COP20 briefing #5

The Greens/EFA group’s Terhi Lehtonen, Advisor on Environmental Issues, gives her 4th briefing from COP20, (See: briefing OneTwoThree & Four).  Read more blogs about the climate negotiations at:  

The negotiations on the draft COP decision covering the scope, upfront information and assessment process of INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions)  for the Paris agreement grinded to crawl speed if not to a halt. The G77 /China spent most of the day to narrow down their internal differences on the 60 page document. A 7 page document was leaked in the early morning hours for 3 minutes  and spread like bushfire across Parties,  to reappear nearly unchanged as the co-chairs streamlined proposal under the guidance of the COP President at 22:30 (attached). Below some notes from the COM daily briefing to EP , from a meeting with UNEP Executive Secretary Achim Steiner and from the  ADP meetings.

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COM briefing

Commissioner Arias Cañete briefed MEPs shortly at 18.00.

He said that COP president would mandate  pairs of ministers to take forward draft COP decision elements on the INDCs, consideration of upfront information, pre 2020 and connecting the elements, based on new text put forward by the  co-chairs of ADP.

The leaking of the text on the web has complicated the matters, he said and that the NGOs do not like the new text at all.  Otherwise he said that EU has been conducting very useful bilateral meetings, most difficult with China – who is not at all open to the assessment/review or specifying upfront information. On finance they were more accommodating. Marshall Islands have been constructive on the issue of loss and damage.  The US is not interested in the upfront information and assessment, but will not object if EU wants it.

Arias Cañete said that ministerial dialogues were planned in the spring of 2015 in Norway or Brussels, and that the informal environment council in July would be dedicated to climate finance . 

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Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP

Achim Steiner noted the tendency of delegates in these negotiations to get bogged on the small elements and not on the bigger outcome. He said it was a reason to be impatient, but not a reason to panic. Negotiators are lagging behind political and economic realities of climate change.

The negotiations are plagued by a latent paranoia over whether what we agree here will prejudice future decisions, and the accumulated set of scars by Parties that felt on previous rounds that they had been left in a situation where they did not want to be.

Steiner wanted to underline the shift in political momentum in the talks, there is a sense of inevitability of arriving to agreement in Paris underpinning the negotiations.

We should not think that due to today’s wrangling over ADP text way ahead the process is broken. It is frustrating and difficult and we are expecting quantum leap on multiple fronts.

Steiner highlighted the personal efforts and engagement of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on the issue. He said 9 out of 10 people advised him against the leaders summit held in New York. He urged MEPs to recognize his role in order to strengthen his hand, and capacity to help. As an example Steiner said that Ban Ki Moon had called all major economies governments personally in the past three months to ensure capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund.

Again Steiner brought forward remarkable advances in the development of green economy – outside the direct spotlight of the climate negotiations. For example Nicaragua has set a renewable energy mandate. South Africa, China are mobilising massive investments in renewables. In South Africa, in the renewable energy auctions price / kWh has gone down around 60% for both wind and renewables, the argument that renewables increases power prices is about to be turned on its head in Africa. Market shift is also pushed by pension funds and other institutional investors; green bonds have grown almost three fold between 2013 and 2014 to 32 bn USD, and will reach 100bn USD in 3-4 years.

Steiner underlined the need for a long term horizon, a reference point, in the Paris agreement, and that a zero net carbon needs to be reality somewhere in the second half of this century.

On the issue of climate finance, Steiner said that the discussions here are missing sight of the big picture in fact the G77/China itself is a very bad presenter of its own climate finance which is already occurring. On the other hand Steiner reminded that 3/4 of Africa has no access to power. If Africa goes the fossil way, its impact on global climate is bigger than that of China. For sheer self interest, the EU should have absolute priority in ensuring investments in clean energy Africa. With climate finance you can change the short term economics. Steiner said that Africans are almost doing it themselves out of sheer desperation. He referred to his discussions with Nigerian minister, who said that 80% of Nigerians have no access to electricity, and that decentralised grids will need to be the solution. The doors are wide open, Steiner said, Europeans are slow in realising these strategic objectives.

Asked on what could go wrong, he said that there are two fronts where things could go wrong. If a limited number of G77 countries concluded they have no net gain from Paris, and will mobilise developing countries to take fundamental positions, this would hurt the signal to the economy. This risk has diminished with China’s major move.

The other risk would be if EU looses confidence in its own momentum, or Obama is not able to enact the necessary pieces to arrive at US commitment. Out of the US / China deal, it is the US end that is more unlikely in terms of implementation.

Steiner defended the EU achievement of agreeing to the 40% target. He regretted that EU is never able to communicate to the world its achievement. Whenever we make decisions it is like a village fight, and afterwards everybody looks bad. When Obama steps in front of the press, he has the world at his feet.

Steiner reminded that Europe does not have to defend itself here, we are moving forward. Even Copenhagen, which has been remembered as a disaster, has led to countries doing more that what they committed in Copenhagen.

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ADP contact group

In the morning the ADP contact group convened to decide on the way forward with the draft COP decision. The group had finalised the paragraph by paragraph examination of the draft COP decision text at 2 a.m. the same morning. The text has grown to 58 pages and has been made available on the web, capturing all positions.

Artur Runge-Metzger reminded the delegates that the ADP was scheduled to close this afternoon and that the Parties need to decide a way forward, to produce a clean text for this afternoon adopted by consensus. He urged Parties to shift gears, look for common ground. He urged Parties to discard the issues that  do not need to be decided now, that will continue to be negotiated and will be decided in the agreement itself.

Of the issues necessary for the Lima decision co-chairs identified four areas where views vary widely and where a consensus needs to be found:

–    scope: mitigation, adaptation,

–    upfront information

–    what happens to the information after it is submitted to the Secretariat

–    implementation of existing commitments, which is the basis for building confidence.

A fifth element that needs to be resolved is how the elements of the draft negotiation text will be reflected in the decision, however Runge-Metzger was confident that if there were to be common ground on the four otheroutstanding issues, this could be resolved smoothly.

The chairs opened the floor to Parties suggestions on how to take the process forward. Bolivia speaking on behalf of G77 China welcomed the opportunity for Parties to present their proposals, considering this very important for the transparency of the process, and knowing each others views. It also contributes to the output reflecting the inputs, and despite the length some common threads can be found. He said G77 China is committed to move forward in an efficient but transparent manner, however the Group has not yet arrived at a common view on how to take forward.

No other Party wished to take the floor and the co-chairs proposed to suspend the meeting to wait for G77 China to come to a position, in order to reconvene.

Thereafter the G77/China requested a 4 hours break to come to an internal position. The contact group was reconvened, and G77/China proposed to work on the 60 page document with a promise that they are able to reduce options tabled by G77 countries, in a friends of the chairs open-ended format.

Norway, EU, US, Canada, Australia, Switzerland were sceptical of starting work on the basis of  a new text but expressed some openness to at least start rerunning through the text.

The meeting of the ADP was interrupted for a  stocktaking plenary by the COP president at 19h. The COP President highlighted the issues that remained to be agreed, and asked for ADP co-chairs to come up with new text by 21 under his authority to give to two ministers / issue area to take forward.

The ADP meeting was later postponed until 22.30 when the new text was finally released. The new text is nearly unchanged from the leak version that had appeared on the ADP website for 3 minutes in the early morning hours.

Terhi Lehtonen


12/13/2014 – 11:51


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