Burning issues for COP.21: Road to Paris

720x300_cle0a69baUNFCCC came with a draft negotiation text in March first week, after six days of discussion in Geneva. This ‘negotiation text’ comprises of a wide range of options and proposals, which includes all most everything and anything, which are necessary to combat with climate change issues. This is now the official negotiating text for an agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions, set to be signed off in Paris this December. However, parties and observer organisations need to evaluate the ‘negotiation text’ with a pragmatic approach to determine, what are the practical and doable goals that world leaders can agree upon to seal a deal in Paris.

Clearly, some of the proposals of this ‘text’ are outcomes of previous COP discussions; for instance, submission of INDCs, national inventory report containing estimated emissions and removals, in accordance with IPCC guidance; undertaking a national adaptation plan (NAP) process and initiate as nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) as appropriate in the context of climate resilience and highlighting the need for financing for forestry in line with the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. Focuses on mitigation has been stressed upon by proposing more robust INDCs as well as another newly proposed mechanism as diversified enhanced mitigation actions (DEMAs). These DEMAs also include REDD+.

However, the negotiation text did not provide clear directions on agriculture sector development as major drivers of deforestation, loss and damage as well as mobilising climate finance. Instead the ‘text’ proposes a few debatable issues, which are going to be burning issues in COP.21. For instance, the draft text proposes to introduce an economic mechanism to regulate emissions under which emissions trading system and a new version of the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism would be introduced to support low carbon innovation in developing countries – promisingly entitled CDM+. It means countries with economy-wide emissions reductions targets could trade with one another in order to reach their goals in the most cost effective way. The hope is that this could incentivise emerging economies to adopt this kind of target. However, this has not been linked to the ratification of Kyoto Protocol and it also undermines the chaos, global leaders faced in Doha while giving an extension to CDM.

Another controversy, which could emerge from this draft text, is tax on oil exports. This would be closely modelled on Ecuador’s Daly-Correa tax, which the government has promoted as an effective way to transfer money from rich, oil importing countries to poorer developing nations. Ecuador has already paraded this idea before OPEC, where they proposed that all proceeds of the tax – around 3-5% levied on every barrel of oil – should be transferred directly into the UN’s Green Climate Fund. Similarly, the draft negotiation text also proposes a very ambitious proposal to parties to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050! Interestingly, this proposal is supported by many civil society actors, who see it as key to delegitimising the fossil fuel industry. But it is even more radical than what is proposed by the IPCC, which is that emissions should fall by 40-70% below 2010 levels by 2050 in order to stay below the 2 degree C limit. Another variation includes full decarbonisation by 2050 for rich countries, and a sustainable development pathway for the poorer nations.

Besides, UNFCCC proposes in the text that parties recognise that addressing climate change will also help their countries to attain “the highest possible level of health”. Inclusion of this text will definitely trigger a protest from China considering its industrial cities such as Beijing which regularly finds it choking on the hazardous air quality, partly as a result of burning coal. No need to mention about the emissions reductions targets for ships and planes, climate justice tribunal proposed by Bolivia, human rights and gender equality!

The message is clear; it is good to have this draft negotiation text, but can parties reach into a constructive pre-consensus before Paris or all of us will meet in Paris to disagree? To find answer to this question, we must wait for December.

Keshav C Das

Senior Advisor, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation

Kathmandu, April 01, 2015

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