With minimal progress on the sticking points holding up the Paris Agreement rule book during the first week of COP 25 in Madrid, it is up to political delegates to deliver consensus on some critical issues | Photo: IISD Reporting Services

Loose ends persist with COP 25 high-level segment set to kick off

Environment ministers and government delegates from around the world have descended on Madrid as the second week of the COP 25 climate negotiations kick off today. The high-level segment involving political delegates is due to commence tomorrow and conclude on Wednesday. The ministerial leg has a steep climb ahead of it as negotiations during the first week failed to yield results on the major sticking points that are holding up the completion of the Paris Agreement rule book, due to become operational from next year.

The conference began on 2nd December with a tall order to meet. What is required of negotiating parties at this year’s COP is ““not an incremental approach, but a transformational one (involving) rapid and deep change in the way we do business, how we generate power, how we build cities, how we move, and how we feed the world… If we don’t urgently change our way of life, we jeopardize life itself,” said UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres at the opening ceremony on 2nd December. The transformational change called for by Guterres has largely been met with resounding silence so far. As technical talks under the Subsidiary Bodies wound up on 7th December, clarity on several of the sticking issues remain unresolved running up to the high-level segment of the conference.

Negotiations on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement dealing with market- and non-market-based mechanisms, which had remained stalled after two years of unsuccessful negotiations, failed to move forward in the first week of COP25 as well. The sticking points in negotiations remained much the same with no progress on how to deal with carbon credits accrued from the Kyoto Protocol period moving forward. While countries with massive inventories of carbon credits, most prominently Brazil and India, have remained steadfast on their demand that the credits already accumulated be transferred forward to any new mechanism prescribed under the Paris Agreement, developed nations have continued to point to problems of double accounting in the previous regime and have demanded starting from a clean slate moving forward. While there has been some talk of a compromise to enable the transfer of existing credits in some form to the new regime, there has been little sign of anything concrete emerging before the political process kicks off on Tuesday.

Delegates working on Article 6 waited for a new iteration of the text late into 7th December to see if a middle ground could be worked out but to no avail as the matter has been shunted forward to discussions due to be held today. But with less than a day to go before the commencement of the ministerial segment, the issue is widely expected to be carried forward to the political segment of the conference.

The other major unresolved issue of contention between developed and developing nations from the first week of talks has been the question of how to move forward in addressing Loss and Damage. Informal consultations on the issue carried on well into the end of the first week and culminated in a formal submission of draft negotiating text on the 2019 review of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage submitted by the G77+China group of countries that represent a majority of developing nations. The proposal included a call for new and additional finance to be freed up for Loss and Damage through an expansion of the focal areas of the Finance Commission under COP and CMA to include matters pertaining to loss and damage.

The draft text focused on matters relating to finance, establishing an expert group on enhanced action and support by the end of 2020, and establishing a “Santiago Network” supporting the implementation of action to avert, minimize, and address loss and damage. The network was put forth by developing countries as the WIM’s “implementation arm” to assisting them in accessing resources and expertise to avert, minimize, and address loss and damage on the ground. Response by developed nations suggested that the existing WIM Executive Committee (ExCom) bodies be strengthened for the purpose rather than creating a new network. With no compromise on the cards on how to move forward on the review and the issue of loss and damage moving forward, the time to wrap up negotiations on the matter has been extended.

While Article 6 and the WIM for Loss and Damage remain the biggest unresolved issues moving forward into the implementation phase of the Paris Agreement due to start next year, these are not the only issues in which consensus has remained elusive. Other issues that have remained unresolved include decisions on common timeframes for the enforcement of climate pledges and the agriculture. While a decision on a common timeframe for all countries seems far from being agreed upon, draft conclusions on the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture have been held up with disagreements on the matter of proposed support for the development of new tools and means of implementation of the actions outlined in the conclusions.

Developing countries, led by the Like Minded Developing Countries group (LMDC), have also called for mandate for a two-year work programme on closing the pre-2020 implementation gaps under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. The work programme is needed “to identify the progress and gaps on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity building of the pre-2020 commitments by developed countries and to make arrangements in closing these gaps,” said China, on behalf of the LMDC.

India, a prominent proponent of the demand, has asserted that “the pre-2020 stocktake cannot just be a conversation or reflection but it has to be a call for action to complete the unfinished agenda by developed country Parties on their pre-2020 commitments through a clear work programme under the SBI.” India’s environment minister Prakash Javadekar added that “Developed countries need take up their targets for pre-2020 actions, now that there is only one year left for the fulfilment of these commitments. Nobody should give excuses that since there is only one year left, it can be forgotten. We cannot forget this historical promise and historical responsibilities, parties to the Kyoto Protocol must take the responsibilities. If they want, the timeline for executing pre-2020 actions can be adjusted to extend another 2 or 3 years but these commitments cannot be side-lined or pushed back,” during a briefing to media persons on this morning. While the issue regarding implementation of pre-2020 actions rages on, the demand by developed nations to forgo current classification norms moving forward of countries as developed or developing for increased ambitions and financial obligations has also been put forth.

While the second week of negotiations promises to be a heated one with political discussions on several issues, existing uncertainties on elements of the Paris Agreement rule book seem no closer to resolution. The possibility now that certain issues be passed forward for future negotiations over the next year remain stronger than ever.

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