Blog UN climate change negotiations Bonn August 2010

Publication August 2010

Day 5: looking for leadership

In Bonn this week we saw Parties making a lot of demands but we also saw that few of them were ready to make compromises. Many points that were though (or at least said to have been) “agreed” at Copenhagen have been opened up again for discussion, the AWG LCA negotiations have become completely opaque and many of the negotiators themselves appeared to be frustrated by the lack of progress that we were seeing. Added to this the AWG LCA negotiation text has been feeding and has rebounded from its post-Copenhagen crash-diet.

As we reported on Friday, we are not expecting a legally-binding agreement at the Conference of the Parties at Cancún (COP 16), but rather hoping for a set of meaningful Decisions. Whereas expectations surrounding a global deal in the run-up to the COP 15 in Copenhagen were buoyant this time last year, negotiators are this year deliberately dampening talk of compromises or agreements being achieved at COP 16.

AWG LCA

Under this negotiation track, four drafting groups were set up, from whose meetings Observers were excluded. We therefore picked up clues on what developments were being made from negotiators we spoke to, from the newly drafted texts that the Secretariat released, and from other available written sources.

Drafting groups

1. Mitigation

The discussions on mitigation began with a 15 page document as the starting point (FCCC/AWGLCA/2010/8) and concluded with 41 pages of verbiage.

The issue of developed country MRV was, negotiators relayed to Observers outside, highly charged.

Some developing country Parties were, it emerged, pushing for developed countries to demonstrate their mitigation actions by means of low emission / low carbon development plans (easy in the EU as they have largely been developed pursuant to requirements of the Renewable Energy Directive, though not all negotiators seem to know this and those plans can be said to be relatively meaningless).

Market mechanisms were discussed in one of the AWG LCA contact groups. Discussion of market mechanisms outside the Kyoto Protocol is always fraught with difficulty and this was no exception.

2. Adaptation

On the issue of institutional arrangements, Parties were split between: a) deciding to use existing institutions in order to channel climate finance to developing countries; and b) setting up new institutions. The LCA text therefore now contains both options, to be agreed at a future meeting.

3. Capacity building and technology

Negotiations towards a technology mechanism with specific funding windows for different services were relatively successful. China, for one, is known to be keen that developing country mitigation activities, i.e. their reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, should only be undertaken with the benefit of assistance in the form of finance and technology from developed countries. The foundation of a technology mechanism could therefore play a pivotal role in the scheme of a global deal. Some business Observers expressed concern that Parties do not always seem to understand the commercial ramifications of this issue.

4. Shared Vision

This is one example of a negotiation heading under which some Parties are deviating from the substance of the Copenhagen Accord. Some developing country Parties are arguing for a 1.5 degrees Celsius limitation on the global temperature increase and the extreme limits in global greenhouse gas emissions that this target implies, instead of the agreed 2 degrees objective.

Outcome

At the end of the week, the AWG-LCA adopted its report of the session: FCCC/AWGLCA/201/L.4. The various texts agreed in the course of this week’s many meetings will be amalgamated in due course, in order to stand as the basis for negotiations in the AWG LCA track at Tianjin in October.

AWG KP

Discussions under theAWG KP track succeeded in advancing discussions on several fronts.

Parties held discussions in plenary, unlike in the AWG LCA.

Emission reductions

Parties succeeded in advancing discussions on the scale of emission reductions to be made, discussing solutions for the hot issues of: surplus AAUs; LULUCF; mechanisms; and how to turn pledges into QELROs (quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives).

We wondered whether the AWG LCA drafting sessions might proceed faster if some of these were held in public, though previous public discussions have also been circular.

Legal issues

The commitment period “gap”

Discussions took place about the recent paper from the UNFCCC Secretariat on legal considerations relating to a possible gap between the first and the second commitment periods. Some Parties consider this to be more of a political issue than a legal issue. No Parties spoke out in favour of there being a gap between commitment periods. The EU emphasised that the European emissions trading scheme would continue irrespective of any gap between commitment periods under the Kyoto Protocol.

Other

The EU suggested that “economies in transition” (EIT) should now be considered to be market economies, under the Kyoto Protocol, as these Parties have had long enough time “in transition” for them to be considered to be market economies. It is likely that this change will be vigorously contested by these EIT countries.

