March 2015 - Sebastien Korwin. In early February, delegates gathered in the beautiful United Nations compound on the banks of the lac Leman in Geneva for the eighth part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (or ADP 2-8 for short). According to the co-chair, the "Geneva spirit" was in the air, promising a productive week of negotiations.
The focus of this ADP meeting was to build on the negotiating text that came out of Lima (annexed to the Lima call for climate action) and take a step closer to finalising the new climate agreement due to be finalised at COP 21 in Paris at the end of the year.
At the beginning of the session the co-chairs announced that Geneva would be the final opportunity for Parties to make any significant substantive additions to the text. Therefore, one possible explanation for the friendly, almost carefree nature of the interactions in Geneva was the fact that the objective of this session was to enable country Parties to make substantive additions to the negotiating text so as to reflect all views rather than actually negotiate.
Each morning, the co-chairs began with a section of the negotiating text and invited additions from Parties. Following this, Parties took turns to read out entire paragraphs of suggested additions, generally too fast for anyone else to note down let alone assess. The result of this week is the "Geneva text", a 90-page behemoth of a text with some paragraphs running to as many as 13 suggested options! It is therefore anticipated that the real battle will begin in June at the ADP's next meeting in Bonn where the task will be to try to cut the text down and decide which proposals to cut and which to keep.
More importantly, many fundamental issues, all of which must be resolved, not just in order to reach an agreement in Paris, but in order to have a chance of effectively mitigating and adapting to climate change have been pushed to subsequent meetings. This includes how to deal with the issues of differentiation between countries (with some Parties calling for the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility to evolve, while other oppose this), finance (who pays, for what and how much?), loss and damage (should it be separate from adaptation?) technological support, even the actual (degree) target or objective of the agreement!
This means that as the Parties next meet in Bonn, they will need to go through the text paragraph by paragraph, first in break out groups, then in the plenary, to decide how to "streamline the text". During this process, the difference in positions will invariably come to light. Let us hope that Parties are making the most of the break in between negotiating sessions to discuss these fundamental issues bilaterally or in groups in order to avoid the type of deadlocks seen in Copenhagen in 2009, the last time Parties were tasked with achieving a new climate agreement.