“We are sinking” and “no-agreement-text”- What is the relation between both ideas?

Mónica López Baltodano
Officer for Climate Change
Centro Humboldt

While the negotiations in the UNFCCC concluded in the Bangkok intersessional meeting in September 2012, many questions arise for us in preparation for COP 18 in Doha. Can we find any logical relationship between developed countries’ claims that this was an “informal session, meaning “no-negotiation-text” should be agreed in Bangkok, while we read there´s super-shrinkage of the Arctic sea ice?

The massive heat wave melting the Arctic is just one –of many- clear signals that expose governmental representatives of countries around the globe aren´t achieving what they are supposed to in UNFCCC negotiations. The ultimate objective of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is to guarantee the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. But, that clearly can´t be achieved if developed countries are limiting the negotiation process, hiding their lack of political will to act with procedural claims and “formality” excuses.

Coming from a highly vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change, this seems more like a bad joke - not funny at all. Even though we understand that climate change claims for actions in the developing world, particularly in emerging economies, we cannot accept this to be an excuse for developed countries not to act as needed.

When we hear United States, Australia, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, the European Union, New Zealand and others saying there is not supposed to be any negotiating text on adaptation issues and finance under the LCA, we fear this is leading to a dead-end. Of course, there is clearly a much needed link between, for instance, Adaptation Committee, Standing Committee and Green Climate Fund Board´s work. Why would developed countries fear this should be in an agreed text coming out of Doha?

There are no “political skills” necessary to understand that this might mean they are not truly committed to fund adaptation actions in our countries as needed (i.e. promptly and effectively). If this is true, it would certainly undermine any strong effort in the most afflicted countries, including LDCs, SIDs and Central American countries.

We surely expect that, in the road to Doha, these countries find the logical connection between “we are sinking” –in all of its meanings- and the need to complete the work in the LCA track. This means an agreed outcome is a MUST, including a clear agreement on international finance for adaptation actions to take effect now.


Keep up your end of the bargain, Parties.

In Durban, Parties agreed to a package – the adoption of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, a successful conclusion of the LCA, urgent action to close the pre-2020 mitigation gap between the 2 degrees goal and the collective pledges now on the table, and collective movement toward a fair, ambitious and binding agreement in 2015. Parties must honour this political bargain.

Let's start with the KP. Those trying to get another bite of the negotiation cherry by dragging out submitting their carbon budgets (QELROs) have to understand that this will be perceived as acting in bad faith. Australia – ECO remembers the brinkmanship with your QELRO last time. So for you, as well as New Zealand, Ukraine and others on the fence on the Kyoto second commitment period, ECO demands to see your QELROs up front. And, of course, just any old KP second commitment period won’t suffice. We must have a robust, ratifiable agreement that respects the original intention of the KP to raise ambition and create real environmental integrity. The AOSIS and Africa Group proposals will facilitate this endeavour. Effectively eliminating surplus AAUs and ensuring the environmental integrity of the CDM is also essential – you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

On to the LCA. There are a number of elements that jump to the head of the queue in importance. We need a positive decision on finance – including ensuring that the discussion on scaling up Long Term Finance following the report of this year's work programme, among others, has a home in 2013 and beyond. And who needs an empty fund? We hear that the EU, Australia, Japan and Canada already have budgets they could allocate. Don’t be shy!

Enhanced post-2012 climate finance is essential to enable developing countries to implement low-carbon development strategies and facilitate desperately needed adaptation. Deciding to hold back on finance until the last moment – or not coming forward at all in Doha – will undermine confidence and faith in moving the climate negotiations forward.Japan, Canada, Russia and the United States, do not think that by jumping overboard from the Kyoto Protocol that you’re diving into balmy waters. You're still on the hook to do your share of closing the gigatonne gap, by putting forward quantified economy wide emissions reductions AT LEAST as stringent as the QELROs of Kyoto Protocol parties, and using common accounting to an equal standard as the Kyoto Protocol. We also expect to see your QEERTs well before Doha.

On these and the other LCA issues, it is essential that the LCA Chair, and the spin-off group facilitators, be supported to develop text proposals to put forward in Doha. Finally, on the ADP, you all need to do your homework between now and Doha on the ADP work programme. Doha must agree to a plan of work, including a clear timeline and milestones. So let’s take inspiration from our setting here in Bangkok – these milestones can incorporate a period of “contemplation” on some issues. How equity and CBDRRC will apply in the 2015 protocol will require a work stream that allows discussion and agreement on principles before being applied to all of the elements that will constitute the final deal. On other elements, including ways to urgently enhance short-term ambition, Parties must pick up and start negotiating immediately in Doha and beyond.

