SPECIAL COP21 – Second week of talks opens in Paris: Comité de Paris to guide work toward the agreement

The second week of negotiations started in Paris on Monday morning (Dec. 7th)  with the traditional opening ceremony of the so called “High-Level”, ministerial segment.

After welcoming participants, COP21 President and French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, thanked national delegates for the important work they did last week to deliver a common draft of the Paris outcome. As proposed on Saturday afternoon (Dec. 5th), informal consultations will now continue by means of the Comité de Paris, an open-ended single-setting negotiating group,  wihich aims to make further progress and facilitate compromise on the text in a transparent manner. He remarked that, especially at this point, work methods are extremely important to deliver a quality and timely agreement. It is time to “show the necessary political push” to enable countries to find a compromise, he added. Remarking that the stakes are high and adopting a universal agreement is vital, he encouraged the audience on the fact that “we can, be and must be successful”.

Also UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminded Ministers they have an ambitious task: to put the world on track for sustainability but also long-term peace, stability and prosperity path. Recalling statements of the more than 150 world leaders that opened the Conference, he stressed that “Leaders have assured me they will work to remove any roadblocks”. He also remarked the great mobilization of the private sector and civil society. “We all have the moral duty to listen to their voices” and to deliver a “durable, dynamic, credible and fair climate agreement”. Going more into practical matters the UN Secretary, called for the agreement to include regular, five year cycles, beginning before 2020 because “current ambition must be the floor not the ceiling for our common efforts”. Moreover, he asked developing countries to take increasing responsibilities according to their capabilities whereas developed countries must uphold their historical responsibilities and lead the way, including mobilizing pre-2020 financial support.

Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly, said that after the year 2015, which was focused on commitments toward sustainability, 2016 would be about their kick start implementation. To boost this process, he announced a new event in New York in April, gathering initiatives for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, which the future climate agreement has the opportunity to contribute to achieve.

Speaking on behalf of the IPCC, Hoesung Lee underlined the work done by scientific community over the past 27 years. The message is clear. Later this year temperature rise are set to reach 1°C above pre-industrial levels. It is therefore up to the policy-makers to start immediate action to create opportunities and help the transition toward a new sustainable economy. The IPCC is ready to continue to provide timely, relevant and science-based solutions in support of these policy decisions.

Before leaving the floor to statements from national and group delegation, Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Secretary general, encouraged negotiators to do their best to take stock of the work done and transform it into “a cohesive legal framework that brings the world together in action and implementation”.

The countries’ speeches that followed, mainly addressed the text, the last week’s effort, and the way forward to define a successful and ambitious agreement. Overall, groups representing developing countries stressed their greater vulnerability to climate impacts as well as their small contribution to the problem. Through the INDCs they want to be part of the solution, having recognized their different circumstances and capabilities. They asked for developed countries to take the lead and commit to ambitious quantitative targets and financial support. On the other side, the EU and also the Australia pointed out the opportunities offered by a transition toward a low-carbon society.

While political statements are going on also during the following days, negotiating on the draft text are continuing. In particular, under the Comité de Paris discussions on four key themes already begun on Sunday, addressing: i) means of implementation (finance, technology, capacity building), ii) ambition, including long-term goals and review; iii) differentiation, in particular with regard to mitigation, finance, and transparency; iv) acceleration of pre-2020 action.

These had been identified as the most tricky issues to be tackled. Looking at the ADP draft text, indeed, the quantity of brackets as well as the distance between different options underlines that parties are still far from a common language.

Article 6, which addresses finance, for example, it is almost completely bracketed. Agreement on the fact that developed countries will continue to provide support to developing ones as well as on a balance between adaptation and mitigation seems to appear but divergence on practical implementation and burden-sharing strongly emerges as the majority of the 22 paragraphs still have 2 or 3 options each, ranging from clear commitments (e.g. provision of at least USD 100 billion per year from 2020), to vague promises.

Article 2, which defines long-term ambitions, focuses on whether to include a target lower than 2°C as pushed by small islands and least developing countries. The text says the goal of the agreement is “to hold the increase in the global average temperature [below 1.5 °C] [or] [well below 2 °C] above preindustrial levels …”. As for review of committments (Article 3 and 12), language shows some support for a global regular review every five years, to promote effective implementation of the future agreement but in the view of developing countries it should be intended as an opportunity to confirm the target and not as an obligation.

Differentiation is one of the key cross cutting issues. In the article 2, which aims at providing a framework for the INDCs, there is a general convergence on the leading role of developed countries but how to provide flexibility in terms of timing and strength of implementation for developing countries [contributions] is still matter of debate.

The text also addresses acceleration of the implementation of pre-2020 climate action as key to pave the way for the post-2020 action but discussion on how to close the gap certainly requires further progress.

The Comitè de Paris, recently expanded its work on other issues including among the others: adaptation and loss&damage, forests and response measures. It is expected to deliver an advanced version of the draft by Wednesday, even though some parties, while recognizing the serene atmosphere of negotiations, stressed the need to move from consultations to work directly on text amendments.

(Image: First meeting of the Paris Committee, Paris, December 7th 2015. Credit COP 21 on Flickr)