UN Climate Negotiations Entering Final Stages Before Paris

  • Date: 31/08/15
  • David Waskow, World Resources Institute

We’re now entering the final, significant stages of negotiations leading up to the major climate summit in Paris in December known as COP21, where countries will reach a new international climate agreement.

There are now two week-long negotiating sessions remaining before Paris; the first takes place next week in Bonn, Germany. What issues will negotiators face and what needs to happen at the Bonn meeting?

Fortunately, recent developments – both in the negotiating process and politically – can help to generate forward movement. The co-chairs of the negotiating process for the Paris agreement produced a document laying out a possible structure for the negotiating text, which they have called a tool to facilitate negotiations. This new document, circulated in July, cuts through much of the clutter and creates a more coherent structure and options for the text than had been on the table.

Negotiators can use this to distinguish between which elements would go in a core legal agreement at Paris, and which would instead be incorporated in a more detailed decision document to be adopted by the COP separately. To do so, the tool includes three sections: proposed core legal text, proposed text for a separate COP decision, and a section where more discussion is needed to decide placement. The negotiators will need to wade through complicated text and numerous options, and the new tool will help define what decisions and options must be faced.

Meanwhile, a recent informal meeting in Paris of about 40 environment ministers has helped shape the political landscape. A French government summary of that meeting noted that ministers made progress on agreeing that countries should review their progress together every five years, though there was apparently not yet clarity on whether countries would also seek to ramp up their climate efforts at those milestones.

Next week’s Bonn session offers a better negotiating environment than the last such meeting in mid-June. But time is extraordinarily tight between now and the Paris meeting. Negotiators will have to stay focused and make steady progress in further clarifying which elements of the text should go into the core agreement and which into the COP decision document, and identifying issues where there is convergence among country positions.

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