Leaving the workplan “loosey goosey” will result in a repeat of the Copenhagen tragedy. Rather, parties must agree on specific issues to manage each year while ensuring compilation text by COP19, complete negotiating text by COP20 and draft a fair, ambitious and legally binding protocol to be circulated by May 2015.This is indeed an ambitious agenda for Doha. But it is the least the peoples of the world demand, and expect their political leaders to deliver at a time when the impacts of climate change – and the costs in terms of both human suffering and economic development – are more evident than ever.


Get Technology's "Boots On the Ground" Grounded

We stand at the precipice of what could be the final stroke of the LCA at COP18 in Doha, and the conversation is turning ever more to the question of how political decisions for various elements of the LCA that have not been fully resolved will be handled post-COP18. ECO sees that the discussion on technology transfer, which cuts across mitigation and adaptation, provides a stark view of what's at stake if the LCA's closing is not properly done, in the light of the sometimes yawning gap between the understandings of developed and the developing countries. 

If you mark the IPCC Assessment Report 1 (1990) as the starting point, the discussion on technology transfer has been ongoing for more than two decades. That’s a lot of work to sit idle if the Technology Mechanism suddenly faced a lack of support, and a staggering missed opportunity to close the mitigation gap and address the growing need for climate adaptation.

As it now stands, the Technology Mechanism lacks full funding even on a short-term basis, its governance and reporting structure are incomplete, its linkages with other bodies inside the Convention are hampered by the chicken/egg dilemma, its cross-cutting support for NAMAs and NAPAs/NAPs is uncertain and ill-defined, and the conversation on what is likely the most political decision of all – how priorities are to be set within the TEC and CTCN – has barely been broached, if at all. Undoubtedly, some of these issues will be addressed and hopefully resolved in Doha, but some of them have little or no hope of finding true resolution in that timeframe, and some are likely to require ongoing political guidance.

As for funding, which must stand above all other issues in terms of a critical path forward, the organisation requested by COP17 to financially support the early operations of the CTCN failed to be chosen, and CTCN support disappeared with the nomination.

So how do we avoid leaving the CTCN – the technology mechanism's "boots on the ground" – up in the air?

As the shaman of Pride Rock, Rafiki, says: "It is time." Let's get those boots grounded with at least five years of interim public funding and let's go kick some adaptation and mitigation bootie!  Oh, and by the way, maybe we might also find a concrete way to ensure appropriate follow-up care for all the outstanding technology transfer and other LCA issues that risk being stranded?


LCDSs: Why Everyone Needs Them

In Cancun, 1.CP/16 paras 45 and 65 respectively stated that developed country Parties “should” develop low-carbon development strategies and plans, and developing countries “were encouraged” to work on such strategies and plans. In Durban, both groups were invited to submit progress towards the formulation of their LCDSs during this year’s workshops. ECO is disappointed that LCDSs were not a strong part of the 1(b)(i) and 1(b)(ii) workshops on Sunday – especially since such plans help fulfil the Convention’s Article 4.1b mandate, respecting “specific national…development priorities, objectives and circumstances”. Although some nations have prepared them or their equivalent, Parties should actually make a strong effort to do this national climate planning, since such plans can cater to the diverse interests, and here is why:

Developed countries: invest in future-proof infrastructure and avoid lock-in

Developed countries need to have achieved near-complete decarbonisation of their economies by 2050. This is not going to happen unless firm foundations are laid now through a vision of the kind of economy, society and environment they are aiming for in the long term, and working backwards to realise this vision. This is not simply a question of technology and infrastructure changes, but also the way to create a just transition for society as the changes are made. This will help reduce social disruptions, especially for those working in sectors that need to be phased down or out. Additionally, detailed decarbonisation pathways studies, such as WWF’s “Blueprint Germany”, have demonstrated that there is very little space to make decisions on development in such countries that is not low-carbon. Investments in old and dirty technology and infrastructure mean lock-in; future replacement of such infrastructure will increase costs considerably – and lock in the costs of climate impacts. While “flexibility” and market mechanisms have their place, they tend to drive away the transformational changes needed in all developed countries’ economies. 

