Despite growing evidence that the effects of climate change are occurring earlier and more dramatically than foreseen just a few years ago, the UNFCCC negotiations continue to demonstrate how difficult it is to reach agreement on a broad-based binding framework for collective international action on climate change. The two weeks of negotiations (June 6-17) in Bonn got off to a rocky start with agenda disputes holding up progress for several days.
These disputes over seemingly arcane issues in some cases reflect important substantive issues (e.g., where and when to negotiate developing country reporting requirements) and in other cases seem to be delay tactics from familiar sources (Saudis seeking a mechanism to compensate them for reduced fossil fuel exports). Overall the two weeks reflect halting progress in some technical areas and disturbing developments in others – such as the lost opportunity to improve public participation in the negotiations. Meanwhile, some areas such as MRV and the fate of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol remain part of a seemingly intractable (for now anyway) political standoff with key players unwilling or unable to bring solutions to the table. With only one week of negotiating time likely to be scheduled before the next Conference of the Parties meeting in Durban this December, the prospect of a major breakthrough this year seems remote. That said, here is a review of some of the significant developments in the areas CIEL is following most closely.
One of the key issues on negotiator’s minds in Bonn was the fate of the Kyoto Protocol. Will there be a second commitment period following the end of the first at the end of 2012 or not? This question was left unresolved in Copenhagen and Cancun. Yet it is the key to unlocking progress in other areas. While negotiators in Bonn held several meetings on legal issues, they did so behind closed doors. Sources inside the talks tell as that for the most part Parties repeated old positions with little progress, but there may be some movement in bi-lateral meetings between key players such as the EU and G-77/China. One of the best chances for progress in the UNFCCC is for a “green” alliance that bridges the north/south divide to emerge and provide leadership in the negotiations. We will keep our fingers crossed…
MEASUREMENT, REPORTING, AND VERIFICATION
Agreement on work plans for MRV did not go well. First off, most of the discussions were closed so it was hard to get a sense of where things stood during the negotiations. Second, it seems that while many issues were discussed, there was little agreement on the scope and function of reporting and review provisions, as well as the process for moving forward. For example, while there was clear support for workshops on biennial reporting and review for developed countries, there was no agreement as to when. On the developing country side, it is even less clear what is in the pipeline between now and COP 17, though there seem to be suggestions for technical papers and/or meetings. The only clear outcome was that Parties will be submitting views on all these issues. (So, there’s more to come.) These technical conversations and exchanges can bring much to the negotiations, but they can only go so far in helping unpack the political fights. At the end of the day, if developed countries don’t deliver on their commitments, particularly financing, it is unlikely that developing countries will give much on MRV.
Unlike a number of the other issue groups, the REDD+ negotiations were mostly open, which enabled us to actually follow the negotiations on forest monitoring systems. CIEL is particularly focused on the information sharing system that will be needed to ensure safeguards are addressed and respected. The open sessions saw a discussion of the system’s purpose, scope, and relationship to existing reporting processes, but progress slowed dramatically once the discussions went behind closed doors. That said, there are some baby steps. Subject to funding and availability, there is a plan to have technical expert meetings before COP 17 to further explore the issues. Both Parties and observers are invited to submit comments by September 19, 2011.
As civil society observers, we have faced a number of challenges regarding public participation at the UNFCCC negotiations. In general, we are quite limited in our ability to engage directly in, or even observe, the negotiations, and in extreme circumstances, we have been denied access altogether. To address these concerns, the UNFCCC held a workshop on ways to improve public participation in the negotiating process, which allowed countries and observers a much-needed opportunity to exchange ideas and proposals that will allow for more effective and meaningful participation in the negotiations.
Many countries recognize the value and need for enhanced civil society participation, but apparently not all. During the final negotiations on this issue, several countries (specifically Saudi Arabia, India and Antigua and Barbuda) rejected many of the proposals to improve transparency and participation in the UNFCCC process. In particular, these three countries strongly opposed language encouraging more informal meetings to be open to observers. The draft conclusions – significantly weakened from the Chair’s earlier text – will not be negotiated until next June (Saudi Arabia and Antigua and Barbuda objected to formal discussions on public participation in Durban).
APPEALS PROCEDURE IN CLEAN DEVELOPMENT MECHANISM
Also related to public participation, we closely followed negotiations on an appeals procedure for CDM Executive Board decisions. Going into the Bonn negotiations, the Parties considered text that would allow review of rejected decisions only, which would only benefit project developers. CIEL and others advocated toopen this process so that affected peoples and communities are able to use this appeals procedure to address their concerns with CDM projects. We made some inroads by encouraging countries to include language that would (1) allow appeals of all Executive Board decisions (not just rejections) and (2) give indigenous peoples and local communities directly affected by CDM projects the right to appeal. Although the language in the draft conclusions is bracketed (which means that it is not agreed upon), it is a significant step in the right direction and provides a basis for further discussion.
All in all, the Bonn session provided incremental progress in some areas, but we all left with the feeling that the urgency of the negotiations fails by far to match the scale and scope of the climate problem we face.
Originally posted on June 29, 2011.