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Urgency for progress steps up a notch
As week two of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn commences, the five subsidiary bodies find themselves at very different stages of progress compared to each other. The enormity of the challenges before the UNFCCC community to consolidate all concurrent discussions into an agreeable package of systematic and holistic recommendations (i.e draft legal text and/or preferred actions) to the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the Meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) in Doha later this year is becoming very evident.
The discussions taking place in each of the five negotiating tracks are not mutually exclusive. The discussions on new market based mechanisms (NMBMs) and non-market mechanisms (including establishing a common framework to relate new mechanisms to the UNFCCC processes) are a good example of a threshold issue that seems beholden to the decision making in other subsidiary bodies.
The outcomes from this particular discussion will inevitably influence the cost to countries of delivering on their international emissions reduction commitments and pledges, by either the extent to which they can access international carbon markets to trade abatement rights, and/or use nationally derived abatement against their obligations. As such, the discussion is of direct relevance to the deployment of CCS, given the necessary role carbon prices play in its demonstration and future deployment.
Decisions taken at COP 17 encouraged countries (both developed and developing) to explore the establishment and adoption of the use of NMBMs to enhance their mitigation efforts. This track of negotiation is being led by the Ad hoc Working Group on the Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA).
For developed countries, the NMBM dialogue appears to be one of how to operationalise institutional arrangements through ensuring tradable units can be tracked, complying with agreed standards and reporting requirements. But for developing countries the focus is still very much on the policy question of ‘what’. That is, what sort of framework (definitions and standards) can be established to hold abatement and related practices and outcomes under these mechanisms accountable to and/or consistent with the UNFCCC. In other words, should/can such abatement outcomes be used for international emission reduction compliance purposes?
The ‘what’ question is inherently linked to the political context of future emission reduction commitments. These sorts of discussions are proceeding in the Kyoto Protocol discussions (as in the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP)), as well as in the AWG-LCA, and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP).
For example, the AWG-KP is exploring the extent to which emission reduction pledges can/will be legally transposed into binding targets during the second commitment period. This will essentially be the system in place to shape how the global community responds to climate action over the period of 2013 to either 2017 or 2020. These discussions do not seem to be proceeding very quickly here in Bonn.
The AWG-LCA is also looking at the comprehensive implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action ‘beyond 2012’. This arises from the 2007 Bali Action Plan and was reaffirmed in COP 17. As such, it is looking to identify a global ‘goal’ for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050 which would manifest itself in a Shared Vision. But this dialogue is necessarily being held within a context of country capacity to deliver such emission reductions. In turn, it is intrinsically linked to the scope for enhanced mitigation efforts (including NMBMs, Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions, and sectoral approaches), financing mechanisms (including the US$100B a year by 2020 long term finance, which anecdotally one delegate characterised as the single unifying element of all developing countries), and technology deployment. As with the AWG-KP discussion, these intensely complex discussions are also proceeding quite slowly.
Similarly, the ADP is charged with defining the post-2020 legal architecture. This is clearly a development that evolves previous emission reduction efforts and arrangements (i.e the second commitment period discussions and all relevant mechanisms), and notions of future enhanced mitigation (and adaptation) commitments will largely depend on them. These ADP discussions continue to be stone-walled by procedural issues and seemed to have stalled at the present time.
So, while the discussion on NMBMs is not really a mystery to many of the negotiators, the pace of progress in the AWG-LCA on this important issue is being substantially driven by developments in the AWG-KP and ADP (as well as related operational and technical issues being negotiated in the SBI and SBSTA respectively). This is despite the fact that all but a few of the delegates seem to accept the benefits associated with harnessing the power of markets to facilitate abatement efforts, especially given the institutional precedents already in operation under the Kyoto Protocol’s Flexibility Mechanisms (applicable to mandated economy-wide cap and trade and/or voluntary project-level baseline-credit (offsets) schemes).
The key events that occurred today are summarised below.
- An ‘informal informal’ contact group of the CCS in the CDM met early this morning (these meetings are not announced and tend not to be advertised in the Daily Programme) and draft text has been agreed to. Unfortunately the text has not been distributed more publicly, but a contact group meeting is scheduled for Wednesday to finalise it. I suspect it will recommend a technical report be drafted on the issues of transboundary and possibly a global reserve, for consideration by SBSTA sometime after CMP 8, and for decision maybe at CMP 9.
- In the AWG-LCA Chair’s report to Observers, the AWG-LCA is scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday to take stock of the status of all issues before it (and possibly add some more due to some ambiguity of the Durban decisions), and to identify what needs to be discussed within a centralised contact group (that discusses policy-level issues) and what will be allocated to what’s called spin-off groups (to explore more specific issues). I suspect any deviation away from completing the tasks set at COP 17 and any attempt to extend its work plan beyond COP 18 will make for a very controversial discussion.
The ADP is scheduled to meet tomorrow to adopt the provisional agenda and allocate tasks to contact groups, having spent the past five days talking about procedural issues. I also suspect it will pick up where it left off on Saturday, but hopefully the new chair (who is clearly well respected by all parties) has found a way in the interim to break the deadlock that this new subsidiary body has found itself in.
If you would like to contact Mark while he is in Bonn, please do not hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +61 439 343117.
Topics:Policy legal and regulation