Developing countries: leapfrog to clean and climate-resilient development

Developing countries already undertake considerable national planning, and many are already working on low-carbon and climate resilient development plans. These plans can assist developing countries in making their development truly sustainable, while avoiding lock-in to a carbon intensive development path that will cost more in the future to readjust away from. Therefore, adequate financial and capacity building support should be allocated as soon as possible for the development and achievement of these strategies. ECO notes that the countries that were first off the mark in having the infrastructure for CDM projects were the ones that attracted more investors, and attracted investment earlier. This is another reason to start planning!

OPEC countries: LCDSs can ensure economic diversification

OPEC countries have a special reason for why they should be pushing for LCDSs. Through the formulation of their strategy, they can show how they plan to diversify their economies into low-emission economies and indicate the support required to do so (such as technology transfer). One study indicates that economic diversification is especially difficult (though no less necessary) for fossil fuel-dependent economies. So, having long-term plans (rather than, say, Saudi Arabia’s current 5-year development planning) provides opportunities for developing clear visions of what diversification might be nationally appropriate, and also to better engage other countries and entities in cooperative partnerships.

Doha should produce two decisions on LCDSs.

1) For developed countries we need an LCA decision mandating:

-          A 2050 decarbonisation goal for near-complete (>95%) decarbonisation

-          Indicative decadal goals for 2030 and 2040 that set out a realistic trajectory for achieving the 2050 goal

-          The policies and measures that the Party shall implement to fulfil its QELRO (you too, US and Canada!)

-          The first report should be submitted with the Annex I National Communications in 2014, subsequent reports paired with subsequent National Communications

2) The decision on voluntary, developing country LCDSs should include:

-          An outline trajectory for the country’s pathway to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy, linking development and climate goals to achieve sustainability and equity

-          A set of NAMAs that will contribute to this trajectory

-          Address key issues of climate resilience, including food and water security

-          Start to identify needed finance, technology and capacity building



Mission Not Accomplished!

The 5-year mission of the AWG-LCA is about to end, without going anywhere very boldly, or finding much new life. The frustrated and deeply divided crew of the USS Bali are already packing their bags, and preparing to jump over to the Durban Platform as soon as they dock in Doha in a few months.

The AWG-LCA will leave in its wake some new institutions, actions and achievements on various fronts, which may yet prove their worth. But in one crucial area there remains a gaping hole – sources of financing for the next year and out to 2020. Without adequate scaled up financing, most of what has been achieved by the LCA will be merely an empty shell. Yet with three months to go, there are no firm commitments or assurances of financing after 2012, when the Fast-start Finance period ends.

Having created the Work Programme on Long Term Finance, and mandated it to report directly to the COP in Doha, developed countries in the LCA are now claiming mission accomplished. That is clearly not the case. Right now, there is little confidence that scaling up climate finance will be given the attention it so desperately deserves.

Once the report of the Work Programme is finalised, there will only be a short window in the Doha COP itself to consider its contents and recommendations, decide on the scope of a COP decision and generate and negotiate the actual text. This is a risky strategy, and is unlikely to do justice to the issue or the Work Programme report, especially since some developed countries are keen to shut down any discussion of scaling up finance.

This is why ECO backs the call by developing countries to keep finance on the LCA agenda and work up some draft text here in Bangkok for a decision in Doha. Political decisions are needed that guarantee sources and scaling up of financing. These are a central element of efforts to achieve the objectives of the Convention and ensure it won’t drop off the agenda or be sent to languish in the SBs.

The list of finance issues that need to be addressed in Doha, either by reaching some conclusions or finding a future home, is substantial. The LCA can lay the groundwork now for an adequate outcome at COP18 by getting some clarity on the scope of the issues to be addressed, and creating some draft text. Of course, the final decision will only be decided in Doha, informed in many areas by the report of the Work Programme on LTF. When the COP considers the report of the Work Programme on LTF in Qatar, it can be informed by the deliberations of the LCA, and perhaps then find creative ways to divide up the different issues requiring decisions.

So what issues need decisions in Doha?

1.) Commitments of climate finance from 2013 to 2020, or at the very least for the mid-term period from 2013-2015. There must be at least a doubling of Fast-start Financing levels from 2013, with agreed criteria for new and additional finance

2.) Commitments to the initial capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund, of at least US$10-15 billion over the period 2013-2015

3.) MRV of financial support

4.) Outstanding institutional issues

5.) Clarification of where ongoing discussions about the various elements of long-term finance will take place after Doha – whether in the Standing Committee, as a continuation of the Long-term Finance Work Programme or under the ADP.

ECO sees potential benefits and downsides of different options for continuing the finance discussions beyond COP18, and urges an open discussion among Parties on the issue. And let's not forget that adaptation finance needs a suitable home, too...


