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

Explainer: New negotiating text provides clarity on UN climate deal

Sophie Yeo


Sophie Yeo

28.07.2015 | 5:00pm
COP21 ParisExplainer: 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.


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.


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.


  • Collective efforts – overall targets for emissions reductions

  • Individual efforts – what individual countries are obliged to do in terms of tackling their emissions

  • Progression – how countries can increase their ambition over time


Adaptation and loss and damage

  • Collective efforts – overall targets for preparing for climate impacts

  • Individual efforts – how countries should prepare themselves for climate change, through national processes such as development planning

  • Communication of efforts, priorities and needs – how countries should inform the UN of their intended actions



  • Objective – a collective, though non-numerical, goal for finance flows relating to tackling climate change

  • Guiding principles – rules and guidelines for finance used to tackle climate change

  • Responsibilities under the agreement – the obligation of developed countries to provide finance

  • Financial mechanism – refers back to the financial mechanism referenced in the original 1992 UN climate convention


Technology development and transfer

  • Cooperative action – the overall duties that countries have to facilitate the transfer of technology across borders


Capacity building

  • Objective – defines purpose of capacity building

  • Individual efforts – the obligation of developed countries to support poorer nations in implementing climate actions

  • Training and awareness


Transparency of action and support

  • Purpose – how to ensure action on climate change is carried out transparently

  • Guiding principles – rules to guide action on transparency

  • Scope – the extent of transparency measures

  • Applicability – how transparency measures should be implemented


Time frames

  • Timing of communications – when countries have to put forward their contributions or schedules

  • Upfront information – what kind of obligation exists to provide information to assist clarity on the contribution

  • Adjustments – rules defining the scaling up of ambition in nationally determined contributions

  • Housing – how countries’ contributions should be listed in the Paris deal

  • Periodic updating – what kind of obligation exists to update nationally determined contributions or schedules

  • Review/assessment – what kind of review takes place of the national contributions


Implementation and compliance

  • How to ensure the deal is implemented


Procedural and institutional provisions

  • Governing body – how the agreement will be governed

  • Ratification – will set dates for when the deal can be signed and ratified

  • Entry into force – conditions and timings for the agreement to become live

  • Duration – how long the agreement will last

  • Amendments – conditions for amending the agreement

  • Annexes – defines status and type of content of the annexes in the agreement

  • Withdrawal – conditions for withdrawing from agreement


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.


  • Market mechanisms – sets out rules, guidelines and work to be done in order to establish a market-based mechanism to tackle emissions

  • REDD+ – strengthens institutions relating to the UN’s deforestation and degradation scheme


Adaptation and loss and damage

  • National adaptation planning processes – sets rules and guidance for national planning processes, including considerations for human and indigenous rights, and strengthening institutional arrangements, and enhancing the Nairobi work programme


Loss and damage



  • Lays out possibilities for pre-2020 actions, institutional arrangements, rules and guidance for the Green Climate Fund, plus timing and goals of future finance


Technology development and transfer

  • Concerns institutional arrangements and how to deliver on technology transfer projects


Capacity building

  • Includes possibilities for a new international capacity building mechanism, including a new capacity building committee, evaluation mechanism and regional capacity building centres. Contains alternative options to strengthen existing institutions and enhance role of private sector


Transparency of action and support

  • Contains guidelines for improved transparency of action, reporting on progress towards nationally determined contributions, as well as guidelines for transparency on financial support


Time frames

  • Options for time frames for future contributions

  • Options for how regularly new and updated contributions are communicated

  • Timing and methods for an ex-ante (post-pledge) consideration process by parties, as well as for an aggregate review process. Contains suggestions for what an aggregate review process could look like


Implementation and compliance

  • Suggestions for how a compliance committee could deal with non-compliance to the agreement


Pre-2020 ambition

  • Deals with the issue of how nations will tackle climate change ahead of the Paris deal coming into force


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

  • Sets out a series of activities to carry out ahead of the Paris deal becoming active


Interim institutional arrangements

  • Sets out the bodies that will prepare for the entry into force of the agreement


Administrative and budgetary matters

  • Emphasises need for additional resources required to carry out administrative tasks relating to Paris deal


Part 3: Undecided elements


  • References, among other things, urgency of climate change, the findings of the latest IPCC report, the emissions gap, need for deep global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, historical emissions of developed countries, carbon pricing, challenges of adaptation, loss and damage, role of private sector, post-2015 development agenda and health



