The Paris Agreement’s Debut: Priorities at CMA1

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 7.59.17 AMOn October 5, 2016, the Paris Agreement passed the threshold required to go into force on November 4, 2016. Over 55 Parties to the Convention have submitted their instruments of ratification, accounting for over 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1) will occur in Marrakech in conjunction with COP22/CMP12. What will be the priority at CMA1? Currently, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website lists no CMA1 agenda documents. However, the Secretariat’s Progress Tracker of relevant requests from the Paris Agreement and Decision 1/CP.21 provides a good predictor of CMA1’s focus.

The Progress Tracker indicates renewed discussion of Article 6’s market-based mechanisms at CMA1, as Paris Agreement Parties redouble their efforts to establish the system to achieve their pledged contributions. Article 6  provides the starting point for market-based mechanisms. Interestingly, nowhere does Article 6’s language actually use the term market-based mechanisms. Instead, Article 6.1 refers to “voluntary cooperation” when implementing NDCs with Article 6.2’s “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” [ITMOs] and “robust accounting.” Roughly translated, Article 6’s voluntary cooperation works through a carbon trading, market-based mechanism, using ITMOs.

Recent meetings of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific Technology and Advice (SBSTA44) also point to Article 6 priorities during CMA1. At the May 2016 SBSTA44 meeting, Parties emphasized the Paris Agreement’s changed context, in that all Parties have NDCs. Now, with most Parties planning to consider some form of market mechanism to reach their mitigation pledges, they remain divided on how best to proceed. For example, Parties maintain varying views about whether Article 6’s scope should include REDD+.  Given these unresolved concerns, SBSTA44 agreed to continue Article 6 work in Marrakech and invited submissions on the Parties’ varying Article 6 views for discussion at SBSTA45.

Accordingly, over a hundred countries submitted their Article 6 statements, fueling continued Article 6 debate during CMA1.  Some countries’ submissions came as part of a broad range of major negotiation groups; submissions from the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), Forestry Commission of Central Africa (COMIFAC), Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), European Union (EU), and Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) addressed an equally broad range of priorities. Prevalent themes involved differences between developed and developing countries’ priorities, concerns regarding transparency in accounting, and the need for clarity in Decision 1/CP.21 § 36 language addressing emissions “corresponding adjustments.”

Additionally, multiple side events scheduled during the Marrakech meeting demonstrate strong support from civil society and the research community for Parties to clarify and implement Article 6. Organizations like the Green Climate Fund, Institute for Environmental Global Strategies, International Carbon Action Partnership and country representatives from around the world will present at these sessions.

Based on the Progress Tracker, SB44 discussions and submissions, and side event interest, Article 6 issues will not only appear on the SBSTA45 agenda. They will also likely play a major role at the inaugural CMA1 meeting, as the Paris Agreement enters into force on the world stage.