Millennium Post

Climate negotiations resume in Geneva with a plea for greater urgency and hope

Climate negotiations resumed in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, following the previous round of talks in Lima, Peru, in December 2014. This critical session being organised under the United Nations’ Ad hoc working group on the Durban Platform (ADP) is being held from the February 8-13, and has the mandate of coming up with the “negotiating text” towards the climate agreement that is expected to be signed in Paris.

The opening plenary took place on Sunday where the COP 20 President Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of the Environment, Peru, called on parties to maintain the momentum generated in Lima and work “responsibly, efficiently and in a spirit of compromise.” Pointing to the numerous scientific warnings of global warming and rising extreme weather events, he appealed to country representatives to “work with an even higher sense of urgency.”

Loss and damage v adaptation
The opening day itself saw some of the contentious issues from Lima being brought back.  The United States called for new annexes to be created for developed and developing countries and proposed replacing references to developed or developing countries throughout the text and replace them with reference to new annexes Y and X. South Africa (on behalf of G77 and China) strongly opposed any attempts to redefine the basic principles of the convention and warned that this would only complicate and delay the negotiations.

There were strong calls from developing country groups such as LMDCs (Like Minded Developing Countries), the African group and the AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) for a balanced treatment of all elements (not just mitigation) and urged developed countries to increase the level of pre-2020 ambition – in terms of finance, mitigation, technology transfer and capacity building support.  The AOSIS in particular stressed that loss and damage is distinct from adaptation and must be treated separately in the discussions in Geneva.

New ADP co-chairs outline expectations from the session
The session also saw the new co-chairs of the ADP—Ahmed Djoghlaf (Algeria) and Daniel Reifsnyder (US)—take charge of the proceedings.  Prior to start of the session, the new co-chairs had already released a scenario note  on the meeting and stressed on, openness, transparency, inclusiveness and fairness, as their guiding principles.  In the scenario note, the co-chairs also emphasised that since the Geneva session is the only negotiating session planned before May 2015, the deadline for circulating the negotiating text amongst all countries, its objective is to deliver this negotiating text on February 13.

With plenty of unresolved issues and ironing out of differences expected to take place prior to the final agreement in Paris, the co-chairs also mentioned the possibility of two additional sessions prior to the Paris summit.  The two sessions (five to six days duration each) could potentially take place in late August/beginning of September and mid-October, according to the scenario note.

“Negotiating text” likely to be published this week
By the end of the week, the unedited version of the “negotiating text” will be posted on the UNFCCC website, following the closure of the meeting.  After editing and translation into five other official United Nations languages, the text will be communicated by the secretariat to all the countries.

Keeping in mind the invitation to all countries to communicate their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) well in advance of COP 21, a separate session is scheduled on the February 11 in support for domestic preparations for INDCs. The negotiations at Geneva will wrap up on February 13 and will be followed by the next session in June 2015, in Germany’s Bonn.  DOWN TO EARTH
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