While transparency forms the backbone of the Paris Agreement, COP22/CMA1 did not proceed in a very transparent manner. Nevertheless, parties made progress behind mostly closed doors toward a more transparent future. Additionally, the assistance our observer delegation was able to offer to our service learning partner made this experience especially meaningful.
In light of how quickly the world ratified the Paris Agreement, the APA made notable progress in its 1-2 session. In the context of the transparency framework, global stocktake, and implementation articles (Art. 13, 14, and 15 of the Paris Agreement), the APA did not fully develop the PA’s framework, but it nevertheless made progress. In its decision on Monday, the APA set a roadmap to resolve the major issues in the near future. Parties have the opportunity to make submissions early next year on the transparency framework, global stocktake, and implementation committee, which are guided by questions in the decision text. Then for transparency, the APA will host a workshop in May before the Bonn intersessional to address the parties’ submissions. While plenty of work remains, the parties at APA 1-2 achieved progress by creating a plan to expedite this work. The Bonn intersessional will provide more insight as to what the transparency framework, global stocktake, and implementation articles will look like under the PA.
One irony of the entire process, however, was that observers like us were excluded from a majority of the negotiation sessions this week. Parties discussed most of their disagreements behind closed doors, and only allowed observers to sit in after they reached a consensus. While some privacy among negotiating groups is expected, observers this week could only be in the room for a handful of the action. This runs contrary to the spirit of the Paris Agreement itself, which strives for integrated transparency.
However, even without a party badge, the limited sessions I attended and the side events were very enriching. These discussions provided an insightful peek into the world of multilateral negotiations. Reading about the negotiations and outcomes only scratches the surface; being in the room allows observers to feel the emotions of the parties during negotiations. It is an experience you simply cannot learn in a classroom setting.
Additionally, while watching these developments unfold was an invaluable experience, the work our delegation performed for our service learning partner was the most meaningful. Choosing side events and negotiation sessions based on their interests added another dimension to the work we were doing at COP22. One notable challenge included framing daily notes and the end-of-the-week briefing for a non-legal audience. It forced me to really think about transparency from multiple perspectives so that I could relay the information in a way that made it applicable to their interests.
Both our service learning partner and I felt frustrated at times with how slow the international legal process moves. While the transparency framework was set to be established by the CMA1 at its first session, the world ratified the Agreement faster than anyone ever imagined, and the APA could not complete all of the mandated work so quickly. Therefore, while the process may feel slow, the international momentum behind the Paris Agreement is huge. This spirit of immediate action on climate change persisted throughout COP22/CMA1, and there is good reason to be optimistic about the future.