SPECIAL COP21 – Paris negotiations extended by a day to overcome last mile barriers

The last day of climate negotiations at Le Bourget become the penultimate as the final adoption of the Paris deal was postponed from Friday (Dec. 11) to Saturday (Dec. 12).

“We are almost at the end of the road, and I am optimistic. The preparatory conditions have been very good”, the President of COP21 and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told a press conference on Friday morning. “I will be able to present the text to all Parties tomorrow at 9am”, he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Kim-moon praised Fabius’ diplomatic efforts “in recent months but especially in recent days” and declared himself “confident that negotiators will reach an ambitious and strong agreement”.

After the Comité de Paris on Thursday night released the latest draft of the climate agreement, “Indaba-type” meetings lasted until late to find compromise on the remaining contentious points, all basically linked to the issues of differentiation, finance and ambition. According to Reuters, China was resisting calls for all nations to review and update their national mitigation plans every five years, while Saudi Arabia is opposing an explicit long-term goal to limit the rise in global temperatures to “well below” 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

With respect to the previous draft issued on Wednesday, the current 27-page version is slightly shorter and includes significantly less square brackets (50 instead of over 300 of Wednesday’s text).

The long term goal is currently not bracketed in Article 2, stating that the purpose of the agreement is, among others, to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C, recognizing that this would significantly reduce risks and impacts of climate change”. The previous draft included three options: “below 2°C”, “below 1.5°C” and the middle ground formula contained in Thursday’s version, which also calls for “GHG neutrality in second half of the century”. Climate scientists gathered in a panel event on Friday at Le Bourget highlighted that the current “neutrality” reference is too weak to achieve the long term goal and implicitly relies on negative emission technologies, such as carbon capture and storage and BECCS, whose large-scale deployment is still unsure. The “decarbonization” option, contemplated in the previous version, would have been a better long-term qualitative goal, scientists said.

On finance, the latest draft leaves some options open as for the definition of the directional goal of Article 6: definitions of financial resources as “additional” and “scaled-up” are still included in brackets, while the need to achieve a balance between adaptation and mitigation was maintained. The Committee also put forth a solution to the contention between developed and developing Parties’ capabilities to contribute: previous options of coupling richer countries actions with non-Annex I Parties “having capability to do so” were excluded, while it was included that all Parties other than developed “may provide resources on a voluntary complementary basis”, and developed country Parties “should take the lead in mobilizing and facilitating the mobilization of climate finance”.

Furthermore, the latest draft says there ‘shall’ be a progression beyond USD $100 billion post-2020, but quantified goals for the period were left to future Conferences work. Among the excluded provisions there was the one to “reduce international support for high-emissions investments”.

As for pre-2020 finance, the Committee went forward with the most ambitious option available (although leaving it in brackets), “strongly” urging “developed country Parties to scale up their level of financial support”. Despite calling for a concrete roadmap to achieve USD 100 billion by 2020, Thursday’s version dropped the explicit figures previously proposed for 2017 and 2018.

The current draft seems to confirm forecasts of a hybrid legal structure for the Paris agreement, based on a core text complemented by a series of COP decisions to be adopted in future meetings. The core text of the agreement will be legally binding, as clarified in the CP.21 draft decision which “adopts” the Agreement. Section 1 of the decision entitles the UN Secretary General to be the depositary of the Agreement and to open it for signature from 22 April 2016 to 21 April 2017. The terms and modalities for the entry into force of the treaty will be determined by an “Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement”, that should be established for this purpose.

There is still no clarity on how the intended nationally determined contributions are linked to the core text, as the current version contains no reference to an international enforcement of INDCs and simply requests Parties to “prepare and communicate” their contributions.

Article 11 of the draft establishes a mechanism meant to “facilitate implementation” and “promote compliance” with the provisions of the Agreement. The mechanism will consist in an “expert-based”, “facilitative” committee that “shall … function in a manner that is transparent, non-adversarial, and non-punitive”.

Thursday’s text was criticized by human rights organizations, aid agencies and vulnerable communities leaders because the reference to the respect for human rights was “downgraded” from Article 2 of the previous version (stating that the agreement “will be implemented ….on the basis of respect for human rights”) to the preamble, according to which countries should “promote, respect and take into account their respective obligations on human rights” when developing policies and taking action to address climate change.


(Image: Press conference of Laurent Fabius and Ban Ki-moon at Le Bourget, Paris, Dec. 11, 2015. Photo credit: COP PARIS/Flickr)