  • Guiding principles – overarching aims of deal

  • Achieving the objective – more specific requirements of deal, including temperature goal, sustainable investments and the global emissions budget

  • Individual efforts – what type of contributions countries are required to make to the deal

  • Role of non-state actors



  • Long term goal – whether mitigation efforts should take the form of a peaking target, a zero emissions goal, or in the context of the emissions budget

  • Features of individual efforts – what type of actions should be included within nationally determined contributions or actions

  • Quantifiability

  • Conditionality – whether or not commitments can have a conditional element to them, and conditions for this

  • Market mechanisms – guidelines for a carbon market, and possible mechanisms through which this could be carried out

  • Conditions for land use sector

  • Economic and social issues

  • International transport – shipping and aviation handed over to ICAO and IMO


Adaptation and loss and damage

  • Lays out possibility for a global goal for adaptation

  • National Adaptation Plans – how national planning processes could be integrated into adaptation process

  • Conditions for including an adaptation element in INDCs

  • Guidelines on monitoring adaptation actions

  • Roles for various existing institutions, and new institutions


Loss and damage

  • Options for how loss and damage should be incorporated into the agreement, either via reference to the Warsaw Mechanism, or as a separate chapter. Raises issue of compensation



  • Clarity and scale – options for the process of scaling up financial support over time

  • Individual commitments – possibilities for calculating the amount of climate finance that countries should contribute

  • Encouragement for South-South initiatives

  • Leveraging private finance – options to encourage and enable greater flows of private money

  • Investments – options for climate-proofing investments, including possibilities for a collective goal, and tackling fossil fuel subsidies

  • Enabling environment – how nations can create a better environment for clean investments

  • Funding for adaptation – potential guidelines and sources for increased adaptation funds

  • Funding for technology

  • Funding for capacity building and education

  • Funding for forests – how countries can support forest projects, including through the Warsaw Framework for REDD+

  • Sources – where the money will come from, including division between public and private, with ideas included for a tax on oil exports and an international renewable energy and energy efficiency bond facility

  • Institutional arrangements

  • Green Climate Fund – Guidelines for GCF provisions and replenishment


Technology development and transfer

  • Global goal for technology – suggestion that developed countries could commit to regular assessments of technologies ready to transfer

  • Individual efforts – how parties, both developed and developing, can promote and enable technology transfer, including provisions for new policy frameworks, technical support, finance, strengthening of national structures, addressing intellectual property rights, conducting assessments of technology needs, scaling up research and development


Capacity building

  • Focus for capacity building measures

  • Possibilities for institutions to carry out capacity building measures


Transparency of action and support

  • Scope – options for the information that countries ought to provide in biennial communications concerning how they are implementing their contributions

  • General principles on how countries should count their mitigation actions, including market mechanisms, land use sector, finance, technology transfer and capacity building

  • Establishes a new system to track emissions reductions in order to avoid double counting


Time frames

  • Scope – what kind of commitments parties should make

  • Duration – how long the agreement lasts

  • Timing of communication – when countries should submit their INDCs

  • Upfront information – what information countries should include when submitting their future INDCs

  • Revisions – when countries should update their INDCs

  • Availability – how the secretariat should make schedules and contributions available to the public, such as through an information document or online registries

  • Ex-ante process – how a process to assess the aggregate fairness, impact, clarity, comparability and deficits of INDCs could work, as well as what actions parties should take based upon the outcome of such a process. Options deal with the issue of how the process could differ for developed and developing countries

  • Thematic reviews – lays out the possibilities for reviews relating specifically to mitigation, technology and capacity building

  • Applicability – options for which parties should be subject to which elements of the review process

  • Inputs – what information the review should be based upon, including national progress towards achieving contributions, IPCC assessment reports, a technical examination of mitigation potential and opportunities, input from non-state actors, and assessment against an equity reference framework, and each country’s’ share of global temperature increase among other factors

  • Outcomes – Options for what should take place after the review, including the possibility for the governing body to recommend adjustments to parties’ commitments, or parties taking into account the findings in subsequent INDCs


Implementation and compliance

  • Establishes a compliance mechanism, and lays out what actions and commitments it should examine, as well as which parties will fall under its watch. Sets out options for what measures or consequences can be applied for non-compliance

  • Contains a separate option establishing a climate justice tribunal


Procedural and institutional provisions

  • Contains a system by which the annexes to the Convention (ie, which parties are considered developed and developing) could be rewritten, based upon historical per capita emissions.

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