There are two opposing visions of the new climate regime and the unresolved issue is whether the multilateral consensus at Paris will be around climate justice, reflecting the concerns of the majority of the human population, or environmental integrity, which reflects the approach adopted in the negotiation text, released on 5 October 2015.
The essential question that negotiators need to ask is how the Articles of the text, and the draft decisions, will achieve the ‘Purpose’ enumerated in Article 2 of the Agreement. This is:
“…strengthenand support the global response and international cooperation to collectively meet the urgent threat of climate change by further addressing its causes and by further increasing resilience and the ability to adapt to its adverse impacts, with a view to promoting the global transformation to low-carbon [emission] and climate-resilient societies and economies to keep within the global carbon budget. It reflects equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances and levels of development”.
According to the negotiation text, the focus of international cooperation should be on environmental integrity, or risk-management. The information required to be communicated under Article 3 to the multilateral level is limited to mitigation. Its review to determine future national actions under Article 9.2 and 10 is based solely on emissions reduction. Consequently, adaption, finance, technology development and transfer (and this term occurs only in a title) are considered national level actions, and multilateral assessment and review of these elements to strengthen international cooperation is not considered. The review is considered a technicalexercise with the secretariat given an active role with respect to actions to be taken by Parties and stocktakingis sought to be opened up to non-Parties. This framework is presented as the new framework for achieving “global low-carbon transformation”.
For the others, and this view has been articulated most clearly by India and also by China, the universal regime for the “global low-carbon transformation” cannot be achieved withoutgiving equal weightage to climate justice and environmental integrity. As provision of information is the only ‘commitment’ in the climate regimeArticle 2 must include all elements to achieve the transformation – what the text calls mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology development and transfer. Emissions reduction deals with the symptoms of climate change while the ‘Purpose’ of the Agreement, in Article 2, calls for a focus on the causes - lifestyles.
The change from the Convention negotiated in 1992 is that the world is now faced with ecological limits and the limited carbon space, in the absence of equitable allocation criteria, requires strengthening the global response to enable all to achieve middle class levels of wellbeing. The recent report of the IPCC has re-framed the global concern in terms of sharing the global climate budget, and that consideration of ethics and justice will lead to a stronger climate agreement. International cooperation, as Article 2 points out, is the purpose of the Agreement.
The negotiating text rightly focuses on ‘transparency’ (linking it with review) but the meaning of ‘understanding’includes comprehension and awareness of others feelings, and the latter would be appropriate only in the context of climate justice. The ‘Purpose’ in Article 2 does not use the terms ‘mitigation’ and ‘adaptation’; mitigation refers to reducing the severity of pollution and adaptation refers to anticipating adverse effects; the stress is on promoting the global transformation, and that has not been considered in the text with its focus on emissions.
The only ‘commitment’ is to provide information. Review of the information and the elements of the information to be provided will be the most contentious articles to be negotiated, just as it was in 1992, because the Parties continue to have different notions of fairness. The compromisearrived at then was that the United States drafted Article 4.2(a) and ensured there were no emission reduction commitments, only an “aim”. India with the support of China drafted Article 10 and ensured there would be only assessment of aggregate effects of the measurestaken by developing countries. This time the United States has shaped the agenda for a ‘bottom-up’ regime again with no multilaterally determined emission reduction commitments and is pushing for review of “mitigation” actions of developing countries. India and China are stressing review of modification of longer term trends or lifestyles, to focus on the causes of the problem. India’s INDC is subtitled ‘working towards climate justice’ stressing international cooperation to enable the transformationrequired by Article 2 of the Agreement, with technology development and transfer as a key element.The unresolved issue is how the ‘Purpose’ of the new regime in Article 2 will be reconciled with the information requirements, multilateral review and future collective actions of all Parties, that is, the nature and scope of international cooperation.
Other unresolved, yet significant, issues include
1. The objective of transparency (Art. 9) of the review should be ‘fairness’, or, confidence in meeting the Purpose of the Agreement and not just one component. Defining transparency related capacity should specify data, research and analytical capacity, including exchange of experiences, as this is a critical element (DD Paragraph 58).
2. Reviews should be Party driven notby experts, and the pre-2020 review is being conducted by the SBI while the post-2020 reviews are by expert groups!Peer review should be available for countries that opt for such arrangement (Article 6, DD paragraph 69). The text also has a common review arrangement (Art. 6) and does not make the critical distinction between countries whose emissions have peaked and those who have yet to do so, which is essential for a fair review process; the former also requires more frequent reporting.
3. Justification is needed for withdrawal from a regime whose purpose is to strengthen international cooperation (Art.25)
4. Role of non-Parties in decision-making is questionable (Article 8, Draft Decision paragraphs 77 to 87), and their efforts should not be recognised along with efforts of Parties (Draft Decision paragraph 82) and kept separate for transparency.
5. Global stocktaking, another critical element, should not be limited to only consider reports of the IPCC (DD Paragraphs 60 and 61) and analytical reports submitted by Parties should also be considered for better clarity and understanding.
6. The pre-2020 review by the SBI (draft Decision paragraph 14) should be with reference to achieving the purpose of this Agreement in Article 2, and not with reference to Article 2 of the Convention.
7. The role of the secretariat should be to support the peer-review, technical expert groups and the SBI, as at present, and not extended to preparing technical papersand coordination with other intergovernmental bodies (Draft Decision paragraph 70).
8. The nominated high level champions (Draft decision paragraph 83) will dilute the role of the Bureau and the Party driven process, because they are to coordinate the involvement of non-Party stakeholders and experts with a specific budget provision making it an on-going and substantive activity, its value-added is questionable. Such activities, if agreed, should be conducted by the Bureau or the SBI.
9. The selection of experts needs to be re-visited in a universal climate regime so as not to repeat the experience of the IPCC where the Lead Authors and other experts in decision-making roles continue to be from developed countries or developing country experts who have moved to developed countries. The majority should now be from developing countries based on nominations of qualified persons by the Regional Groups.
10. Facilitation is a term that has not been defined in over 20 years of the implementation of the Convention, and is best avoided in the new regime.
In 1992, the best the developing countries could achieve was to get their key concerns into the Preamble. This negotiating text also puts the key current concern of developing countries –“recognizing the intrinsic relationship between climate change, poverty eradication and sustainable development” – into the Preamble and does not link it to any of the operative articles, and will be contested in a more equal world.
The International Science Council (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC) in February 2015advised the negotiators ofthe Global Sustainable Goals to have a greater understanding of the interplay between the social, economic and environmental dimension as the goals apply to all countries of the world, climate and development should not considered in isolation from one another and goalshould guide implementation. The scientistsrecommended that this meta-goal be “a prosperous, high quality of life that is equitably shared and sustained.”The most recent interdisciplinary science provides an integrating vision for the new climate regime.
The differences around what constitutes a ‘balanced’ agreement should not be seen as competing visions because climate justice includes environmental integrity; both should be the basis for the provision of information, its peer- review and international cooperation to enable the agreed transformation.Let not coming generations say that they were served only moderately well by the very capable women and men negotiating the new climate regime.
Former United Nations diplomat. In the text ‘underline’ denotes text suggested for removal and suggested text is in ‘bold’.