Progress in Panama but big challenges ahead in Durban

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The last preparatory meetings before the Durban Climate Conference made some progress in Panama. Many issues remain unresolved—and it will be a tough time again for the UNFCCC in Durban.


The last day of the climate talks in Panama on 7 October under the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long- term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) saw some progress in producing some texts by Parties to advance further negotiations in Durban, South Africa where the talks will resume in late November.

Although the mood was generally positive that advances  were  made  in  producing  texts  in Panama on several key elements under the Bali Action Plan, big challenges remain in Durban to arrive at an agreed outcome on all the critical issues.

At the closing plenary of the AWG-LCA, Ambassador Jorge Arguello of Argentina speaking for the Group of 77 and China, said that “although there has been indubitable progress in the work in Panama”, the Group had “concerns over the uneven progress in the negotiations and called for decisive leadership to ensure that all submissions from the Parties are discussed and that there is a positive basis for successful negotiations in Durban.”  He stressed that a serious imbalance in the progress of issues could not be conducive to a successful outcome that is comprehensive and balanced.

Arguello was referring to how there were draft texts or non-papers for negotiations in the case of several issues, but there was no progress on some issues as that relating to economic and social consequences of response measures, which included the issue of addressing unilateral trade measures by developed countries on the grounds of climate change.

At a contact group meeting of the AWG-LCA held at noon before the closing plenary, facilitators reported on the outcomes of the respective informal groups.

In relation to the element of shared vision, Parties worked on the facilitators’ notes, which led to the production of a non-paper for further work. The facilitator of the session welcomed more suggestions for further streamlining of the document in order to have a draft decision text.

(Among the divergences that arose in this informal group among developed and developing countries was over the scope of the shared vision. Developed countries wanted the focus to be only on the issue of determining the long-term global goal for emissions reductions and the time frame for global peaking. Developing countries on the other hand wanted the shared vision to also operationalise the principles of equity and historical responsibility including through having a fair sharing and equitable allocation framework in relation to emissions reductions, and the establishment of global goals for finance, technology transfer, adaptation, and capacity building. In addition, developing countries also wanted the issue of unilateral trade measures and intellectual property rights to be addressed).

On the mitigation of developed countries, the co-facilitators reported progress in textual work and in-depth discussions on biennial reports and international assessment and review (IAR).  A non-paper was prepared on “possible elements of draft guidelines for biennial reports” and another non-paper on “possible elements of modalities and procedures for IAR”. The co- facilitators said that discussions were also held on the pledges of developed countries, their ambition level and the accounting framework (relating to paragraphs 36-38 of the Cancun decision) and a co-facilitators’ summary of the discussions was produced. The co-facilitators acknowledged   that   the   co-facilitators’ notes (regarding paragraphs 36-38) were less elaborate than the other two non-papers and were not as mature (in terms of the discussions).

(Many Parties recognized the existence of an ambition gap in relation to the pledges of developed countries and the need to raise the ambition level. However, developed countries insisted on the consideration of this issue in the context of encompassing all Parties, including developing countries with a significant share of emissions. Developing countries on the other hand were opposed to the attempts by developed countries to link their ambition level to that of developed countries.)

The situation was similar in the case of mitigation actions of developing countries. Parties had discussions on biennial update reports (BURs); international consultations and analysis (ICA); the registry to record the national appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) seeking international support; and the pledges of developing countries including the assumptions underlying them (which related to paragraphs 48 to 51 of the Cancun decision).

According to the facilitators, 4 non- papers were produced on the “possible elements of draft guidelines for biennial update reports”, “possible elements   of   modalities and procedures for international consultations and analysis,”; the registry and a co-facilitators’ summary of the discussion related to paragraphs 48-51.

On the issue of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing  countries  (REDD-plus), according to the report back by the facilitator of the informal group, Parties  had  explored financing options for results-based actions in implementing forest-related activities and considered what results-based actions were. A vast majority of Parties wanted a decision on REDD-plus finance for its full implementation. The facilitator was able to produce a non-paper, which was a “placeholder text” which was an outline rather than a negotiating document. The facilitator asked Parties to submit views and proposals, which the secretariat will compile so that Parties can begin work in having a full text for negotiations in Durban.

