Saturday, November 12, 2011

Environment: Difficult Road from Panama to Durban

By Meena Raman*
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

GENEVA (IDN) - The forthcoming global climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, is set to face a tough time to arrive at an agreed outcome on all critical issues. Some progress was achieved on the last day of the preparatory round of talks October 1-7 in Panama but several crucial issues remained unresolved.

At the closing plenary of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long- term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA), Ambassador Jorge Arguello of Argentina, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that "although there has been indubitable progress in the work in Panama", the Group had "concerns over the uneven progress in the negotiations and called for decisive leadership to ensure that all submissions from the Parties are discussed and that there is a positive basis for successful negotiations in Durban."

AWG-LCA is a subsidiary body under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established by the Bali Action Plan to conduct a comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, up to and beyond 2012, in order to reach an agreed outcome to be presented to the Conference of the Parties (COP) for adoption.

Arguello stressed that a serious imbalance in progress on issues could not be conducive to a comprehensive and balanced outcome of the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) to the UNFCCC in Durban, scheduled for November 28 to December 9, 2011.

Arguello was referring to some draft texts or non-papers for negotiations in the case of several issues; but there was no progress on some issues relating to economic and social consequences of response measures, which included the issue of addressing unilateral trade measures by developed countries on the grounds of climate change.

At a contact group meeting of the AWG-LCA held before the closing plenary, facilitators reported on the outcomes of the respective informal groups.


Divergences arose among developed and developing countries over the scope of a 'shared vision' in an informal group. Developed countries wanted the focus to be only on the issue of determining the long-term global goal for emissions reductions and the time frame for global peaking.

Developing countries on the other hand wanted the shared vision to also operationalise the principles of equity and historical responsibility including through having a fair sharing and equitable allocation framework in relation to emissions reductions, and the establishment of global goals for finance, technology transfer, adaptation, and capacity building. In addition, developing countries wanted the issue of unilateral trade measures and intellectual property rights to be addressed).

On mitigation in developed countries, the co-facilitators reported progress in textual work and in-depth discussions on biennial reports and international assessment and review (IAR). A non-paper was prepared on "possible elements of draft guidelines for biennial reports" and another non-paper on "possible elements of modalities and procedures for IAR".

Discussions were also held on the pledges of developed countries, their ambition level and the accounting framework (relating to the Cancun decision). Many Parties recognized the existence of an ambition gap in relation to the pledges of developed countries and the need to raise the ambition level.

However, developed countries insisted on the consideration of this issue in the context of encompassing all Parties, including developing countries with a significant share of emissions. Developing countries on the other hand were opposed to the attempts by developed countries to link their ambition level to that of developed countries.

The situation was similar in the case of mitigation actions of developing countries. Parties had discussions on biennial update reports (BURs); international consultations and analysis (ICA); the registry to record the national appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) seeking international support; and the pledges of developing countries including the assumptions underlying them.


Four non-papers were produced on the "possible elements of draft guidelines for biennial update reports", "possible elements of modalities and procedures for international consultations and analysis", the registry and a co-facilitators' summary of the discussion related to paragraphs 48-51 of the Cancun decisions.

According to the report back by the facilitator of the informal group on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD-plus), countries party to the UNFCCC had explored financing options for results-based actions in implementing forest-related activities and considered what results-based actions were.

A vast majority of countries wanted a decision on REDD-plus finance for its full implementation. The facilitator was able to produce a non-paper, considered a "placeholder text" which was an outline rather than a negotiating document. The facilitator asked Parties to submit views and proposals, which the secretariat will compile so that Parties can begin work in having a full text for negotiations in Durban.

On the issue of "cooperative sectoral approaches", conference parties discussed the general framework, agriculture and international aviation and shipping. A consolidated text provided by Parties was produced in which the options reflected captured a divergence of views. Some Parties wanted decisions on agriculture and international aviation and shipping while others did not want any decision in this regard.

Draft text

On "various approaches including market and non-market based mechanisms", a draft text was produced which contained a compilation of submissions from Parties which, according to the facilitator, provided ingredients for negotiations. Parties could review the text further and see how streamlining could be done. One major area of disagreement among Parties is whether offsets should be allowed in relation to market based mechanisms.

One of the most controversial issues during the Panama meeting was the "economic and social consequences of response measures". In this informal group, developed countries were opposed to any text for negotiations. They did not even want the submissions of developing countries to be compiled into a document. One issue, which was firmly resisted by developed countries and Singapore, was that of "unilateral trade measures" as they insisted that the UNFCCC was not the proper forum to discuss this matter but the WTO.

On "adaptation", the facilitator reported that a consolidated text was produced as basis for further discussions, which was a well-advanced draft decision text. The facilitator hoped to see further common ground reached on the composition of the Adaptation Committee. Parties disagreed on how the Committee is to be composed.


As regards the issue of "finance", the co- facilitators reported that Parties discussed "long-term finance" and the "Standing Committee on Finance". Because of time constraints for further discussions, the co-facilitators said they would incorporate Parties' comments in the meetings along with additional submissions into a draft text which will be presented for negotiations.

All the submissions by Parties as conference room papers would still be on the table. They said that there were different views on long-term finance. Some developed countries, including Australia, Japan and Canada were initially opposed to any text on long-term finance, but relented after insistence by developing countries.

On technology development and transfer, based on the submissions of the G77 and China, the European Union and the joint-submission by Japan and the United States, the facilitator produced a draft decision text for negotiations.

He said that Parties engaged in a first reading of the text and there was a good exchange of views on the governance structure of the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and on the criteria for the host of the CTCN.

He said that there were divergences over the role of the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) in governing the host of the CTCN and this was an issue that still needed to be resolved.

Developing countries want the CTCN to be governed by the TEC while this was opposed to by developed countries. The facilitator said that further technical work was needed to enhance the clarity on the call for proposals to host the CTCN and criteria for evaluation in this regard. The text was detailed on the international selection procedure and he said that Parties have to make an effort to hammer down concrete ideas.

On capacity building, three groups of Parties had proposals for a draft decision text, which were compiled for further discussions.

On the issue of the "review to define its scope and development of its modalities", a non-paper was produced and the facilitator hoped that there would be agreement on the scope of the review.

Parties were divided on the scope of the review as the Alliance of Small Island States wanted the review to be confined to the adequacy of the long-term global goal in relation to the temperature goal. A large number of developing countries were in favor of a review of the adequacy of the implementation of the commitments under the Convention as a whole.

On legal options for the agreed outcome of the work of the AWG-LCA, the facilitator reported a divergence of views. Parties are to continue discussions on the menu of options – indeed one of the "hottest" issues in Panama. Some Parties wanted Durban to launch a new mandate and process for a new legally binding instrument under the Convention. Other Parties wanted the content of the outcome to be agreed to first before determining the legal form of the outcome.

The last day of the Panama meeting also saw the launch of an alliance between the African Group, the Least Developed countries (LDCs) and the ALBA group of Latin American countries to ensure that the Durban climate conference delivers outcomes that strengthen the climate regime, cut emissions and deliver on climate finance.

At a press conference held on October 7, the leaders of these developing country groupings announced that they have developed a 'Statement of Common Position' outlining areas of unity and defining a common position covering key areas of the negotiations.

*Meena Raman is a Senior Legal Advisor and Researcher of the Third World Network. This article first appeared in South Bulletin Issue 57. [IDN-InDepthNews - November 11, 2011]