SPECIAL COP21 – The elephant(s) in the negotiation room: how will differentiation be addressed in the Paris deal?

UPDATE Dec. 5, 2015, 12.30 am: ADP adopted new version of the Draft agreement including reflections note (Annex II) with changes suggested during the last session discussions. The text will be the the starting point of the next week’s negotiations.

The first week of negotiation in Paris is running toward the end. On Friday, December 4th, a new draft of the negotiating text was released by the Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) in two versions: one providing streamlined and clarified options whereas the other outlining also some bridging proposals drafted by the co-facilitators after having heard the positions from all Parties. Spin-off and contact groups are continuing to work on the current 38-page draft in order to have a final common text by Saturday at 12.00 to be forwarded to the Ministers joining the talks next week.

As stressed by the Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, briefing the observers on Friday morning, the text does not present important differences from the previous one, “it still has many contradictions” but the debate is going on. To help Parties finding common ground, the COP President “Laurent Fabius”, supported by three French special ambassadors, is working to deliver bridging options before the beginning of next week.

Mixed reactions followed the release of the new drafts. Some countries, including the EU, welcomed the efforts done by facilitators to “significantly improve” the text while others contested the fact that some key options had not been fully reflected in the facilitators’ proposals (G77 and China, Australia, Angola,…) or contested the rule of procedure to deliver a final version (Venezuela, US). Overall, the debate appears to progress in a difficult and scattered way, with delegates spending half of the 4-hour discussion trying to find out how to go ahead. Adjourning the meeting, Parties agreed on the Co-Chair Djoghlaf’s proposal to collect all comments in a reflection note to be released by Saturday along with the new text.

During the more interesting discussion that was held on Thursday (Dec. 3rd) on cross-cutting issues, positions on some sticky topics emerged. In particular, countries seem to be very distant on differentiation, as well as on finance, legal matters, and transparency.

Differentiation is certainly not a new issue, however, national delegates are struggling in finding a new paradigm reflecting the current global economic picture. Although all Parties agree that the new agreement needs to reflect differentiation, two major opposite views can be identified. On the one side, developed countries suggest not to add a specific language on the matter since the INDCs, presented voluntarily by 186 countries, already imply self-differentiation, on the other side developing nations claim they will not accept an agreement with “symmetric” provisions for all the participants. Some of them, in particular highlighted that differentiation is mandated by the Framework Convention through the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and therefore asked for the inclusion of flexibility clauses that recognize the special circumstances of small island developing states (SIDS) and Least Developing Countries (LDCs). The issue emerged as crucial, influencing also the following discussions on type of commitments, progress and reporting on mitigation actions, accounting framework and financial support.

As for negotiating related to the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, subsidiary bodies, namely SBSTA and SBI, which supports negotiations on scientific/technological matters and implementation, concluded their work on time, although three issues remained unresolved and will be forwarded to the Ministerial level, namely: the 2013-2015 review, capacity building under the Convention and the impact of the implementation of response measures.

Waiting for the new text to be released, delegates are now figuring out how to organize next week’s work. As ENB reports, rumours say Ministers would be asked to chair spin-off groups while others wonder if they should be convened in a roundtable format.

Outside the negotiating rooms, some among members of civil society complained about the lack of access to formal in-sessions even though the general feeling is that the French Presidency is, in fact, trying to keep the process as open and transparent as possible, avoiding the mistakes that let the Copenhagen Conference fail in 2009.

(Image: Paris Climate Change Conference – November 2015. Photo credit: UNclimatechange/Flickr)