VLS at COP21: Law for Community and the World Week 2!

VLS Week 2 Delegation (L to R): Sara, Annie, Katie, Catie

VLS Week 2 Delegation (L to R): Sara, Annie, Katie, Catie

As we begin the VLS Observer Delegation’s second week at COP21, a new team of students has arrived.  They came in on Sunday and hit the ground running yesterday.  Second-year JD student Catie Davis is covering mitigation, picking up the baton from her week 1 partner, Kelsey Bain, while her colleague Sara Barnowski takes on finance – an especially hot topic this week – taking the hand off from her week 1 partner, Madhavi Venkatesan.  Third-year JD student Annie Warner is our adaptation and loss and damage specialist, building on the work done by her partner, Bonnie Smith, last week.  Last but not least, 3L Katie Dressel is following three areas – technology development and transfer, capacity building, and pre-2020 ambition (known as Workstream 2) – and taking over for her week 1 partner, Rachel Stevens.

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Waterloo has arrived!

While our student delegates have worked incredibly long hours, attending negotiation sessions and side events, analyzing their sections of text, and briefing Myanmar each day, they’ve also made time for some play.  Last Wednesday night, we hosted what has become the 3rd annual university delegation social gathering at our house.  Our friends from Wash U have co-hosted this event with us since COP19. We had a great turn out this year:  over 30 students, researchers, and profs from a variety of universities and think thanks, including American University, Buenos Aires Institute of Technology, U. of Copenhagen, U. Linkoping (Sweden), UCLA, UCSD, U. of Waterloo, Yale, C2ES – and, of course, VLS and Wash U.  On Thursday we had a late lunch/early coffee with representatives of theGovernors Climate and Forests Task Force, to learn more about its work with subnational governments in the US and South America.  On Friday we had a short conversation with Chuck Di Leva ’78 about his work at the World Bank and how the COP21

With VLS Alums in Paris

With VLS Alums in Paris

outcome would affect it. On Saturday we took the night off so that we could join the VLS Alumni/ae of Paris as they welcomed us to Paris.  Over wine, cheese, and charcuterie in a downtown restaurant, we enjoyed good conversation into the wee hours, much of it about the place that drew us all together – Vermont Law School.  The Paris alums include US and French students in our joint degree program:  Cergy-Pontoise masters students, who spend a year in cosmopolitan South Royalton earning their LLM

After our meeting with CEQ this morning.

After our meeting with CEQ this morning.

and preparing for a US bar exam, and US students, who spend one or two years earning their masters at Cergy and qualifying to take the French bar.  This week’s team has already fit in a small group meeting with the US Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).  Graduate students from VLS, Yale, U Michigan, Duke, and U Maryland were invited to talk informally with CEQ Managing Director Christy Goldfuss.  Tomorrow we’ll meet with Mary Nichols of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and on Thursday, with environmental grad students at Cambridge and Sciences Po.

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Protest outside the Party delegation hall.

This week has shifted into high gear, with the COP as a whole taking on the ADP-recommended Draft Paris Outcome and its many unresolved issues.  As Archer described in her post yesterday, ministers from developing and developed countries have now taken on the role of negotiation facilitators.  Rather than organizing the negotiations by article of the draft text, these ministers are now tackling the harder “cross cutting” issues that have bogged down the negotiations since the June intersessional.  These issues include MOI or means of implementation, most notably finance; adaptation and especially, loss and damage; increasing ambition pre-2020, before this new agreement would start; how to include forests and land use issues in the agreement (or not); and of course, the elephant in the room, differentiation.  These ministerial consultations are not open to observers.  Moreover, they are designed to lead to smaller informal drafting sessions and “bilats” or one-on-one conversations with the COP21 president and these ministers he has tapped to extend his persuasive reach.  Consequently, it is abundantly clear to all here that the real work is taking place behind closed doors, as Parties work out their specific and deep differences.

Last night's Comite de Paris meeting.

Last night’s Comite de Paris meeting.

Until the evening “stocktake.”  The Comite de Paris, as it has been called, is the nerve center for brokering the new deal.  These minister facilitators report back to it throughout the day.  Each evening, from 7-9pm (more or less), we watch with anticipation to hear each report and then read the tea leaves.  Last night we heard generally about progress being made on some issues, and “red lines” being drawn on others.  We also heard Parties express frustration about being asked to be in too many places at once, and not always knowing the agenda of these bilats before arriving for their appointed sit down.  We’ll see tonight at stocktake what the last 48 hours of working this way has produced.  The COP21 president’s stated goal is to have ministers present conclusions on how to resolve most of these differences, and then to produce a revised negotiation text tomorrow morning reflecting them.  On verra. Stay tuned!