Outcome

The AWG KP agreed to put forward the Chair’s proposal for discussion at the next AWG KP session, in Tianjin: FCCC/KP/AWG/2010/CRP.2This text contains several drafts of COP decisions (all of which have yet to be agreed), such as: amendments to the Kyoto Protocol under Article 3.9; LULUCF; and emissions trading and market mechanisms.

Next Meeting

The next negotiation session will be at Tianjin, China, in October

Further details

We hope that our blog reports from the UNFCCC negotiations in Bonn have given you a flavour of what the climate change negotiations are achieving and what the big ticket issues are. Of course some readers will be interested to find more specific information on technical areas such as REDD, the treatment of maritime emissions and the effect of the technology discussions. If you would like to discuss any of these sector-specific advances in negotiations with us in detail, we would be delighted to assist.

Day 4: und so weiter

Yesterday, the Bonn story developed in the way we are now accustomed to: several AWG LCA drafting groups taking place in private and AWG KP meetings, all public, looking relatively amicable. Parties have crafted a rudimentary solution to the problem of a potential gap between Kyoto commitment periods, by deciding to amend Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol, where commitments are inscribed.

The EU is now on record with saying that Parties here are going backwards, re-opening matters agreed in the Copenhagen Accord in December 2009. In conversation, negotiators are hard pushed to find positive things to say about Cancun prospects.

Yesterday there were two interesting sessions, outside the main negotiations:

  1. A presentation by the adhoc working group on finance (AWG); and
  2. Consultations with the Mexican government on the form of the outcome at Cancun.

Nick Stern gave a masterclass on public finance from the AGF rostrum. While some developing countries feel that this group's mandate is questionable, it's clear the AGF is attempting to come up with more answers to the question of where climate finance will come from than others have done in the past. Some have suggested that their current suggestions do not appear to bring anything new to the table and there seems to be a desire to “get it over with”. The AGF will publish their report in October and only gave us a taster of what to expect. We do know that the group is considering carbon taxes and taxes on bunker fuels, among other potential fiscal measures.

The Mexican government appears to be in favour of deciding that Cancun will result in COP Decisions by Parties and not a binding deal on climate change, but consultations on the proposed outcome will continue among Parties.

On Monday we will summarise the main outcomes achieved by this conference.

Day 3: the (negotiation) tracks of my tears

Wednesday’s biggest talking point was the moment that Christiana Figueres was seen to cry during a Q&A session yesterday. The trigger for these tears was an innocuous question that a member of the delegation for youth asked her: “what kind of world do you think that we and our children will live in?”. The UNFCCC talks are no stranger to tearful speeches, or for that matter tantrums, but this has attracted notice because the Secretary-General’s role is under huge scrutiny and this is only Christiana’s first week in the job. Tears aside, the answers Christiana gave in the Q&A tell us a few things about our new Secretary-General:

  1. She is a world authority on the Clean Development Mechanism, knows how much work has been done to build up this mechanism and will give it due credit;
  2. She appears to be taking a cautious line on telling countries what they need to do to reach agreement; and
  3. She recognises that the multilateral process is under huge pressure.

Elsewhere, last month’s failed US Senate Bill on climate change overshadows events. The idea that the US will make good the emission reduction pledge it made at Copenhagen of 17 per cent on 2005 levels by 2020 (4 per cent on 1990 levels, where the EU is proposing cuts of 20-30 per cent) now seems improbable and this takes collective ambition levels down a notch. Another factor is that many Annex 1 Parties face a real/perceived threat of credit rating downgrades and climate change is a less pressing domestic issue for a government whose bonds may become junk.

The other important news is that the AWG LCA drafting groups are producing prodigious quantities of text and, negotiators are suggesting, moving further away from agreement. The negotiating text for the LCA track has grown to over 100 pages. Those parts that have been disclosed to Observers are full of provisional clauses and subclauses, enclosed in brackets. Most of the AWG LCA drafting groups is closed to Observers, so we can only conjecture what the big discussions on Finance (to be provided by Annex 1 Parties to developing countries) and (emission reduction) Numbers are about or whether tears are being shed in these rooms too.

Will our children and children’s children inherit dangerous climate change? Christiana, we feel your pain!

Day 1 and 2: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times?

