SPECIAL COP23: the Bula spirit makes progress on Paris Agreement implementation

The 23rd session of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties concluded its works on the early morning of Saturday 18th November, after that delegates spent all night discussing final agreements on  financing issues.

As one of the implementation COPs following the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the Conference held in Bonn from 6 to 18 November under the Fijian presidency, had indeed among its major objectives to make progress on the Facilitative dialogue 2018 and on the set of rules governing the agreement.  Overall, the COP managed to accomplish its tasks with even some complementary achievements.

The main outcome of the Conference is the “Fiji Momentum for Implementation”, a 10 page document, which aims to advance guidelines on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. In particular, it is built around three main chapters, namely: some general provisions to accelerate next year’s efforts in order to complete the Paris Agreement work programme by 2018, an outline of the design of the 2018 facilitative dialogue, now known as the “Talanoa dialogue” because of its Fijian approach, and the provisions to enhance the pre-2020 implementation and ambition.

As for the first task, the COP primarily asks the UNFCCC secretariat to investigate if further meetings and negotiations are needed next years as well to develop and online platform providing an overview, based on the items detailed in annex I, on the work undergoing to make the Paris Agreement operative.

Main elements of the Talanoa dialogue are specified in the Annex II of the document. The dialogue will start in January 2018 and close at COP24, jointly presided by both Fijian and Polish presidency. It will be constructive, facilitative and solutions oriented and conducted in the spirit of the inclusive, participatory and transparent  Fijian traditional Talanoa dialogue.  Three central questions will guide the process: i) Where are we? ii) Where do we want to go? iii) How do we get there? It will be divided into two phases: a first preparatory phase, to last  from January to COP24, in which reports on each of the three issues will be prepared,  and a political phase, to be held during COP24, where high-level state representatives will undertake political discussions to take stock of the collective advancement toward the Paris objectives. It will also include the Parties efforts of pre-2020 period.

Countries also decided that the inputs that will inform the dialogue are: the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C requested by the COP; analytical and policy contributions by Parties, stakeholders and expert institutions including NGOs and UNFCCC bodies, to be submitted by 2 April 2018; inputs form both COP23 and 24  Presidencies. To facilitate access to all inputs, an online platform will be built and managed by the UNFCCC secretariat that is also requested to prepare relevant inputs.

By launching next steps on action prior to 2020, the most relevant provisions included in the final document on this matter are i) the request to the UNFCCC and the UN Secretary General to enhance activities to promote the ratification of the Doha Amendment, which established the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol; ii) the invitation to Parties to submit by 1 May 2018 additional information on progress in implementing enhanced action prior to 2020; iii) the request to the secretariat to prepare a synthesis report of the above mentioned submissions, to serve as an input for the facilitative dialogue  in 2018; iv) to convene a stocktake of pre-2020 actions both in 2018 at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, and in 2019 at COP25. The stocktakes will consider, interalia, both mitigation efforts and financial support of Parties in the pre-2020 period, as well as the work of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action. This outcome has been welcomed as a victory of the developing nations, whose stance to open a new agenda item also on the pre-2020 implementation and ambition had been successful. According to Cop President Bainimarama, “This provides  a balance of the interests of states at different stages of development and keeps this process moving forward”.

Other important advancements complete the Bonn COP23 outcomes. In particular, as for the issues included in the so called rulebook, the informal notes drafted by the co-chairs had been the starting points of the discussion, with the objective to develop a skeleton of the decisions to be completed next year. The documents in some cases are very long (as for the mitigation issues, where only the NDCs text counts 180 pages) as they include both commonalities and diverging  options. Some of them proceeded smoother than others as traditional discrepancies in Parties’ view started to re-emerge.

Beyond the progress on setting the ground for discussion to resume next May, COP23 is being celebrated also because has been particularly successfully in  advancing some important issues.

One of the first results, announced earlier this week, is certainly represented by the text on agriculture. By balancing the different priorities between developing countries, whose focus is more on adaptation activities, and the instances on mitigation requested by developed states, the final text primarily requests the UNFCCC bodies for Technological Advice and for Implementation (SBSTA and SBI) to jointly address issues related to agriculture, including through workshops and expert meetings, and invites Parties and observers to submit, by 31 March 2018, their views on a number of elements. The document gathered satisfactory comments  from all parties.

Moreover, the compromise between the demand by developing countries to have a permanent agenda item and a finance expert group on Loss & Damage and the strong opposition of developed countries, was found  through the establishment of an “expert dialogue” in 2018 to explore a range of information, inputs and views on addressing the issue of L&D. Noteworthy, the document mentions finance among the ways of support to be addressed by the expert dialogue.

In addition, the creation of a new platform for local communities and indigenous peoples to strengthen knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts of local communities and indigenous on climate change, was agreed, therefore allowing them to take part in the UNFCCC process. Also the Gender Action Plan (GAP) containing five priorities areas, was established to advance women’s full, equal and meaningful participation and promote gender-responsive climate policy.

On finance, which  was overall among the most contentious issues discussed during this COP, after solving the debate on the Adaption Fund by recognizing its role within the framework of the Paris Agreement (it was indeed launched under the Kyoto Protocol), the article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement on the ex ante information to be provided by Parties on long-term finance kept delegate hostage of the Conference up to Saturday early morning. Finally a text was delivered, which reiterates that developed country Parties shall biennially communicate indicative quantitative and qualitative information on financial support but actually postpones the decision on the type of information to be provided to the next intersessional meetings.

As also earlier Conferences already demonstrated, one of the most successful outcomes of COPs is the huge involvement on non-state actors, whose engagement on climate change issues shows an increasing trend. During COP 23 some important initiatives were launched or consolidated, such as the Ocean Pathway, the Powering Past Coal Alliance, the We Are Still In initiative and the many others presented during the Global Climate Action program.

(Image: A traditional Fijian canoe at the entrance of the Bula zone. Credit: ICCG staff).