A Brief Look at How Negotiations is Conducted at the UNFCCC Climate Change Meetings.

At the opening plenary of the ADP2-7, Parties started to make their individual Sidat Yaffa, Ph.D.statements as to how each Party thinks the way forward should be for a successful outcome in Lima (COP20/CMP10) or in Paris (COP21/CMP11). The Co-Chairs mentioned at the opening plenary that a draft decision was issued at the October, 2014 meeting in Bonn. These drafts were on Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (which simply means how much mitigation a Party will do to curb global warming below a 2oC or 1.5oC) and Work Stream-II (which centers on matters related to paragraphs 7 and 8 of decision 1CP.17 (agenda item 3(b)). Parties were informed by the Co-Chairs that this draft decision would be the basis to start the negotiations in Lima. Finally, the Co-Chairs stated that all Parties need to build bridges between themselves so that an agreement could be reached in Lima. If not, the COP might make that decision for Parties in Lima. Time to start and end contact group and informal negotiations were highly adhered to by the Co-Chairs.

When the negotiations began, Parties stated that the draft text from the Bonn meetings in October, 2014 were not balanced and therefore it was not fair to use that text as a basis to start the negotiations. From there on, the Co-Chairs listened to views from Parties as to the elements that needed to be included in the new draft text. For example, Tuvalu, on behalf of the LDC Group with support from The Gambia stated that the UNFCCC process has to date not treated adaptation agenda on par with that of mitigation and therefore, we would like to see this reflected in the new draft text. Some Parties stressed the need to clarify the scope of the INDCs and the timeline to report on the national INDCs to the UNFCCC. We (Tuvalu and The Gambia) also urged all Parties to seriously recognize that climate change has devastating impacts on countries like the LDCs and that the level of ambition on mitigation defines the level of effort and support necessary for adaptation. This relationship needs to be specifically stated and addressed in the new draft text. Financial commitments mostly from public sources that are complimented by private sources should be a top-most priority for the Developed World in order to meet the 2 or 1.5 degree goal through mitigation. The LDCs emphasized that Parties could have INDC- mitigation and treat all adaptation elements in the Agreement separately. However, the AGN and G77 & China stressed that Parties should have both INDC- mitigation and INDC-adaptation treated equally in the future Agreement. Loss & Damage issue was not favorable to the Annex I Parties because of the implication of compensation to vulnerable countries like the LDCs. However, they (Annex I Parties) proposed to have bilateral help in case of Loss and Damages. After listening to views from all Parties, the Co-Chairs went back and drafted a new negotiating text that was divided into a decision text and an element text. This new text contained so many elements that the page number increased tremendously (originally say from 7 pages to 37 pages). An increase in the number of pages of a draft negotiating text makes the negotiations very complicated and time-consuming to reach an Agreement. Some Parties use that “trick” so that a deal is not reached for one reason or another!! After a second round of review by Parties, the second revised new text was revised again in order to condense it into fewer number of pages so that the negotiations could be easier and an Agreement could be reached within a shorter time period. However, with all efforts by Parties and the Co-Chairs to make a decision on this SBI Agenda Item, the negotiations became long and more protracted because Parties continued to add and delete words and items that they viewed as not in their favor. At the political level, Parties’ Ministers of Environment also helped in the process but they (the Ministers) could not break a deal. In the end, the Co-Chairs had to report back to the COP Presidency regarding Parties’ failure to make progress on the negotiations. The COP Presidency in a new strategy, called all Parties (on a Party by Party basis) in his office to listen to them for the last time so that a decision could be made. After these Party meetings with the COP Presidency, the Co-Chairs drafted a final decision text for adoption by Parties.

At the closing plenary on 13th December, 2014 at 1:23AM Peru local time, the COP Presidency presented the final draft decision text to Parties for adoption. The draft decision text was adopted by all Parties as a Decision finally. At this juncture, NO PARTY would like to take a political risk by objecting to the adoption of the Decision because NO PARTY wants to be blamed by the remaining 194 countries of the world for “holding the whole world at ransom”. This Decision is called LIMA CALL FOR CLIMATE ACTION. The final Decision was accepted by Parties as a compromise although some elements in the Decision text were favorable and/or were not favorable to the LDC Group. For example, the Loss and Damage element was not very clearly addressed. That is, the Decision just mentioned that Loss and Damage was acknowledged as an Agenda Item from the Warsaw Decision. This means that the LDC Group has to work hard in the upcoming ADP meetings in Geneva (in February, 2015) and in Bonn (June, 2015), respectively, so that the issue of compensation could be part of the 2015 Agreement or Protocol in Paris in 2015. Agenda items like NAPs and Matters Relating to the LDC Group passed as Decisions in Lima without much protracted effort.

Because of the procrastinating nature of the negotiation process, the ADP Agenda Item was concluded one day more than the scheduled day of closure of the meetings. The meetings were supposed to be closed on 12th December, 2014 but were ended on 13th December, 2014. The last three days (11th, 12th, and 13th December, 2014) of the meetings were characterized by sleepless nights. That is, if you sleep, you lose out on your Party’s interest to be included in the final Decision. The Gambian delegates following this ADP Agenda Item could not sleep for more than 4 hours in two days straight because of our small delegation number that followed this Agenda Item. Developed country Parties, on the other hand, send in many Party delegates so that each of those delegates could take 8-hour shifts in the negotiations. This strategy puts less negotiation stress on each of the Party delegates. For that matter, I urge the international donor community in The Gambia chip in more funds so that The Gambia can send many, many delegates to these meetings for a maximum period of two weeks. I know they (the international donor community in The Gambia) can do it!! Get in touch with the Head of The Gambia Delegation at these meetings, who happens to be the Minister of Environment or the UNFCCC Focal Point at the Department of Water Resources with your donor cheques so that The Gambia could send 20 to 25 delegates at COP21/CMP11 in Paris, France in December, 2015 and from there on to every COP meetings which are held once a year. The Paris COP meetings will be a turning point in reducing global warming in years to come. Therefore, The Gambia has to be there in large numbers and in full force!!

NB: The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) is a subsidiary body that was established by decision 1/CP.17 in December 2011. The mandate of the ADP is to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, which is to be completed no later than 2015 in order for it to be adopted at the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and for it to come into effect and be implemented from 2020. By the same decision, the COP launched a work plan on enhancing mitigation ambition to identify and to explore options for a range of actions that can close the ambition gap with a view to ensuring the highest possible mitigation efforts by all Parties.

If you need further clarification on any of the terminologies used here, please send me an email with your questions. Thank you for reading.

Sidat Yaffa, Ph.D.

Contact: slsconsultinggambia@gmail.com