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How we helped on the road to Katowice

It was inspiring to be in the room the other night as governments sealed a solid “rulebook” for implementing the Paris Agreement – and it was especially gratifying to hear thanks from some of the key negotiators for all C2ES did to help them find their way to agreement.

The decisions reached at COP 24 in Katowice, Poland, translate the broad provisions of the Paris Agreement into a nuts-and-bolts system to help strengthen climate action. (The one major disappointment was the deferral to next year of decisions on Paris’ market-related provisions.)

A close read shows that the new rulebook aligns closely with the landing zones we described ahead of Katowice in a report based on a series of C2ES-led discussions among top negotiators from about two dozen countries.

I remember being in a Paris hotel room three years ago, almost to the day, writing a similar blog noting then how closely our Toward 2015 dialogue report had forecast the essential elements of the Paris Agreement.

Landing an agreement like Paris or the rulebook requires extraordinary effort on the part of so many, from the young activists noisily reminding governments of their responsibility to future generations, to the tireless U.N. support staff, to the host government, to ministers and heads of state. Each plays a vital role.

Our role has been to create a neutral space for negotiators to engage in candid give-and-take; seed the discussion with our analysis of the issues and options; and, at the end, distill on paper the points of convergence we see emerge.

This year, our discussions included negotiators from countries in all the major negotiating groups. In six sessions from February to October – in Tokyo, Bonn, Leuven, Bangkok, New York, and Krakow – we took up the key rulebook issues, including mitigation, transparency, compliance and finance. The talks were in many ways tougher than those before Paris, but there was the same determination to find solutions.

Many participants said they found value enough in the discussions, themselves, but we saw value in sharing the results more broadly, too. So, with the group’s tacit blessing, we produced our own distillation of likely landing zones. By the close of COP 24, the report had been viewed more than 1,500 times in 125 countries.

As some examples of where the report was on the mark, the rulebook:

  • Elaborates the types of information required to ensure the “clarity, transparency and understanding” of countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs), to be provided by parties “as applicable” to their particular NDCs
  • Requires all parties to use the most recent greenhouse gas inventory guidelines developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with only specified “flexibilities” for developing countries with limited capacities
  • Requires countries using such flexibilities to explain why they need them and for how long
  • Requires parties to spell out the indicators they’ll use to track their progress and to apply them consistently through an NDC period
  • Focuses technical expert reviews on a party’s application of the reporting guidelines, not on the adequacy of its NDC
  • Authorizes the new implementation and compliance committee to examine cases where a party consistently falls short of reporting guidelines or fails to submit an NDC or mandatory report
  • Establishes a process to consider reports from donor countries projecting their future climate finance flows
  • Establishes equity as a cross-cutting theme in the global stocktakes to be conducted every five years to assess collective progress

In some areas, the outcomes are short of (or go beyond) what we described. The most notable example is the COP’s failure to adopt detailed rules for Article 6, which covers the use of market mechanisms—one of the most complicated set of issues in our discussions and in Katowice. Parties set COP 25 next year as the deadline to fill this one major gap in the Paris rulebook.

Like many others, we’re disappointed governments didn’t send stronger signals in Katowice about raising ambition in the next round of NDCs due in 2020. But we also believe that over the long haul, an effective rulebook can do more than any immediate political signals to promote the ambition we need.

We’re extremely grateful to the donors who’ve supported our work – the governments of Australia, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. I’m grateful as well to C2ES International Fellow Jennifer Huang and the team of outside experts who were so instrumental.

C2ES feels privileged to have worked so closely with such truly dedicated diplomats from such a broad array of countries. It’s gratifying to know we helped them make a difference. And we hope to continue our work as negotiators take up their next set of challenges.