From Lima to Paris: The Road Ahead to COP21/CMP11

This post was written by Vermont Law School COP20/CMP10 Observer Delegation members Archer Christian, Catherine Craig, Rebecca Davidson, Carla Santos, Cynthia Sirois, and Professor Tracy Bach.


From left to right: Cynthia Sirois, Tracy Bach, Catherine Craig, Archer Christian, Rebecca Davidson, and Carla Santos.

As the action in Lima comes to a close, the question becomes: What has COP20/CMP10 set into play for the negotiations in Paris next year? This COP was styled as an action-oriented one that would build on the “nuts and bolts” program of COP19 in Warsaw. In Lima, the Warsaw mandate tasked parties with further defining the elements of the new international agreement that would be codified in the Paris Agreement at COP21 and then take effect in 2020, as the Kyoto Protocol sunsetted. In doing so, Lima would mark the significant transition from the 1997 Protocol’s “binary approach” of internationally imposed greenhouse gas (GHG) emission mitigation commitments on developed countries only, to an all-in, “bottom up” approach of nationally determined contributions that, when tallied, would achieve the internationally agreed climate stabilization goal set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

The Vermont Law School COP20/CMP10 Observer Delegation chronicled four critical parts of the Lima discussions, namely the next steps under the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (WIM); preserving forest “sinks” by building on the Warsaw Framework for REDD+; refinements to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), one of the Kyoto Protocol’s “flexible mechanisms” that allows developed countries to fund GHG reduction projects in developing countries and credit those reductions against their own mitigation caps; and decisions of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), the fulcrum for pivoting from the existing treaty regime for mitigation targets to one that goes beyond mitigation goals and binds all Convention parties. Having blogged about our daily experiences at COP20/CMP10, this summary of these four, key components of the Lima talks reflects on the overall process and outcomes and what it means for la route à Paris and COP21/CMP11.

Beyond adaptation: Loss and Damage experienced now by the poorest countries

The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (WIM) was established at COP19 last year to recognize and begin to address the particular needs of those countries most vulnerable to loss and damage. Millions of people around the globe will experience the kind of certain and permanent losses that surpass their ability to adapt to climate change. Earlier this year, Kiribati bought land in Fiji for its anticipated climate refugees, the first nation to do so. At COP19, the UNFCCC Parties gave themselves a deadline for finalizing the Mechanism’s Executive Committee and two-year workplan in Lima.

At COP20/CMP10, the December 5th SBSTA/SBI combined recommendation to the COP contained approval of the two-year workplan submitted by the interim Executive Committee before the COP and three different proposals for the makeup of the permanent Executive Committee. In the end, the Parties agreed to an Executive Committee composition of 10 non-Annex I Party members and 10 Annex I Party members. Eight of the non-Annex I Party members are stipulated in the decision: two each from the African, Asia-Pacific, and the Latin American and Caribbean States, and one each from Small Island Developing Sates and Least Developed Country Parties. The two remaining non-Annex 1 slots are not designated.

Interestingly, the final Executive Committee composition looks like a new equation for a UNFCCC mechanism. The related Adaptation Committee is made up of 16 members, with representatives of the 5 UN regional groups (2 each), SIDS (1), LDCs (1), Non-Annex I (2) and Annex I Parties (2).) Some observers wished for greater explicit LDC and AOSIS representation on the permanent WIM Executive Committee, despite the fact that the two undesignated non-Annex I seats could potentially go to these groups. At least the WIM work can now begin.

The larger question asked repeatedly in the final 36 hours of COP20/CMP10 was how deeply anchored the concept of loss and damage generally, or the WIM specifically, would be in the ADP decision that lays the groundwork for COP21’s Paris agreement. The absence of both in the draft ADP decision text published early Saturday morning (Dec. 13) caused most developing countries’ refusal to agree to that document. Despite the fact that loss and damage can be found in the “Elements for a draft negotiating text” referenced in the draft decision’s Annex, the multiple options for how it might be addressed range from deeply anchored to not included at all. In the end, the final text accepted by consensus in the wee hours of Sunday morning referred to progress on the WIM in the preamble only. With this section’s language having no legal force, Parties’ comments made after acceptance and included in the meeting’s official record made it clear that a Paris agreement is expected to and would have to go further.

