Paris Agreement body agrees on draft work plan for 2017
At Marrakech, the task of outlining the work to be done in 2017 to implement the Paris treaty was undertaken by an ad hoc working group. The following article reports on the debate and adoption of the draft conclusions of this working group.
T Ajit and Meena Raman
THE UNFCCC's Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) convened its closing plenary in Marrakech on 14 November, where Parties adopted the draft conclusions proposed by Co-Chairs Sarah Baashan (Saudi Arabia) and Jo Tyndall (New Zealand).
The draft conclusions, which went through several iterations after the APA Co-Chairs presented them to the Parties on 11 November, outline the work to be carried forth in 2017 under each of the agenda items.
Since the Marrakech climate talks began on 7 November, the APA had conducted several informal consultations on various agenda items such as guidance on features, information and accounting of nationally determined contributions (NDCs); guidance related to the adaptation communications; modalities, procedures and guidelines for the transparency framework for action and support; matters relating to the global stocktake; modalities and procedures for the effective operation of the committee to facilitate implementation and promote compliance; and further matters related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement (PA).
With respect to further guidance on NDCs, the APA 'invited Parties to submit, by 1 April 2017, their views on issues discussed under this agenda item, taking into consideration the questions identified by Parties'. It was also decided that a 'roundtable' on the issue would take place on 6 May 2017.
On adaptation communications, the APA requested the secretariat to prepare an information note on the vehicles for the communications, invited Parties to submit further views, and requested a workshop to be organised on 6 May 2017.
On transparency of action and support, the APA listed four questions and invited submissions from Parties. The four questions were around the modalities, procedures and guidelines on the transparency framework; building on existing arrangements; flexibility for developing countries; and other elements to be considered. It was also agreed that an intersession workshop would be convened prior to the May 2017 session of the climate talks to be held in Bonn, Germany.
On matters related to the global stocktake to assess the collective progress of Parties on the implementation of the PA, the APA welcomed the advice of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) on 'how the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change can inform the global stocktake', and invited Parties to submit their views on issues discussed under the agenda item.
On facilitating implementation and promoting compliance, the APA invited Parties to submit their views and proposals, among others, on modalities and procedures for the effective operation of the compliance committee.
On further matters related to the implementation of the PA, the APA 'noted that during the session it had constructive and rich discussions on all issues under this agenda item, including substantive discussions on the Adaptation Fund that were launched at this session. One group of Parties presented a draft decision, with a view to the Adaptation Fund serving the Paris Agreement, for adoption by CMA 1 [Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement]. However, other Parties were of the view that such a decision would be premature.'
(During the course of the week, developed countries were against the Adaptation Fund serving the Paris Agreement.)
The G77 and China had on 12 November presented a draft decision for the consideration of Parties during the informal consultations, but developed countries described the proposed decision as 'problematic'. The G77 requested the APA Co-Chairs to reflect the proposed text in their report to the COP, which was done by the Co-Chairs.
The G77 in their proposed draft decision had recommended that 'the Adaptation Fund in accordance with decision 1/CP.21 [taken in Paris in 2015] shall also serve the PA, on interim basis, and requests the Adaptation Fund board to take the necessary actions as appropriate'. It also called for a decision to mandate the Subsidiary Body for Implementation to further discuss legal and institutional issues related to expanding the mandate of the Adaptation Fund to serve the PA, based on proposals to be provided by the Parties and a technical paper to be prepared by the Secretariat with a view to providing recommendations to the CMP (the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol) and CMA for their consideration. It also requested the Secretariat to take the necessary action for the implementation of the decision, in preparation for the first meeting of the CMA consideration of the issue.
According to the draft conclusions adopted by the APA, 'For all items on the APA agenda where there is a call for the submission of views from Parties taking into consideration guiding questions, the APA emphasised that the questions in no way restrict Parties from making submissions on any aspect of the issues on the APA agenda.'
The hour-long APA closing plenary also saw groups of Parties stressing on the future work of the APA in their interventions.
Speaking for the G77 and China, Thailand said that with the unprecedented speed at which the PA had entered into force, the APA could show that the work is progressing by preserving the delicate balance of the PA on all the issues. NDCs are the key vehicles to deliver climate action on mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation.
Thailand said that it welcomed the further guidance on NDCs, and supported the proposal to hold a roundtable and call for submissions. It underscored that any guidelines should be developed in a flexible manner to accommodate the capacity of developing countries and taking into account the nature of their NDCs.
