On December 3, 2019, the Vermont Law School COP25 student delegation started covering both negotiations and various side events of interest to small island nations. The primary focus of the day was the still unresolved details of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Article 6 is one of the most complex and obscure concepts of the Paris Agreement and has been an unresolved issue since 2015 because it is contentious and has wide-reaching implications. Generally, Article 6 will establish an international carbon market. Three main sections of Article 6 are up for discussion: 6.2, 6.4, and 6.8. First, Article 6.2 pertains to an accounting framework for international cooperation and allows for countries with existing carbon trading networks to link their emission schemes. Second, Article 6.4 covers the establishment of a central United Nations mechanism to trade credits from emission reductions achieved through implementation of specific projects. Finally, Article 6.8 recognizes a work program for non-market approaches, such as applying a carbon tax. Pre-negotiations started last week and will continue through December 9, 2019.
Another primary focus here at COP25 is all things ocean. Referred to as the Blue COP, small island nations have led the way here at COP25 in communicating that we must continue to reduce emissions, and we cannot look to the ocean to solve our climate emergency. The current state of our ocean’s health is a symptom of the international communities’ failure to act. In many negotiations and most side events attended by student delegates, the role of the ocean has been central to the dialogue.
Beyond the Article 6 negotiations discussed above, student delegates tracked the issue of Adaptation, which is divided into two main topics: (1) what to do to prepare for impacts associated with climate change (e.g., sea level rise, increased storminess, erosion) and (2) what to do in response to impacts already occurring. In a perfect world, vulnerable countries would be able to prepare for the impacts of climate change through adaptation and then could respond to those impacts through a loss and damage mechanism. But those coastal nations on the front lines of the climate emergency must both prepare for, and respond to, the effects of climate change simultaneously, and with limited financial resources.
According to the UNFCC, adaptation refers to adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. Further, it refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change. The informal consultations regarding National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) commenced December 3, 2019. Under the Cancun Adaptation Framework, NAPs were established to enable Parties to identify and address medium and long-term adaptation needs. The planning process is continuous, progressive, and iterative, and allows for a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory, and transparent approach. Since last year’s COP24, the focus has been on identifying and addressing the gaps and needs of countries in implementing their NAPs. Yesterday’s negotiations centered primarily on process, and financing mechanisms were of interest to many parties.
Many small island nations must also consider what to do in response to loss and damage from impacts associated with climate change in parallel with how to prepare for a more resilient future. Created six years ago at COP19, the Warsaw International Mechanisms for Loss and Damage (WIM) addresses loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The goal of this week’s WIM negotiations is to come to agreement regarding the implementation of approaches to address loss and damage associated with climate change. Expressing some concern over the lack of time—and lack of representation—parties also continued the dialogue over whether loss and damage should be narrowly focused on financial needs or expand to cover adaptation measures.
While Vermont Law was busy with negotiations, student delegates also made time to go to several side events on topics ranging from Fossil Fuels to the Ocean. Stay tuned as we continue our daily posts on what is happening here in Madrid. #TimeForAction.