Final COP21 draft agreement released by the UNFCCC

The last official meeting before COP21 in Paris was held in Bonn on October 19 – 23. The session aimed at  preparing the draft climate package to be presented at the opening of COP 21.

Throughout the week, negotiators convened in spin-off groups to foster negotiations on specific sections of the decision text, and in an general contact group to share progress and discuss the most relevant issues.

On Oct. 23 a 51-pages final document was finalized, replacing the 20-pages draft released on Oct. 5 by the two Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP).

The Co-Chairs’ version was drafted with the aim of streamlining the 85-page Geneva Negotiating Text (GNT) originally developed last February and revised in July, and was expected to relieve parties of the a burdensome negotiating process and to help avoiding the stalling in negotiations occurred in Copenhagen in 2009.

The 20-pages document was yet found by many parties an unbalanced solution, reopening the scope for further work. Developing countries in particular claimed that their core demands had been removed from the revised text. At the closing of the last Bonn session, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres commented that: “We now have a Party-owned text that is balanced and complete. The challenge for governments is to bring it down to a much more concise and coherent form for adoption in Paris”.

Article 3, dealing with mitigation actions, comprises now three distinct sections, addressing the collective long-term goal, the individual efforts and the differentiated efforts of the Parties.

Coherently with previous documents, three main alternative formulas are given for a collective long-term goal: to peak emissions, to achieve zero net GHGs or to reduce gas emissions by a reference year. In a further option, the text included that such commitments could be adopted ‘in pursuing decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century’ (Art. 3.1).

Agreeing on the decarbonization goal would be a strong signal for oil and coal-dependent countries. The same section also introduced the provision of ‘bearing in mind social and economic development and poverty eradication’ as the ‘first and overriding priorities of developing country Parties’.

Diverging views also concerned Article 6, on Finance. This is one of the most contentious issues of the deal, especially considering that several INDCs submitted by developing countries include actions conditional on the provision of climate finance resources, technology transfer and capacity building. As Reuters reports, developing nations asked greater certainty over richer countries’ promise to deliver $100 billion annually by 2020.

Developed countries declarations – from both U.S.-led “Umbrella Group” and the EU – argued that the donor base should be broadened from the Annex 1 list to include all countries “in a position to do so” (Art. 6.4, Option 1). Conversely, the G77 group, representing more than 130 developing nations and China, wants to preserve Annexes-based division.

The chairperson of the G77 Group, South African diplomat Mxakato-Diseko, expressed “profound dissatisfaction” with the progress of the meeting adding that “Whether Paris succeeds or not will be dependent on what we have as part of the core agreement on finance”.

Art. 6 was further developed in order to allow negotiations at COP21 to involve both decisions on scaling up pre–2020 financing, as well as on the more unexamined issue of post-2020 financing (art. 6.8 and 6.8 bis).

Another fundamental matter to be discussed in Paris is the future progression of the pledged efforts, in order to close the emission gap – i.e. the difference between the GHG emissions reductions submitted and the amount necessary to keep climate warming to the 2C target. According to experts recently gathered in Morocco for the INDC Forum and to Climate Action Tracker, pledges submitted to date cover approximately 90 percent of world emissions and have lowered projected warming to 2.7 degrees Celsius from the 3.6 degrees C. resulting from the projection of currently implemented policies.

Despite representing a progress, such results underscore the importance of further improving the Parties’ pledges involving multiple cycles and review progresses.

Effectiveness of Paris agreement will critically depend on the creation of such a  framework. In particular, Art 3.3ter and 3.3quat (Option 2) include that developed Parties’ ‘commitments/targets’ post-2020 ‘shall be progressively more ambitious’ and that developing Parties’ post-2020 ‘actions/efforts’ will be ‘more ambitious than compared to their pre-2020 actions under the Bali Action Plan’. A further section (Art. 3.4, Option 4), simply states that national contributions  “[shall][should][other] be progressively more ambitious over time”.

The text also reintroduces the possibility for the development of international mechanism to address loss and damage (Art. 5, Option 1) and the REDD+ program (Art. 3bis), issues excluded from the October’s shortest version but present in the one released in June.

The sections dealing with the processes of ratification, reservation clause and withdrawal did not present major changes from the previous drafts.

On Oct. 23 the Secretariat was asked to prepare a technical paper to identify possible areas for streamlining and consolidation options. Figueres added that the political process between now and the beginning of the Paris Summit will be central to the success of the meeting.

In mid-November the G20 Heads of State will meet in Turkey, while a series of UNFCCC preparatory meetings with representatives of the least developed and developing countries will be held at UNESCO Paris Headquarters just before the Summit opens.


(Image: Bonn Climate Change Conference – 20th October 2015: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and COP21 M. Laurent Fabius. Photo Credit:UNclimatechange on Flickr).