Climate Summit CoP 25: A Critique

  • Category
    India & world
  • Published
    8th Jan, 2020

Recently 25th Conference of Parties (CoP 25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change concluded in December 2019 at Madrid.

Issue

Context

Recently 25th Conference of Parties (CoP 25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change concluded in December 2019 at Madrid.

Background

UNFCC: Institutional Arrangements

The Conference of the Parties (COP)

  • Article 7.2 defines the COP as the “supreme body” of the Convention, as it is its highest decision-making authority. The climate change process revolves around the annual sessions of the COP.
  • COP President and Bureau
  • The office of the COP President normally rotates among the five United Nations regional groups. The President is usually the environment minister of his or her home country. S/he is elected by acclamation immediately after the opening of a COP session. Their role is to facilitate the work of the COP and promote agreements among Parties.
  • The work of the COP and each subsidiary body is guided by an elected Bureau. To ensure continuity, it serves not only during sessions, but between sessions as well.

Subsidiary Bodies (SBs)

  • The Convention establishes two permanent subsidiary bodies (SBs), namely the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), by Article 9, and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), by Article 10. These bodies advise the COP.
  • The SBSTA’s task is to provide the COP “with timely advice on scientific and technological matters relating to the Convention”.
  • The SBI’s task is to assist the COP “in the assessment and review of the effective implementation of the Convention”

The Secretariat

  • The secretariat, also known as the Climate Change Secretariat, services the COP, the SBs, the Bureau and other bodies established by the COP.

Other Bodies

  • Other bodies have been set up by the COP to undertake specific tasks. These bodies report back to the COP when they complete their work
  • COP 1 established two ad hoc groups to conduct negotiations on specific issues.
  • COP 11 established the “Dialogue” to exchange experiences and analyse strategic approaches for long-term cooperative action to address climate change.
  • The UNFCCC, signed in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development is also known as the Earth Summit, the Rio Summit or the Rio Conference
  • The UNFCCC entered into force on March 21, 1994, and has been ratified by 197 countries.
  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, to assess the magnitude and timing of changes, estimate their impacts, present strategies for how to respond and to provide an authoritative source of up-to-date interdisciplinary knowledge on climate change.

Objective

  • According to Article 2, the Convention’s ultimate objective is “to achieve, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.
  • This objective is qualified in that it “should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner”.

Analysis

Why CoP 25 is a failure?

The key deliverables from the 25th Conference of Parties (CoP 25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Madrid (originally scheduled in Santiago, Chile) were two-fold:

  • Rules under Article 6of the Paris Agreement, which deals with carbon trading or carbon markets
  • The creation of a financial mechanism dedicated to loss and damage

With some caveats, CoP 25 failed to deliver on these requirements. Reasons for this are:

  • No Consensus on Rules on carbon market
    • There was no consensus on rules under Article 6. 
    • The European Union (EU) and Switzerland held that the lack of consensus on rules would not prevent the operation of carbon markets.
    • They are both relying on Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement, which deals with bilateral and mini-multilateral markets.
    • This is in contrast with Article 6.4, which creates a centralised, global market — the Sustainable Development Mechanism, which effectively succeeds the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol. It is clear that the Article 6.4 market cannot operate without consensus on rules.
    • Article 6.2 is a little different. It does not create a market. It regulates bilateral and mini-multilateral markets, and it does so indirectly. It sets up conditions under which credits from these markets can be used to achieve a country’s national targets (nationally determined contributions, or NDCs).
  • Lack of Clarity on Loss and Damage
    • Loss and damage refers to the unavoidable, irreversible impacts of climate change, where mitigation has failed and adaptation is not possible.
    • It is important to distinguish it from adaptation, particularly, because while some ‘new and additional’ finance was committed to adaptation in the Paris Decision, loss and damage has not been similarly addressed yet.
    • Financial support is one of the work-streams of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM), which was set up in 2013. Work on this front has remained stagnant for six years, and vulnerable countries and activists were clear that COP 25 needed to establish secure new and additional finance for loss and damage.
    • The debate coming into this CoP was initially centered on whether this finance would take the form of:
      • A finance arm of the WIM — opposed by developed countries because they consider it an admission of liability for climate change 
      • A financing ‘window’ under the Green Climate Fund (GCF) — opposed by developing countries because it would risk diluting the distinction between loss and damage and adaptation, and effectively reducing the amount of finance available for both

India’s mixed role in CoP 25

  • India played a mixed role at the recently concluded 25th Conference of Parties (CoP 25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at Madrid. 
  • Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar emphasised the transition of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) credits earned under the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement. He effectively demanded the carryover of the untraded emission reduction certificates held by Indian companies (estimated at 750 million Certified Emissions Reductions or CERs), which they can sell to raise funds.
  • On the question of ‘loss and damage’, the minister urged developed countries to give financial teeth to the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM). The Warsaw Mechanism has been resisted by these countries due to their paranoia (officially enshrined) that the provision of finance would imply admission of legal liability.
  • India played a strong role in critiquing the developed world’s continuing poor record on climate action.
  • India also took a lead in calling for more finance for developing countries for climate action, with the minister emphasising that “not even 2 per cent” of the promised “$1 trillion in the last 10 years” had been delivered.

Conclusion

It is crucial that India continue to push developed countries in this fashion as the entire global climate action framework has been put in jeopardy by the inaction of big polluters.

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