The nitty gritty of using REDD+ to “sink” carbon in the world’s forests

The Warsaw Framework for REDD+ adopted at COP19/CMP9 included seven decisions that build on the Cancun Agreement on REDD+ established at COP16/CMP6. The REDD+ Framework includes decisions on national forest monitoring systems; safeguards; forest reference emission levels; measuring, reporting and verification (MRV); results-based financing; drivers of deforestation and forest degradation; and an information hub on the UNFCCC web platform for publishing results information. Importantly for COP20/CMP10, the safeguards decision required developing country parties to start providing summary information in their national communication, including via the web platform of the UNFCCC, after implementation of REDD+ activities begins.

At COP20/CMP10, with the $10 billion Green Climate Fund 2014 goal met, REDD+ projects are already lining up around the block for funding. The question remains whether safeguards and methodological guidelines will be put in place in order to protect the rights of forest communities who will be impacted by these projects. At COP 20, SBSTA made no progress on the Warsaw REDD+ framework on safeguards.   During SBSTA negotiations, the Philippines, Sudan, the EU, Bolivia and the US advocated for developing further guidance on safeguards, but Panama, on behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, said that now is the time to implement REDD+, not to develop further guidelines.

Yet many side events at COP20/CMP10 highlighted the necessity of developing safeguards. During a side event, Looking Forward: REDD+ Post 2015,  Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous People, spoke of a dire need to create governance structures that would protect indigenous people during implementation of REDD+ projects. Notably, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) reported that REDD+ can lead to reduced access to natural resources and land tenure insecurity for locals.  CIFOR presented evidence that in order for REDD+ to offer non-carbon benefits, and indeed for it to accomplish its goal of curbing both deforestation and emissions, public participation should be integrated into the REDD+ framework under SBSTA, pursuant to principles of free, prior and informed consent.

Looking ahead to COP 21 in Paris, it is clear that REDD+ will continue to be a debated issue between indigenous people and project developers. Perhaps, because REDD+ is a market-based solution to climate change, it will always fall short of what is socially just. Regardless, REDD+ is moving forward on a global scale, and human rights advocates will continue to call for close monitoring of its interactions with local communities.

Cleaning up the CDM with an eye toward life post Kyoto Protocol

ADP Parties came to Lima with an important agenda: ensure that the clean development mechanism (CDM, for short) modalities and procedures were improved. However, little progress was made in the SBI and SBSTA meetings held during the first week – in fact, most of the mandates and analysis were further postponed to both subsidiary bodies’ forty-second and subsequent sessions (FCCC/SBI/2014/L.35, FCCC/SBI/2014/L.31, and FCCC/SBSTA/2014/L.24). The second week started with the CMP negotiations for a CDM draft decision. Besides providing further rules to key CDM issues, the CMP decision also aimed to guide the CDM Executive Board for the coming year. The CMP negotiations lasted three days, with many hours of long debates and tireless disagreements. Countries were clearly divided in two groups, even though some members often shifted from one side to another. Brazil and the European Union, one of the biggest CDM host countries and the biggest CDM regional market, respectively, expressed opposite opinions about several of the key issues, including voluntary cancellation of emission reductions units (CERs) and double-counting concerns.

Yet the negotiations concluded on Wednesday night. After the Parties finished the third read of the draft text, the CMP convened again at 9 pm. At that point 20 paragraphs were already agreed, several were agreed to be deleted, but other 23 paragraphs, with several alternatives, were still under consideration. After a long debate about what procedure should be adopted to help the negotiations move on, several Parties remind the Chair that a fourth read of the proposed text was not feasible or desirable. The Parties decided to delete all the paragraphs that were not agreed upon, leading to a final CMP decision regarding CDM. The final decision compiled a number of mandates for the CDM Executive Board to comply within the next year. In particular, the Parties requested further analysis on issues such as the revision of CDM’s baseline and monitoring methodologies, and their streamlining, registration of project activities that qualify as automatically additional, and alternatives methodologies to ensure environmental integrity. Besides the CDM Executive Board mandates, the Parties were able to agree on two issues: the adoption of a voluntary procedure for deregistration, and the flexibility regarding the verification timing for afforestation and reforestation projects.

While the CDM negotiations were intense, the uncertainty regarding CDM’s future was a clear ghost in the room. The CDM negotiations happened under the CMP, but the Doha Amendment – which established the emission reduction commitments for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – continues to not be in force. And without an emission reduction market, CDM has no future.