On adaptation communications, Thailand stressed on the purpose, linkages and flexibility for developing countries and said that progress had been captured in the table proposed by the co-facilitators of the informal consultations and that it would be the basis for future work. It underscored that there was a need for advanced understanding on the adaptation communications and their common elements. It also added that developing countries need flexibility and have different circumstances. The G77 also stressed that adaptation communications should not become a burden for developing countries.
Thailand reiterated that while balanced progress across all items did not mean equal progress, both the halves of the transparency framework (on action and support) must progress together.
On matters relating to the global stocktake, Thailand said that it looked forward to reaching a common understanding on the issue.
On facilitating implementation and promoting compliance, Thailand said that the guiding questions by the co-facilitators will help Parties put their views in relation to the compliance mechanism.
Thailand stressed that adaptation funding was essential for increasing efforts to cope with climate change and expressed concerns that the preparatory work for the Adaptation Fund to serve the PA was delayed. Thailand hoped that further efforts would allow Parties to work on the item.
The G77 also reiterated the importance of accelerating implementation of climate action in the pre-2020 period and the ratification of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, and called on developed countries to close the ambition gap.
The Maldives, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said that there was too much to accomplish with very little time left. It said that it would be critical to ensure that guidance on features, information and accounting of NDCs helped Parties to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C. The Maldives underscored the need for simplified procedures to help the small island developing states (SIDS) and the least developed countries (LDCs) to access their fair share of the 'much-needed resources'. It added that there was a need for a serious discussion on how the Adaptation Fund could serve the PA.
The Democratic Republic of Congo spoke for the LDCs and highlighted the importance of advancing work, particularly in the context of entry into force of the PA. It called on Parties to work diligently on building on the Convention and moving beyond the conceptual stage of discussions and bring the PA to life.
Welcoming the conclusions adopted, Bolivia, speaking for the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) group, said that work ahead needs to be done in a balanced manner that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and the interests of the global community under the Convention. It stressed that the scope of the NDCs and reflection of differentiation was fundamental and significant. It said that the full scope of the NDCs and different sets of guidance for developed and developing countries were appropriately addressed in accordance with the provisions of the Convention and its PA.
On adaptation communications, Bolivia underscored the need to reflect flexibility for developing countries and highlighted the importance of support for adaptation.
On transparency, Bolivia said it would be important to operationalise differentiated approaches consistent with differentiated obligations under the Convention and the PA. Operationalising flexibility for developing countries should be a priority to be dealt with at the next session, added Bolivia.
The LMDC looked forward to ensuring that the global stocktake was a comprehensive and balanced process to assess how the differentiated obligations of Parties had allowed them to progress and the gaps that need to be addressed under the Convention and its PA.
Bolivia also stressed on the facilitative, non-adversarial and non-punitive nature of the compliance mechanism and said that the mechanism should cover the full scope of the PA.
Speaking for the Africa Group, Mali said work on features, information and accounting of NDCs should take into account the diversity of NDCs and that the guidance should provide for credible transparency arrangements. Mali said that roundtables, workshops and focused submissions were a good basis for the work moving forward. Mali also reminded Parties of the critical importance of pre-2020 ambition and called on developed-country Parties to show leadership and fulfil their obligations under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol.
Saudi Arabia, speaking for the Arab Group, said that work had progressed with full participation, inclusiveness and transparency. It said that future work should be balanced and cover all the items of the PA and the COP 21 decision (1/CP.21). With reference to the guiding questions and summaries produced by the informal consultations, Saudi Arabia said that those were simply questions and summaries that could be used in the preparation of work, but that they did not limit Parties to submit papers clarifying their views further.
The European Union called on Parties to show urgency and to keep the political balance achieved and to stick to the outcomes of Paris.
Switzerland, speaking for the Environment Integrity Group (EIG), said while it was glad to see progress made on the agenda items, it was concerned that some Parties reiterated their pre-Paris positions. Switzerland called on Parties to keep to the delicate balance achieved in Paris and said that backsliding from the compromise would slow down the momentum. It said that operationalisation of the PA was one of the most important tasks after Paris and said that they would like to work for a full two weeks during the intersession and the COP in 2017.
Australia, speaking for the Umbrella Group, expressed concern on the slow pace of work and expressed support for the approach going forward by scheduling round-tables and workshops in 2017.
*Third World Resurgence No. 316, Dec 2016, pp 26-28