30 Jul 2015
Initial thoughts on the elements for a draft decision
561 view(s)

Technical examination and periodic assessmentswith respect to “fairness” and “ambition” are at the heart of the climate regime and involve important trade-offs; even in the Convention, negotiated twenty four years ago, in 1992, assessment and review (Article 10) was the very last item to be agreed.


While the proposals are for the pre-2020 period, they include “bridging proposals” and narrowing options for further negotiations and should be considered as a package with the post-2020 text. These initial thoughts take such an integrated view.


The formulations suggested in the draft need further clarity through specificity, with respect to: (i) tension between universality and diversity which the principle of CBDR and respective capabilities enshrines, (ii) whether this will be a Party or secretariat driven process, (iii) relationship with the Convention, (iv) role of non-state actors, and (v) treatment of adaptation:


[1]   The technical examination (para 6), or preparation of ‘Technical Briefs’, should be limited to compilation and synthesis of the data and information, as at present, using indicators toreflect the range of issues raised in the INDCs – for example, energy intensity, carbon intensity, per capita emissions, sectoral breakup for production and consumption sectors, access to energy, renewable energy as a share of total electricity, transport emissions, urbanization, water scarcity etc. It should also bring together recent research from other UN bodies and national governments. That is, the diversity of national circumstances and levels of development should be an intrinsic part of the technical examination just as they of the INDCs.


The options should relate to mitigation, adaptation andsharing innovation with respect to energy and agriculture technologies. Adaptation should be included in para 2, not be limited to a co-benefit (para 11) and a technical assessment should include ‘needs’ and opportunities’ (para 15), as in the case of mitigation. A technical examination of ‘needs’ with respect to adaptation is essential to understand impacts on human wellbeing and not only on ecosystems.


An integrated, rather than compartmentalized, perspective is also needed as the distinction between mitigation and adaptation is increasingly is getting blurred in developing countries as urbanization progresses and rural populations shift to citiesand into the middle class at a different pace in different countries. Differentiation is not just a legal concept for burden sharing but also directly related to different national actions in countries at different levels of wellbeing.


The emphasis in the technical examination, or preparation of ‘Technical Briefs’, should really be for the Parties to bring out ‘good practices’ and share their experience with others on the transformation that will be needed. Identifying universal policies and/or actions at the inter-governmental level does not conform to the bottom-up approach that has been adopted in these negotiations, and to which the countries are responding and expect will be maintained.


In a universal regime developing country experts should constitute at least two-thirds of the total (instead of merely improving their access and participation, para 8), as sufficiently trained experts are now available and wide participation of experts will itself lead to the transfer of knowledge to developing countries.


The annual updating of technical papers should begin immediately, from 2017 (the text, in para 10 implies this step would occur post-2020).


The arrangement should be till 2030, when the approach should be reviewed on the basis of experience gained with the technical examination process, for example, as levels of wellbeing converge peer review may be more acceptable, though it should be considered at this stage as well.


[2] The draft does not make a distinction between the process, which is technical, and the output, which is entirely political in nature. The identification of policy options and actions (para 10) and assessments (para 15), if agreed, should be done by an inter-governmental body, like the SBI as at present, and not by the secretariat (para 10), and the technical examination should also done by experts nominated by States.


Enhancing ambition (para 10.a) and assessments of effectiveness (para 15) involve value judgements with respect to sharing the global carbon budget and requires political rather than technical consideration; the importance of ethics and justice, and not just efficiency and effectiveness, has also been recognised by the IPCC in its most recent report – “ambition” and “fairness” must be considered together, as that is the defining feature of the Convention.


Levels of development and national circumstances are integral to the INDCs and should be reflected in the (policy) options and actions separately for those countries who have already capped emissions of greenhouse gases and those who will do so later. The former will need to cut-back already high levels while the latter will need to modify trends; very different options will be relevant for countries at different levels of development.


For example, cities are responsible for two-third of emissions, while retrofitting of buildings is recommended for developed countries urban design is optimum for developing countries that are now urbanizing. The pace and direction of urbanization – urban design, emphasis on access rather than mobility, public transport, energy efficiency of buildings, a healthy diet with less meat and less waste – provides the most appropriate mitigation and adaptation optionsfor developing countries. This will be achieved by shifting rural populations into the urban middle class by 2050, before the adverse effects of climate change begin to impact on the poor, and does not apply to the developed already urbanized countries. Recognising this distinction and regional specificity of the transformation is vital to get support in developing countries for national legislation on dealing with climate change.


The technical papers prepared by experts should be brief and not require a ‘policy’ summary (para 1o.b), which, as the IPCC process shows, adds a layer of subjectivity and needs political input.


The Bureau, not the secretariat (para 10.c) should be charged with coordination with other conventions, as these would include the World Trade Organization and will have political implications, and such a role for the Bureau rather than the secretariat is in accordance with broader reform being considered within the United Nations.

[3]    In the Preamble, there should be a ‘stand-alone’ reference to enhancing the implementation the Convention, that is,“achievethe objective of the Convention”. This is distinct from promoting international cooperation in general (and ambitious and ‘fair’ climate action). This clear frame of reference is necessary as it will need to be included in the objective of national legislation to gain support for the needed measures.


The existing mechanisms, and not ‘arrangements; as the text has in para 15, should continue in the new regime, to take care of emerging needs.


Delegating powers of the COP to the President (para 13) is also departure from the Convention. If this is considered necessary the focus of the intervention should belimited to promoting international cooperation, and should be specified. It could be‘finance, technology and capacity building support’ in both the pre- 2020 period (para 3) and in the post-2020 period. The sharing of innovative technologies for energy and agriculture, on which there is no consensus, would benefit from high level engagement to meet the objective of the Convention.


[2]   Since this is an inter-governmental process giving a role to non-State actors in (national) implementation (para 9),“recognizing the efforts” of non-State actors (para 12.a) and providing “meaningful and regular opportunities for the effective engagement” of civil society, indigenous peoples, women, youth, academic institutions, the private sector and sub-national authorities (para 12.b) extends arrangements from a very different intergovernmental processes (the Sustainable Development Goals) to a treaty. That agreement puts the means of implementation as its core, which would benefit from a wider participation, while in the climate treaty the technical examination and its assessment process is the core, with legal and policy implications for countries at the international level, for example, enforcement through trade regimes etc.


There needs to be different arrangements for the various actors - government nominated experts in the technical examination, intergovernmental bodies (not international organizations – para 12.b) sharing their reports etc. with the COP and civil society providing inputs as they are doing at present, or taking part in workshops organized by SBSTA (civil society does not have a formal role in the IPCC, for example).


The draft ignores the key formal role social science research is playing with respect to the sustainable development goals, and the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) should be invited to each COP to share their research on ‘Future Earth’.


[5]   Adaptation and mitigation should be treated on equal footing, responding to the concerns of large numbers of citizensin developing countries. For example, elected representatives representing the poor who do not even have access to adequate electricity will support national legislationrelated to mitigation only if it responds to adaptation in greater, or at least equal, measure.


The suggested structure, in the document, is such that including adaptation in the technical examination along with mitigation alone will link adaptation with ‘actions’.Therefore, there should be common provisions with respect to mitigation and adaptation. Paras 14 and 15 should be combined with paras 6 and 10.a. – the common concern is ‘change in the earth’s climate and its adverse effects’.