Every year in December, delegates (called Conference of Parties dubbed COP) from 195 countries (including The Gambia) in the world gather in one country to negotiate on climate change agenda items (ex. Agriculture, Finance, GHG Emission Gaps, Adaptation, Mitigation, etc.) in order to have reduced global temperatures for human existence. This year (which is COP20/CMP10), Peru hosts that conference in her beautiful city of Lima from 1st to 12th December, 2014. It is estimated that over 5,000 delegates are gathered at this conference this year.
At the opening ceremony (called Opening Plenary) before any negotiation started on 1st December, 2014, the Foreign Minister of Poland (who is the out-going COP President) thanked delegates for attending this year’s conference in the beautiful city of Lima, Peru. The out-going COP President highlighted the success made in Warsaw, Poland (at COP19/CMP9) in December, 2013. An example of that success is the European Union pledge of cutting its GHG emissions by 40% by the year 2030. He also stated that USA and China agreed at the UN Headquarters in New York City, USA in September, 2014 to cut their GHG emissions at the bilateral level. At the end of his speech, The Polish Presidency handed over the COP Presidency to the Peruvian Foreign Minister.
In his turn, the new COP President welcomes all Parties to Lima, Peru. He stated that there is great promise to start the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a funding mechanism established by the COP, with US$9 billion in order to use that money to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts. Among other achievements, he stressed on the great work done by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a grouping of world scientists that assesses climate change research information and presents those assessment reports (called ARs) to the COP and the UNFCCC Secretariat, in relation to scientific facts about global warming. It is important to note that The Gambia contributed to the current IPCC 5th Assessment Report (called AR5) to the UNFCCC!! Other speakers at the opening plenary included the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, the Mayor of the city of Lima, the President of Peru (via a taped video), and the Chair of the IPCC. All these speakers emphasized the need to make more progress in Lima on climate change so that all of us can have very successful decisions in Paris, France in December, 2015.
At the beginning of the negotiations, the Chairs of the different bodies under the UNFCCC reminded delegates of a few house-keeping “chores” that all delegates should endeavor to adhere to during meetings. Some of those “chores “ are: (1) time allocated to each agenda item for negotiations will be strictly adhered to. For example, all meetings should end at 6PM local time each day. This is the instruction that the UNFCCC Secretariat (UN body responsible for coordinating these meetings) tells the Chairs, Co-Chairs, or Facilitators of these meetings to abide by. These Chairs, have surely taken this time management instruction seriously because I have seen it played out at the meetings that I participated in. What is the reason for this time management instruction? In the past, some delegates, for many reasons, derail the negotiation process by prolonging their Party interventions on the floor during negotiations. The Secretariat realized that many agenda items should be concluded (i.e. many agreement texts have to be agreed on by all Parties) here in Lima so that those agenda items could be COP Decisions in Paris, France in December, 2015; and (2) the three-minute rule. That is, any Party making an intervention on the floor at the opening negotiations should not take more than 3 minutes to do that. However, since the meetings are a party-driven process (meaning Parties make decisions on agenda items and not the COP Presidency or the UNFCCC Secretariat), sometimes, a few Parties go beyond that three-minute rule because they need to finish stressing their points of interest during their interventions on the floor. Seems confusing and contradictory? Well, that is the nature of the job. If you happen to be on The Gambian delegation (headed by The Gambia Minister of Environment) one day and attend these meetings, this is the lesson you should learn first. Any progress made so far? I will report on that next week. You can also follow developments at these meetings online as well.
Sidat Yaffa, Ph.D.