On the issue of “cooperative sectoral approaches”, the facilitator of the informal group reported that Parties discussed the general framework, agriculture and international aviation and shipping. A consolidated text provided by Parties was produced in which the options reflected captured a divergence of views. (Some Parties wanted decisions on agriculture and international aviation and shipping while others did not want any decision in this regard.)

On “various approaches including market and non-market based mechanisms”, a draft text was produced which contained a compilation of submissions from Parties which, according to the facilitator, provided ingredients for negotiations. Parties could review the text further and see how streamlining could be done. (One major area of disagreement among Parties is whether offsets should be allowed in relation to market based mechanisms).

On the issue of the “economic and social consequences of response measures”, the facilitator said that there was need to continue discussions further for a textual note. The facilitator prepared a note under his own responsibility, which summarized the discussions and  there  were  also  3  submissions from developing  country Parties  as  draft  decision texts. (This was one of the most controversial issues during the Panama meeting where developed countries were opposed to any text for negotiations. They did not even want the submissions of developing countries to be compiled into a document. One issue, which was firmly resisted by developed countries and Singapore, was that of “unilateral trade measures” as they insisted that the UNFCCC was not the proper forum to discuss this matter but the WTO.)

On “adaptation”, the facilitator reported that a consolidated text was produced as basis for further discussions, which was a well-advanced draft decision text. The facilitator hoped to see further common ground reached on the composition of the Adaptation Committee. (Parties had disagreements on how the Committee is to be composed).

As regards the issue of “finance”, the co- facilitators reported that Parties discussed “long-term finance” and the “Standing Committee on Finance”. As a result of time constraints for further discussions, the co-facilitators said they would incorporate Parties’ comments in the meetings along with additional submissions into a draft text which will be presented for negotiations. All the submissions by Parties as conference room papers would still be on the table. They said that there were different views on long-term finance. (Some developed countries, including Australia, Japan and Canada were initially opposed to any text on long-term finance, but relented after insistence by developing countries.)

As regards technology development and transfer, the facilitator reported that based on the submissions of the G77 and China, the European Union and the joint-submission by Japan and the United States, he produced a draft decision  text  for  negotiations. He said that Parties engaged in a first reading of the text and there was a good exchange of views on the governance structure of the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and on the criteria for the host of the CTCN. He said that there were divergences over the role of the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) in governing the host of the CTCN and this was an issue that still needed to be resolved. (Developing countries want the CTCN to be governed by the TEC while this was opposed to by developed countries). The facilitator said that further technical work was needed to enhance the clarity on the call for proposals to host the CTCN and criteria for evaluation in this regard. The text was detailed on the international selection procedure and he said that Parties have to make an effort to hammer down concrete ideas.

On capacity building, the facilitator reported that 3 groups of Parties had proposals for a draft decision text, which were compiled for further discussions.

As regards the issue of the review to define its scope and development of its modalities” the facilitator reported that a non-paper was produced and hoped that there would be agreement on the scope of the review. (Parties were divided on the scope of the review as the Alliance of Small Island States wanted the review to only be confined to a review of the adequacy of the long-term global goal in relation to the temperature goal while a large number of developing countries were in favor of a review of the adequacy of the implementation of the commitments under the Convention as a whole).

On the legal options for the agreed outcome of the work of the AWG-LCA, the facilitator reported a divergence of views on the matter. Parties are to continue discussions on the menu of options.  (This issue was one of the “hottest” issues   in   Panama,   as   some   Parties   wanted Durban to launch a new mandate and process for a new legally binding instrument under the Convention while other Parties wanted the content of the outcome to be agreed to first before determining the legal form of the outcome).

Following the report back from the contact group, Parties expressed their views on how they saw the Panama meeting at the closing plenary held on October 7.

The last day of the Panama meeting also saw the launch of an alliance between the African Group, the Least Developed countries (LDCs) and the ALBA group of Latin American countries to ensure that the Durban climate conference delivers outcomes that strengthen the climate regime, cut emissions and deliver on climate finance.  At a press conference held on 7 October, the leaders of these developing country groupings announced that they have developed a ‘Statement of Common Position’ outlining areas of   unity   and   defining   a   common   position covering key areas of the negotiations.

- Published in South Bulletin 57.
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