Here in Bonn, the once glorious capital of the FDR, Charles Dickens’ “Tales of Two Cities” famous opening line seems to sum up the mood.

The bad news is that, with only nine negotiating days until Cancun, Parties are not inclined to find new solutions to old problems. As we flagged in our Introduction to this negotiating session, the new AWG KP paper about the legal consequences of a gap between Kyoto commitment periods has set off a few ripples here in Bonn. With only seventeen months to go until the end of the first Kyoto commitment period, this paper should be focussing Parties’ attention on the endgame but in fact seems to be an added distraction from the goal of an agreement at Cancun, or more likely, Johannesburg. The paper puts three legal options on the table:

  1. Amendment to Articles 20 and 21 of the Kyoto Protocol;
  2. Provisional application of an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol; and
  3. Extension of the first Commitment Period.

A contact group of Kyoto Protocol Parties met to discuss this paper on Tuesday but the discussion appears not to have been constructive. Parties don’t want to discuss ‘failure’ of the UNFCCC negotiations, which is what this paper represents, they would prefer to keep negotiating for a second commitment period even at this, the 11th hour.

The good news from Bonn is that discussions on Technology, Adaptation and REDD are proceeding with enough clarity and harmony for UNFCCC oldtimers here to contemplate agreement on these discrete areas before an agreement on emission reduction objectives, referred to here as “numbers”, is in the bag. Would a curate’s egg agreement on these three points, without a binding deal that actually reduces emissions globally, be a good thing?

Introduction

The thirteenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 13) and the eleventh session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA 11) are being held from Monday 2 August to Friday 6 August 2010 in Bonn, Germany.

An overview of the session can be found here: http://unfccc.int/meetings/ad_hoc_working_groups/lca/items/4381.php

Both groups will present their decisions to the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 16) and sixth session of the Conference of the parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (COP/MOP 6), in Cancún, Mexico, which will take place between 29 November and 10 December 2010.

We will be attending the negotiations. We will be reporting back on interesting developments over the course of this week.

What to look out for

There remain limited opportunities for the Parties to hash out agreements, ahead of the Cancún negotiations, so the pressure is on for negotiators to resolve the trickier points and to come clean on their emission reduction objectives.

It will be interesting to note what use Parties make of the new documents, and in particular the AWG-KP document setting out the legal considerations relating to a potential gap between the first and second commitment periods, which document has caused significant discussion among Observers: http://unfccc.int/documentation/documents/advanced_search/items/3594.php?rec=j&priref=600005922#beg

Last August's negotiations were not fruitful, as UNFCCC sessions go, because walkouts by various Parties brought negotiations to a standstill. Can things only get better... ?

AWG-LCA documents

The following documents have been prepared for the session and are available at http://unfccc.int/meetings/ad_hoc_working_groups/lca/items/4381.php

  • FCCC/AWGLCA/2010/8 Second iteration of the text to facilitate negotiations prepared by the Chair of the AWG-LCA
  • FCCC/AWGLCA/2010/9 Provision agenda and annotations. Note by the Executive Secretary
  • FCCC/AWGLCA/2010/10 Scenario note on the eleventh session. Note by the Chair

AWG-KP documents

The following documents have been prepared for the session and are available at http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/4577.php

  • FCCC/KP/AWG/2010/1 Provisional agenda and annotations. Note by the Executive Secretary
  • FCCC/KP/AWG/2010/2 Scenario note on the eleventh session. Note by the Chair
  • FCCC/TP/2010/3 Issues relating to the transformation of pledges for emission reductions into quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives: methodology and examples. Technical paper.
  • FCCC/KP/AWG/2010/10 Legal considerations relating to a possible gap between the first and subsequent commitment periods
  • FCCC/KP/AWG/2010/MISC.1 Views on the need for additional meeting time for the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention, and on organization of work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention. Submissions from Parties
  • FCCC/KP/AWG/2010/MISC.2 Views on the in-session workshop
  • FCCC/KP/AWG/2010/MISC.3 Proposals to address implications of issues identified in the work programme
  • FCCC/KP/AWG/2010/MISC.4 New available data from Annex 1 Parties
  • FCCC/KP/AWG/2010/MISC.5 Views on document FCCC/KP/AWG/2010/6/Add.1

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