But CDM can once again gain force if Parties agree to an ambitious post-2020 agreement. Looking ahead, Brazil has proposed an “Advanced CDM” or simply CDM+ to the ADP. The new mechanism is explained in three simple paragraphs, and contains one main element: the possibility of voluntarily cancelled CDM CERs to be used to account for countries ’ nationally determined contributions (NDC) financial targets and pledges. Despite the lack of information regarding the proposed CDM+, several countries are already criticizing it. The European Union, for instance, used the expression “double-counting” of CERs continuously during this week’s negotiations, showing great dissatisfaction with the Brazilian proposal. While the double-counting language was not included in the final CMP decision regarding CDM, the issue will continue to surface in future negotiations if a CDM+ is considered in the new agreement.

ADP: Shifting to global peer pressure to mitigate GHG emissions through INDCs 

As was the case in Warsaw last year, final ADP decision-making was pushed to the last minute, of the last hour, of the last day of the COP20 in Lima. The ADP was originally scheduled to close on Thursday afternoon. Not for the first time at this COP, negotiators worked into the wee hours of the night on Friday hoping to come together on issues addressing how Parties will communicate their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), as was directed under paragraph 5 of Decision 1/CP.17 and how parties should contribute to closing the pre-2020 ambition gap. With a newly drafted decision in hand on Saturday morning (officially after the close of the COP), Parties still held clear differences on specific language and its implications.

The COP20 President, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, had taken a very active and open stance during the last few weeks, and many have complimented his efforts to promote clarity and transparency for all Parties. As the close of the meeting neared, and with the draft decision still far from being adopted, his guidance became stronger and more determined. Recalling that Lima had been called a tipping point for the new agreement, he pled with the delegations to “help me . . . don’t leave me alone. We need to help ourselves. We are representing the world, and we are representing what the world is seeking.”

As Parties gave their final interventions, all agreed that the draft decision was not ideal for anyone. However, a dichotomy emerged with some parties endorsing adoption of the decision as it stood subject to more negotiation in Geneva this February, while others drew the red line and declared the draft unacceptable as is. Switzerland on behalf of EIG and Chile on behalf of AILAC were willing to move forward with the current draft, along with the EU, US, Japan, Russian Federation, and New Zealand. Surprising some, Singapore, Belize, and the Marshall Islands also urged Parties to move forward with the current text. Noting that his country is running out of time and its very existence is in danger from sea level rise, the delegate from the Marshall Islands made a very compelling plea: “We cannot leave Lima with empty hands on road to a successful Paris agreement.” Yet parties such as Sudan on behalf of the Africa Group, Malaysia for the LMDCs, India, China and Tuvalu were not willing to compromise the vulnerable people that they represent, and asked the COP President to reconsider the draft. The delegate from Tuvalu, in particular, noted that we should not let this COP be the one where the world’s poorest are denied.

With no consensus on this text, the meeting continued for 10 more hours, shifting to intense, behind-closed-doors negotiations with COP President Pulgar-Vidal and ministers of Singapore and Norway empowered by him to speak with parties on his behalf.  Finally, just before midnight, the COP20/CMP10 final plenary convened, a new final draft decision text was presented, and the gavel was banged. Nonetheless, despite the COP’s consensus position, Tuvalu asked for the floor and spoke intensely and purposefully to register concerns about the need for stronger loss and damage inclusion (besides the WIM progress recognition in the text’s preamble). Many other parties laid out their specific concerns about missing references to the Convention’s principles, notably equity and common but differentiated responsibility and respective capacity (CBDRRC).  Likewise concern was expressed about the changes in external review of the promised INDCs, from well before COP21 convenes in Paris on November 20, 2015 to just a month before.  Behind these specifics lies continued disagreement by developing countries over differentiation and eliminating the so-called binary system of responsibility.

In this way, the route à Paris has been laid out as a bumpy one, littered with the potholes and frost heaves borne of unresolved applications of the major shift away from “top down” international climate change obligations (as embodied in the Kyoto Protocol) to nationally driven commitments.  This mistrust — often referred to as the ghost of Copenhagen —   lingered from the opening to the closing plenary statements. The barebones text adopted in the wee hours, now referred to as the Lima Accord, necessarily deferred detailed discussions to the regular meetings scheduled in 2015 leading up to the COP21 next December in Paris.