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Ban Ki-moon at the Lima Climate Action Summit
UN Photo
PARIS SUMMIT 2015
28 July 2015 17:00

Explainer: New negotiating text provides clarity on UN climate deal

Sophie Yeo

Sophie Yeo

07.28.15
Sophie Yeo

Sophie Yeo

28.07.2015 | 5:00pm
Paris Summit 2015Explainer: New negotiating text provides clarity on UN climate deal

The United Nations has released a new document outlining what the Paris climate deal could look like, which countries hope to sign in December this year.

The two diplomats responsible for steering the challenging negotiations towards a successful outcome in December, Dan Reifsnyder from the US and Ahmed Djoghlaf from Algeria, released a new text – or a “tool”, as they are calling it – last Friday.

It is the product of a six weeks of work, following the latest round of talks in June. It attempts to summarise the latest positions and thinking from the 196 parties involved in crafting the new deal, which will guide international efforts to tackle climate change beyond 2020.

Streamlining

The new text is based on the Geneva negotiating text – an 86-page document that countries constructed in February, following a major round of talks in December 2014 in Lima.

The new text has been reduced to 76 pages through a process of careful streamlining. This largely involved erasing duplication and redundancies from the Geneva text – a messy, if comprehensive, document, that had, as far as it was possible, attempted to accommodate all parties’ views.

The co-chairs have not removed any substantive language or options from the text concerning the final content of the agreement. This sort of whittling down is the responsibility of the parties, and is likely to commence in earnest in Bonn in upcoming sessions, the first of which begins this August

However, it does significantly restructure the Geneva text.

It separates the previous morass of options into three categories:

  1. Ideas that are expected to form the core of the new agreement, which will likely be long-lasting and legally binding;

  2. Ideas that are more suited to a series of more flexible “COP decisions”;

  3. Ideas that belong somewhere, but will require further discussion to decide where. This final section remains the longest and contains many of the most controversial proposals, such as the long-term goal for emissions reductions.

Impact

The co-chairs stress that the new text does not have an official status within the negotiations, and does not prejudge the outcome of the talks. That is to say, parties are still within their rights to discard all their work if they feel it misrepresents their views or oversteps the mark in any way.

As expected, the text remains highly conditional and flexible. Nothing is set in stone, and many options remain highly contentious. As Reifsnyder and Djoghlaf have written in the explanatory note prefacing the text, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

In UN texts, square brackets mean that the phrase within remains optional. Effectively, the whole text can be considered to be in brackets, although that hasn’t stopped the co-chairs sprinkling them liberally throughout the text to indicate the points that will need to be negotiated – right down to what sort of verb is used to commit countries to the options they chose. The co-chairs promise that “the choice of the appropriate auxiliary verb will be up for substantive negotiations by Parties”.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 At 15.17.03

An example of how the text currently appears, including a morass of brackets and various options, which will be negotiated during the course of the year. Source: Co-chairs’ text, 24 July 2015

In the past, interventions on this scale by the co-chairs have been received negatively, but the current indications are that the level of trust in Reifsnyder and Djoghlaf is high, with parties becoming more willing to cooperate as the Paris deadline looms.

And if there is one thing that parties are agreed on, it is that the talks are going too slowly.

With only two negotiating sessions remaining before the final summit in Paris, the guidance provided by the new text could be the boost that parties need to move beyond the minutiae and into the substantive discussions that will determine the final shape of the UN’s climate deal.

Carbon Brief has summarised the co-chairs’ text in detail. This summary is intended to show where the issues on the table now sit within the text, as well as a brief overview of the range of options from which countries much choose in Paris.

The new text has not completely erased any overlap, with some issues raised in multiple sections. The overarching headlines – mitigation; adaptation and loss and damage; finance; technology; capacity building; transparency; time frames; and compliance – appear in every section.

This summary shows which issues are expected to appear in each section – though any of them could still be removed from the final version that diplomats agree in Paris.

The UN has a helpful glossary of climate change terms that may be helpful in interpreting some parts of the text.

The co-chairs’ text: the Carbon Brief summary

Part 1: Agreement

This is the core of the Paris package, dealing with the overarching elements. It is expected to be static, durable and the most legally binding part of the deal.

Mitigation

 

Adaptation and loss and damage

 

Finance

 

Technology development and transfer

 

Capacity building

 

Transparency of action and support

 

Time frames

 

Implementation and compliance

 

Procedural and institutional provisions

 

Part 2: COP decisions

COP decisions are more flexible, and exist to provide guidance and detailed information about how the core agreement is implemented and designed.

Mitigation

 

Adaptation and loss and damage

 

Loss and damage

 

Finance

 

Technology development and transfer

 

Capacity building

 

Transparency of action and support

 

Time frames

 

Implementation and compliance

 

Pre-2020 ambition

 

Work programme for the interim period pending the entry into force of the agreement

 

Interim institutional arrangements

 

Administrative and budgetary matters

 

Part 3: Undecided elements

Preamble

 

General/objectives

 

Mitigation

 

Adaptation and loss and damage

 

Loss and damage

 

Finance

 

Technology development and transfer

 

Capacity building

 

Transparency of action and support

 

Time frames

 

Implementation and compliance

 

Procedural and institutional provisions

Main image: Opening of the Lima Climate Action High-level Dialogue.
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