Pre-COP17 Climate Conference in Panama: Day 1

Amid much of expectations from the Parties to fast track the negotiations, the last round of Intersessional before the COP has begun in Panama. Positive side of the first day’s development was marked by intention of the parties to get into the real business. Pretty surprises were there in store during the post lunch session of the AWG LCA Plenary, where the decision was made to allow the Observer Organisations to the first and the closing meeting of the informal sessions of contact groups. In the opening plenary of the KP, parties expressed concerns about the lack of political will to make substantial progress and ensure that there is no gap between the first and the second commitment period of the KP. The Africa group, the AOSIS, the LDCs iterate the need for strong legally binding agreement to keep the threats of climate change at bay.

Most of the G77 Parties that took the floor emphasized on the fact that the Durban outcome should conclude on the scale of emission reduction for the Annex 1 countries, operationalisation of the equity and historical framework as the elements of the Durban Outcome. For this the Parties expressed the need for enhanced political will to meet the requirements.

The Africa group emphasized the need for a legally binding outcome which will be in line with the elements established by the Convention. They iterated that the need for full separation between the two tracks so that there is no delay for the second commitment period of the KP to come into force. Further they have raised concerns on the fact that the Parties are using the lack of progress in the AWG LCA to stall the progress in arriving at a decision on KP second commitment period. They categorically expressed the need for adopting an amendment to Article 3.9 of Protocol to ensure that the Second commitment period is agreed at Durban.

EU and other Annex 1 country groupings emphasized the need for all countries who are responsible for substantial GHG emissions to be covered under the post 2012 arrangement. EU has specifically said that the two tracks approach need to deliver. This will be the stepping stone of the future substantial comprehensive legally binding outcome which will ensure that all major GHG emitting countries come under that framework.

Similar was the view expressed by the Umberlla group . The key message from their statement iterated the need to bring all the emerging economies under the guise of the legally binding agreement so that they have legally binding commitments. Interesting they expressed that the KP second commitment period should be developed in a way so that ‘all major emitters find it acceptable’.

In the LCA Plenary, the most important decision was the opening of the informal group discussions to the observer organisations. The Chair has proposed that the first and last meeting of the informal consultations would be made open to the observer organizations. This has been a positive development since the Bonn session. The SBI also in its report recommended for the opening of the informal meetings to the observer organizations.

Two informal meetings took place during the first day of the business. And on technology, the Chair is going to come up with a compiled version of the proposal which will have the areas of convergence and divergence within the ideas submitted by the parties. While there is a substantial amount of convergence in the roles and function of the CTC&N within the different proposals, the issues like criteria for the host of CTC and the evaluation procedure, and the governance of the CTC are yet to be addressed.

In short, during the first day, the urgency from the Parties to carry on with the task at hand for Durban is reflection of the fact that there is some progress. The Chair of the LCA very categorically said that the mandate for this Session is to come up with negotiating text in all of the informal groups break ups. Further, the South African minister for environment is going to arrive during the last three days of the meeting to have a set of high level bilateral meetings with parties as an initiative for the COP presidency and ensure inclusiveness to the process. Having said that, the real challenge is to inject momentum into the process. How that is to be done, and what kind of political capital needs to be invested are some immediate issues that the leaders back home needs to be sorted.