COP 23 marked the two years of negotiations since the Paris Agreement was struck in 2015 and later ratified in 2016. The two years of negotiations have been on technical issues on rule book that would be basis of implementation of Paris Agreement from 2020 onward. The significance of COP 23 was that it was first COP hosted under presidency of Fiji, a small island developing country in Pacific, already threatened from sea level rise. Also this is the first after withdrawal of US from Paris Agreement and thus it also became significant politically with role of US under watch.
The key expectations from COP 23
Pre-2020: Though few countries including India in South Asia, have been raising an issue of Pre – 2020 ambition of developed countries, this has been completely ignored to the extent that the facilitative dialogue carried out in 2016 in Marrakesh was very low profile. However, one key issue that stalled the negotiations briefly in early days of the conference was no progress on pre-2020 climate action. This caused two main concerns for developing that rich countries have not done enough to meet their mitigation and financial commitments made for the period up to 2020:
At first, many developed countries refused to add the Pre 2020 in the COP 23 agenda arguing that there is no space to include any more new issues. However, the issue was in the end they conceded, and pre-2020 ambition on mitigation and means of implementation was agreed with a decision to review the efforts made so far.
This included an agreement to form additional stocktaking sessions in 2018 and 2019 to review progress on reducing emissions, as well as two assessments of climate finance to be published in 2018 and 2020. These submissions will then be pulled together in a synthesis report on pre-2020 ambition ahead of COP24, which takes place in December next year in Katowice, Poland. Also the Parties instructed UNFCCC to make extra efforts for ratification on Kyoto Protocol 2.
Talanoa Dialogue aka Facilitative Dialogue 2018
Countries agreed two years ago in Paris that there would be one-off moment in 2018 to “take stock” of how climate action was progressing. This information will be used to inform the next round of NDCs. Originally called the “facilitative dialogue 2018”, the Fiji Presidency has given new name as “Talanoa dialogue”. This was to reflect a traditional approach to discussions used in Fiji for an “inclusive, participatory and transparent” process in 2020. The preparatory phase of the Talanoa dialogue will now begin over the coming year, ahead of the political phase conducted by ministers at COP24 in Poland. A key moment for the Talanoa dialogue will also be the publication of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 1.5C special report in September 2018 that will bring the issue of urgency with gap in mitigation that need to be bridged.
Paris Work plan / Paris Rulebook
The ‘Paris workbook’ made significant progress since COP22. The discussions this year established more technical rules and processes needed to fulfil the Paris Agreement’s ambition. These discussions are under Adhoc Working Group on Paris Agreement (APA) and the deadline for this work is COP24.
The goal in Bonn was to create a draft of these implementation guidelines, with options and disagreements outlined as clearly as possible to show what still needs resolving. The final COP23 text recognises that an additional negotiating session may be needed in 2018 between the May inter-session and COP24 in December to ensure the Paris rule book is finished on time. This will be decided during May’s scheduled inter-session meeting. More progress was made on the global stocktaking exercise – a more formal version of the 2018 Talanoa dialogue – which is embedded in the Paris Agreement and set to take place in 2023 and every five years thereafter. Discussions in Bonn centred on equity as well as the scope of the stock take.
The key point of Article 9.5 was to improve the predictability of financial flows to developing countries, thereby providing information to help them develop their climate plans. There was no formal space on COP23’s agenda to discuss how to develop the guidelines for finance. In the end, negotiators settled on allowing extra time to discuss this issue at the intersession meetings between now and COP24 in December.
A second sticking point on finance was the Adaptation Fund. Parties had previously agreed that it “should” serve under the Paris Agreement, but the specifics of this had not been decided. On the final day of COP23, member countries of the Kyoto Protocol, which the fund currently serves, at last formally agreed that the fund “shall” serve the Paris Agreement. The Adaptation Fund also received more than $90 m (including EUR 50m from Germany) in new pledges during the COP. The same amount was also pledged to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). French president Emmanuel Macron told COP23 delegates during his speech that France will cover any shortfall in funding for the IPCC.
Loss and Damage
Loss and Damage has now become the “third pillar” of the UNFCCC process, alongside mitigation and adaptation.
But unlike mitigation and adaptation with their promised $100 billion-a-year in climate finance – there are currently no sources of finance for loss and damage. The work-stream of the Paris rule book currently doesn’t include loss and damage explicitly as an agenda point, meaning loss and damage is not given a major space in the political UNFCCC process. Developing countries will fight to make sure that L&D is well integrated across the board with respect to the implementation of Paris Agreement.
COP23 included discussions on loss and damage as part of Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) but developing countries are demanding that L&D should be a permanent agenda item in the Subsidiary Bodies’ meetings. The WIM agreed on a new “five-year rolling work plan” for the mechanism, finalising a proposal from the October meeting of the Executive Committee (ExCom). However, the WIM has yet to bring forward any concrete plan on finance – the key sticky issue in loss-and-damage discussions. Developing countries demanded that an “Expert Group” to be established to implement the “action and support” function of the ExCom but in the end, against the demand of permanent agenda and an expert group, they were offered just a one-off “expert dialogue” on L&D finance in April-May 2018.
This has been a long pending discussion under SBSTA since Durban COP 17. It has been discussed but parties were not able to move this further. Issues of adaptation and mitigation in Agriculture were the sticky points, wherein developing countries wanted to keep focus on adaptation whereas developed countries wanted to bring mitigation into the discourse. After 5 long years some movement has allowed discussion to move further and break the deadlock on agriculture. Parties have agreed to work over the next 3 years on a series of issues linking climate change and agriculture. Countries have now been asked to submit their views on what should be included in the work by March 2018, with options including how to improve soil carbon and fertility, how to assess adaptation and resilience and the creation of better livestock management systems. The outcome on agriculture has been welcome, calling it a “major step” to address the need to adapt agriculture to climate change and meet a growing global demand for food. With the conclusion of COP23, the clock begins to tick for the major deadlines and events from 2018 to 2020. There is also an agreement for Joint work of SBI and SBSTA which is in line with CAN position on Agriculture.