What happened in the first week of negotiations

 What happened in the first week of negotiations

The second week of the Bonn United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) is just beginning. On Wednesday afternoon, the Ministries and Heads of States of the 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will take the floor, and be called to certify the work undertaken by their negotiators in the past week of technical work. Yet, what happened in the last 7 days of hectic negotiations? Here is a brief summary for those who might have missed them.

COP 23 is expected to achieve substantial progress on the so called “Rulebook” of the Paris agreement, i.e. the set of implementation guidelines that will make the agreement up and running. These guidelines are expected to specify the way national efforts in terms of mitigation, adaptation, and financial support will be reported and reviewed. This is particularly important for tracking progress in a transparent way and to identify areas where ambition is to be enhanced. In UNFCCC jargon, States’ climate plans are referred to as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and specify the objectives countries aim to reach to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

Technical work undertaken last week mostly focused on what the feature of NDCs will be, what information they will include and how they will be accounted for. Discussions, however, proved to be thorny and many aspects still need to be clarified. The main point of contention concerns the way mitigation efforts will be differentiated in order to account for different countries’ capacities and national circumstances. Developed countries fear to go back to a “bifurcation” in emissions reduction commitments, which the Paris Agreement has already made obsolete.
Indeed, and differently from the Kyoto Protocol, emissions reductions are not just a developed countries’ duty but every state is called to make a contribution. How this is to be done, however, is still disputed. Diverging views have been “synthesized” in a 45-pages (!) long document on which negotiators are currently working. Now, the challenge is how to shorten it.

Work on the guidelines for Adaptation Communications -the documents where states will share their adaptation efforts, achievements, and good practices, as well as challenges and gaps- advanced more expeditiously. As for the Adaptation Fund, Parties did not agree on whether to adopt a decision here in Bonn or at next COP on how it will serve the Paris Agreement.

Another important point of discussion relates to the “Facilitative dialogue”, to be convened in 2018 to understand how to rump up the ambition of the national pledges reflected by the NDCs. COP23 is expected to put in motion this process, newly baptized as “Talanoa Dialogue”. Talanoa is a Fijian concept stressing the importance of sharing stories, building emphasis and making wise decision for the common good. COP President Frank Bainimarama (Fiji) informed parties that he will propose an approach to the “Talanoa Dialogue” in the upcoming days.

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