Today, the Co-Chairs of the ADP—the ad-hoc all-nation working group that is responsible for writing the Paris climate agreement—released their new draft of a potential streamlining approach for the standing legal text, agreed in Geneva, in February. The Co-Chairs note, in a preface, to this new draft, that “inclusion of certain (sets of) articles or paragraphs is without prejudice to the views of the Parties, and that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
The climate negotiations are a global brainstorming process, focused on implementation of the 1992 Rio Climate Treaty, also known as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). That “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” is a nod to the sovereignty of nation states, and to the requirement for a consensus decision at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP21) in Paris, later this year.
The current negotiating process is substantially different, improved, and more conducive to ambitious outcomes, than in previous years. A few key points to consider:
- Previous negotiations—Cancun, Durban, Doha and Warsaw—set in motion a process whereby each nation can adopt a nationally determined strategy for fully mobilizing its own capabilities to reduce harmful emissions and speed the transition to a clean energy economy.
- This means we have a framework designed to motivate a “race to the top”, where economically, diplomatically and otherwise, nations are rewarded for early and ambitious action, and there is a clear global direction of travel: low carbon prosperity.
- The Lima Call for Climate Action included the more ambitious 1.5ºC target for maximum global average temperature rise—a potential motivator for earlier, more aggressive investment in low-carbon development.
- The Geneva negotiating text—currently the active legal document—allowed each nation to add constructive ideas and contains “something for everyone”.
- Among the most motivational and transformational provisions included are: full decarbonization by 2050, negative emissions by 2100, the 1.5ºC temperature-rise limit, and a requirement that there be “no backsliding” on any area of climate action.
- A new collaborative framework is being developed—outside the UNFCCC process, but in support of its success—to bring governments, intergovernmental organizations, business leaders and civil society groups together in a multi-stakeholder process to build capacity for and implement best-practice carbon pricing strategies.
- In June, the G7 nations committed to support decarbonization of the global economy by the year 2100.
- Also in June, the Major Groups requested that the Co-Chairs of the ADP, the all-nation working group writing the Paris agreement, produce their own suggested streamlined text, as a reference for refining the Geneva text and negotiating toward Paris. (Today’s release.)
- The streamlining approach the ADP Co-Chairs have taken aims to shorten the text and eliminate redundancies while ensuring no active provisions or principles are taken out. That will be for the negotiators to work out, when talks re-open at the end of August.
There is emerging consensus that all nations should be moving as quickly as possible to economy-wide low-carbon development, with cost-effective economic instruments and catalytic subsidy reform. We are already seeing escalating ambition from leading economies and from developing countries, and there is serious momentum toward activating a process in Paris that will ensure we continue to see escalating ambition year after year, and a process designed to ensure resilient prosperity while all economies phase out the emission of greenhouse gases.
The new document is being described by the Co-Chairs not as a draft agreement or a new negotiating text—though it is, in a sense, a suggested course for both—but rather as a “tool”, a reference that can be used to facilitate a more constructive and cohesive negotiating process. This tool is intellectual and procedural guidance for the national governments who will decide what the final agreement looks like.
The Co-Chairs have said the Paris agreement will actually be a “Paris Climate Package”:
- a formal consensus agreement to move forward according to agree principles, that document an expression of the mandate in the 1992 Rio Climate Treaty (the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), which mandates action to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system
- a formal consensus decision of the Conference of the Parties to adopt the agreement
- an annex including nationally determined contributions (to the global effort) from all 196 parties to the UNFCCC, which will effectively be the action agenda, with each NDC rooted in each nation’s system of laws, and so legally binding
The Paris Climate Package might also include a new “work plan” for implementation of the Agreement and the NDCs, and for ratcheting up or escalating ambition, over time. This has not been formally set in motion, but is one option that exists for streamlining the agreement text, while also setting a clear program for action.
Major sticking points that will need solving continue to be: financing for global distributed generation, cost-effective or no-cost technology transfer, proactive differentiated responsibility (the biggest polluters doing the most, while all nations do the maximum possible within their respective capabilities), and whether prescriptions for carbon pricing instruments will be included, suggested, or required, by the Paris Climate Package.
Civil society groups and developing nations, especially island states, will be calling for the most ambitious outcome: 100% renewables by 2050, negative emissions soon after, and coordinated action to stay below the 1.5ºC temperature-rise limit.
Two staples for assessing and ensuring future success will be:
- A robust and authoritative role for citizen, stakeholder and civil society engagement
- A new standard for ongoing review with regular upgrading of national climate action
The Streamlined Text Draft and Scenario Note presented today by the ADP Co-Chairs make important improvements to the language of the emerging Paris agreement. It creates a solid foundation for a new, more action-oriented negotiating process, where governments will be deciding not only what global targets to aim for, but how best to mobilize national climate action that attracts investment, builds sustainable long-term development, and situates climate leaders as major contributors to shaping the future landscape of global politics.
There is no one key agenda item where failure will pull the whole agreement apart, and that is a strength in the 2015 process.