Reed Smith Client Alert

Authors: Peter Zaman Pryderi Diebschlag

Type: Client Alerts

Introduction

The focus of Thursday’s high-level ministerial discussions turned to the Durban Platform and sought to capitalise on the common ground that was established yesterday in the AWG-DP.

As before, the array of contact groups, informal consultations and meetings under the COP, CMP and AWG-DP workstreams continued throughout the day, culminating in the COP/CMP President convening another informal stocktaking plenary session in the evening.

High-Level Ministerial Dialogue

The limited progress that was made yesterday appeared to be short-lived. Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, again declared what he believed to be areas of convergence, before clashing once more with China – and on this occasion, Venezuela – by reiterating his intention to see the evolution of the categorisation of countries as Annex I or non-Annex I. Argentina did not enter this debate, but noted that the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) are a cornerstone of the Convention.

As we edge closer towards the end of the conference, a growing number of states are expressing their disappointment at the continued lack of a clear roadmap towards an agreement in 2015. It is understood that such a roadmap is a priority, and there are an increasing number of calls for parties to bring their emission-reduction targets to the table in 2014. However, with this one target beginning to emerge as a potentially agreed objective, we may find that the roadmap is not especially detailed when it appears.

While the draft text circulated in the AWG-DP has indeed assisted discussions and created some convergence between the parties, actual progress at drafting, setting targets, or agreeing to the substantive terms of such an agreement, is unlikely to happen until COP 20 at the earliest.

AWG-DP As may be expected, discussion under the AWG-DP substantially mirrored that of the high-level ministerial dialogue. Notably, Australia countered the suggestion that emission reduction commitments should be prepared for COP 20, instead stating that only “initial commitments” were expected, and those by COP 21. Norway was quick to bring discussions back on track, requesting “indicative commitments” by the end of 2014.

Consensus seemed also to be reached that any commitments should be “nationally determined” rather than set by the international community. Japan cautioned that care was needed to avoid the text-strengthening divisions between developed and developing countries.

Despite intending to close the working group on Thursday evening, traditions were upheld and discussions continued late into the night. It was proposed that a further draft text would be prepared for Friday morning, ahead of the closing plenary session.

COP/CMP Informal Stocktaking Plenary It seemed that a somewhat deflated mood has befallen the COP in Warsaw, buoyed only by a small number of positive signs. Ministers for South Africa and Sweden highlighted that bilateral consultations were continuing in relation to ‘loss and damage’, while COP/CMP President Korolec noted that discussions regarding the clean development mechanism (CDM) are nearing a conclusion.

The EU also requested more time for discussions as to the methodological issues under the Kyoto Protocol (Protocol):

  • Article 5 (which commits Annex I Parties – developed nations – to having in place, no later than 2007, national systems for the estimation of greenhouse gas emissions by sources and removals by sinks)
  • Article 7 (which requires Annex I Parties – developed nations – to submit annual greenhouse gas inventories, as well as national communications at regular intervals – both including supplementary information to demonstrate compliance with the Protocol)
  • Article 8 (which establishes that the inventories and communications submitted by Annex I Parties – developed nations – will be reviewed by expert review teams)

This working stream closed Thursday, but as an agreement was felt not only imminent, but also key to ensuring ratification of the second commitment period under the Protocol, it was agreed to re-open discussions Friday morning.

COP/CMP President Korolec also reported that a decision had been reached on financing REDD+. The finance section had been the sticking point, with the Coalition of Rainforest Nations, led by Papua New Guinea, pushing for all finance to be placed under a new REDD+ Committee. That provision was finally removed. This decision will make REDD+ a formal mechanism of the UNFCCC with agreed rules for establishing reference levels, recognizing mitigation activities, creating institutions, ensuring safeguards, and most importantly, creating performance-based financing mechanisms.

Conclusion

Thursday’s informal stocktaking plenary was punctuated by China declaring that the COP was “on the verge of delivering nothing”, and walking out of the negotiations, purportedly in solidarity with civilised society.

The frustration of having made little progress over the past two weeks is beginning to show. The developed and developing nations have found it difficult to negotiate a middle ground on the main dividing issues at this conference, namely, ‘loss and damage’, historical responsibility, mitigation, adaptation, and funding for the US$100 billion target by 2020. This impasse is now clearly affecting motivation, and in some cases, participation at negotiations is also dropping rapidly. One can only hope that the parties can come out of this conference looking ahead to Lima and Paris with hope, if not confidence.

Client Alert 2013-318