From the Archives – Looking Back At the LCA


ECO was feeling a bit nostalgic, what with all this talk about the LCA and what comes next. So, it dug through the ECO archives and came across this article from Bonn 2008 on what the LCA could deliver. ECO hopes it brings out the same mixed feelings for you as it did for ECO:

Bonn, Poznan and Beyond

Let’s not forget what’s at stake: if current emissions trends continue, global average temperatures will rise by around 3-7°C above preindustrial levels, with catastrophic consequences for all. 

Sometimes these negotiations are like listening to a group of people on a badly-leaking lifeboat arguing over who should actually start bailing as the water rises inexorably, when the obvious answer is that all should be doing what they can to avoid the boat sinking completely. Those with the greatest capacity should be bailing the hardest, sufficiently motivated by their historical responsibility to be doing their best to help keep the others afloat, and making sure everyone has access to the lifejackets.

 So what should you be doing? What can Bonn deliver to keep us from sinking? 

Parties need to reach a common understanding of what their shared vision is – how far up towards the rim of the boat they will allow the water to rise, as it were.

 The LCA needs to break out into contact groups on developed country mitigation, developing country mitigation, REDD, adaptation, technology and finance. What Parties want to see reflected in the Copenhagen agreement should be brought to the table here and now as concrete proposals, to allow sufficient time for their exploration and analysis by other Parties and Civil Society.

 ECO recognizes that the negotiations are complicated, with issues spread throughout the agenda and similar items appearing under both AWG and LCA. Parties need to trust each other and consolidate these building blocks. Remember, there will be a reevaluation exercise in Poznan. The most important thing is not where an issue is discussed, but that it is discussed, in a coherent and constructive way. 

ECO expects outcomes from the LCA far beyond Chair’s draft conclusions: but for contact groups to begin to produce actual draft negotiating texts that will define the real negotiating issues to be ready for negotiation in Poznan, to allow the work done in the Dialogue and in more recent discussions to be realized.

 The AWG should also be producing negotiating texts and beginning their refinement, so that there are bracketed texts on the table by Poznan.

 Delegates, to stop the boat sinking ever lower, don’t bail out of your (common but differentiated) responsibilities.

LCA Kolouring Corner – by ECO, age 6


Parties! - Join ECO and draw in the crucial LCA decisions you'll finalise in Doha! Don't be shy – everyone can be a policy artist.



Close ambition gap




Common accounting


Long-term financing for art classes for ECO

CAN's Priorities for Bangkok Discussions

The Climate Action Network (CAN) - a global network of over 700 NGOs from more than 90 countries working to promote action to limit climate change to ecologically sustainable levels - is attending the UNFCCC Intersessional Meeting being held in Bangkok from 30 August to 5 September 2012.

CAN believes the following three priority areas need to be discussed in Bangkok:

-       Set expectations for concrete outcomes at COP18 in Doha, especially in terms of agreeing a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol

-       Establishing a workplan with key milestones for the Durban Platform negotiation track, especially in relation to increasing level of short-term mitigation ambition

-       Identify elements that need to be finalized or moved under the long-term cooperation action (LCA) track so that it would close in Doha

Media are advised that non-governmental organisations who are members of CAN are available for interviews and on and off the record briefings, backgrounds and updates on the following climate change issues discussed in the negotiations:

Shared vision and overall political picture
Mitigation and low-carbon development
Equitable effort sharing
Adaptation to the impacts of climate change
Financial support
Technological support
Legal structure
REDD and forests
Aviation and Maritime fuels
Public participation

The CAN team in Bangkok also includes experts from the following regions:

Arab region, Australia, Canada, Central Asia, China, Europe, India, Japan, Latin America, South Africa, South East Asia, United States, West and East Africa.

To be put in touch with the relevant person, please contact CAN Director:

Wael Hmaidan
local phone: +66 (0) 8 9210 4796
email: whmaidan@climatenetwork.org
website: www.climatenetwork.org
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CANInternational?ref=hl

UN Doha Climate Change Conference - November 2012 - COP 18/ CMP 8

The 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol will take place from Monday, 26 November to Friday, 7 December 2012 at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha, Qatar.

Photo Credit: Naoyuki Yamagishi

UN Additional Session of the Ad Hoc Working Groups - August 2012

The informal additional sessions of the AWG-LCA, AWG-KP and ADP will be held at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), in Bangkok, Thailand from Thursday, 30 August to Wednesday, 5 September.


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