After a tense couple of days, incredibly SBSTA came to a close today, with decisions adopted for Article 6 – a feat which, last night and earlier today, seemed out of reach.
A quick recap (as quick as one can, when dealing with UNFCCC matters anyway) of how it started to go wrong: yesterday morning, the co-chairs presented draft conclusions to Parties, who were just seeing them for the first time. There were three drafts, one for each of the items (6.2, on cooperative approaches; 6.4, the emissions mitigation mechanism; and 6.8, non-market approaches). The three were similar in structure, and proposed:
- to welcome informal documents prepared by co-facilitators capturing the discussions at the roundtables on 4/5 November (all three are available online);
- to take note of the informal notes prepared over the course of last week;
- invites Parties and observers to submit to a new round of submissions on elements contained in the co-chairs’ note by 31 January 2018 for consideration at a future roundtable;
- requests SBSTA chair to prepare a document containing draft elements related to the three agenda items, based on these submissions, previous submissions, and discussions by Parties;
- requests new roundtable discussions before SBSTA 48, which begins 30 April 2018, and a related informal document capturing the discussions.
While these were good steps forward, and built on the collaborative nature of last week’s negotiations, they drew fierce opposition from Saudi Arabia, Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group, Venezuela and the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) grouping. They instead were proposing simple procedural conclusions, that would take note of the third iterations and continue discussion at SBSTA 48 in April/May. Locked in a stalemate, the tension ratcheted up.
It later emerged that these Parties were blocking progress on Article 6 to tie it to negotiations on response measures – where they were not happy with how that agenda item was unfolding. After a very late night (or very early morning, depending on your perspective), talks resumed at 10am today, with an unexpected appearance by the SBSTA chair. He gave initial remarks that Parties essentially needed to get their act together – that he was pleased with the amount of work done, but that this was their last chance to capitalise on progress and get something meaningful to move forward.
Talks broke briefly, then resumed at midday – which essentially was a rerun of yesterday’s discussions. The co-chairs intervened and said that if agreement could not be reached, it would trigger rule 16 of the UNFCCC’s rules of procedure. This would essentially mean that there would be no conclusion, and that the work done in Bonn would not be recognised, would have no status in process, and would not capitalise on discussions.
After some discussion, the negotiators settled on a version of the note that only took note of the informal notes, the existing submissions and that asked the SBSTA chair to prepare draft text. They then broke again for a few hours to huddle and consult among themselves to see if they could bridge their differences. Saudi Arabia, the Arab Group and LMDC bloc held back to see what was going on in other rooms. They managed to talk across rooms during this gap, with some horse trading between Article 6 and response measures. Word then broke that there had been a breakthrough.
At 3pm, the group met for the third time. Having led the consultations, the EU presented the compromise, which was ultimately adopted.
So we have a text. Not a perfect text, but that’s the nature of compromise. The final agreement will see no new submissions, but it does mandate the SBSTA chair to prepare an informal document containing draft elements of a draft decision based on prior submissions and the informal note.
This conclusion was passed to SBSTA, which began its closing plenary today (although will wrap up tomorrow, when this will be adopted). Statements from observers took place today in a combined SBSTA-SBI plenary, and IETA’s China representative Min Li spoke on behalf of the BINGO grouping. Her intervention can be viewed online; she begins at 27.30.
On the CDM, talks remain deadlock. At issue is a Brazil proposal to add language on voluntary cancellations to scale up pre-2020 action; other Parties want to add language to this to ensure no double counting. Brazil is digging its heels and threatening to kill the whole thing. One seasoned observer remarked that this is a hangover from COP22, when Brazil was willing to compromise, but others refused and are now enduring some payback.
At IETA’s AGM today, the membership adopted its 2018 priorities and voted Rick Saines of Baker McKenzie as the new chairman and Jonathan Grant of PwC to vice-chairman, alongside Matthew Bateson of Rio Tinto. The meeting concluded with a debate about the future of offsetting, then a surprise guest appearance by Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and her Finnish counterpart Kimmo Taiilikainen.