on the version they last officially considered in Bonn in October, patched as much as UN officials could amend and clarify it in the interim. It’s (almost) the final word on how the world’s diverse nations expect to face a world of rapidly changing climate from 2020 onward.
That must await the discussion of high-level officials and ministers who will make Paris their home over the coming week. Top-level public servants, including Secretary of State John Kerry for the US, will carry out the “high-level” portion of the meeting.
With A Draft Complete, The ADP’s Work Is Done
At 38 pages, the document the diplomats will look at is shorter than the previous one. At one point earlier in the year, it had ballooned to several times that size. The co-chairs of the meeting, Ahmed Djoglaf of Algeria and Daniel Reifsnyder of the United States, funneled all the issues still under dispute into what negotiators call “bridging text” as an addendum. It refines the brackets left in the original, further narrows the options, and offers ways of addressing the important issues left for the politicians to tease out and resolve.
How are the talks going so far? Delegates have different views, and as usual there is some grandstanding. But the conference is an iterative process, and no one expected the technical ADP discussions among delegates to yield final results.
The issues now are the same as ever with the latest draft. Although progress has occurred, all of the key components of the planned agreement remain to be finalized. With 186 of the 195 countries participating, the system of INDCs stands out as the triumph of this year’s effort so far, because it has focused worldwide attention on national planning and elicited a near-universal partnership.
After some tension on Friday, the ADP delegates worked through Friday night to meet the Saturday noontime deadline COP 21 President Laurent Fabius of France had requested. Their labors produced a document slightly shorter than its predecessor that has further refined the options currently on the table and eliminated some of the lesser options. Delegates whittled down the core document to 21 pages.
On Saturday, the ADP contact group convened in the morning. An “unexpectedly harmonious mood” characterized the day, according to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin. Reifsnyder and Djoghlaf closed the plenary after it officially adopted the conclusions. The group then forwarded the draft agreement and decision to Fabius and the higher-level COP representatives.
Saturday Afternoon COP Proceedings
The higher-level conference parties consulted informally and met in concert in the evening to hear the ADP report. They agreed to proceed as suggested by President Fabius, including the “Paris Committee,” with an open-ended group (the “Paris Committee”) under Fabius tasked with progressing the text and facilitating compromise. The committee will work under the principle of “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” Its meetings, which might have been held secretly in another day, would be transmitted to screens at the conference site to facilitate transparency.
Fabius outlined four informal working groups to work on overarching issues: support, facilitated by Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet (Gabon) and Jochen Flasbarth (Germany); differentiation in the context of mitigation, transparency, and finance, including pre-2020 finance, facilitated by Izabella Teixeira (Brazil) and Vivian Balakrishnan (Singapore); ambition, long-term objectives, and periodic review, with facilitators to be announced; and acceleration of pre-2020 ambition, again with facilitators to be announced. These groups meet on Sunday to discuss procedure and direct the work.
Among the remaining issues to be sharpened are the following:
- Whether or not the agreement will be legally binding;
- A long-term emissions target and limit for maximum temperature increase (i.e., how to decarbonize the global economy by the end of this century),
- Guarantees that richer countries will finance infrastructure needed by poorer countries, and mechanisms for mobilizing this,
- Climate loss and damage compensation—although talks on loss and damage issue have progressed relatively quickly over the past two years;
- Transparency of the process—again, a factor on which the picture has improved; and
- Method for periodic assessment of national progress in curbing emissions.
Better Than Copenhagen (2009) At This Stage
Slow progress, then, but not inconsequential. One aspect of the discussions that has proven fruitful is the innovative “informal informal” ad hoc meetings of negotiators in small groups outside of official sessions. As Christiana Figueres, head of the UNFCCC, summed up the situation, because the final document would have multiple foci and the issues are interdependent, the text is now “very much a balancing act.”
Climate Nexus reports that most delegates are “relieved” to have reached this point. Su Wei, the top delegate from China, found the first week of the talks very difficult, but concluded that they had “produced very good results and provide a strong foundation for next week.” David Stanway and Richard Valdmanis of Reuters report:
“While a largely procedural step in the …quest for a binding deal to slow global warming, the fact that senior officials from almost 200 nations agreed on a draft marks an advance over the …failed summit in Copenhagen six years ago.”
COP21 in Paris has already proven more effective than the Danish UNFCCC: Copenhagen did not even get as far as a formal draft laying out the options. However, French climate ambassador Laurence Tubiana summed up the sense of the meeting on Saturday after the first round concluded:
“This text marks the will of all to reach an agreement. We are not at the end of the route. Major political issues are yet to be resolved.”
There’s no question that the promises made at Paris so far cannot curtail greenhouse gas emissions to the level needed to limit global warming at the UN’s current goal of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above preindustrial times. However, if concluded successfully, they represent a giant step in the process and a base level from which nations can improve and refine the process as years go on. High-level conferees expect to deliver a comprehensive settlement by the end of this coming week.