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No. 175, 8 February 2019
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24th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC:

By Mariama Williams

Despite its stated intentions to leave the Paris Agreement, the United States negotiating team continued to dominate many of the negotiations of key areas of the twenty-fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) agenda of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The outcome of the meeting, branded the ‘Katowice Climate Package’, again showed developing countries sacrificing many redlines to save multilateralism. The Katowice Outcome reflects very little substantial advancement of the global climate protection agenda. However, the discussion and further refining of the rules will continue in the UNFCCC’s  upcoming negotiating sessions in 2019 as well as COP 25. Hence, developing countries have a chance to regroup and push forward to ensure sustainable development objectives are ensured and protected.

Despite its stated intentions to leave the Paris Agreement, the United States negotiating team continued to dominate many of the negotiations of key areas of the twenty-fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) agenda of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held on December 2-15, 2018, in Katowice, Poland. The outcome of the meeting, branded the ‘Katowice Climate Package’, again showed developing countries sacrificing many redlines to save multilateralism. They gave up on strong language on equity and differentiation and struggled to get the developed countries, led by the US, to engage meaningfully in the discussion on climate finance, even though the key finance provisions under negotiation were about enhancing information on the provision of finance which is already a reporting requirement under the Convention. The developed countries also had strong resistance to negotiating ‘the modalities for the accounting of financial resources provided and mobilized through public interventions,’ in accordance with Article 9, paragraph 7, of the Paris Agreement.
The US negotiating team, which consisted of many members of the former Obama administration team with a few new faces, blocked references to international trade in relevant areas such as the discussion on economic diversification under ‘the implementation of response measures’. The US negotiators rejected any mention of ‘developing’ and ‘developed countries’ in the text arguing that the US was also vulnerable to response measures (this despite President Trump’s explicit rejection of the recently released US Congress mandated report on the impact of climate change in the US, the Fourth National Climate Assessment).
In quite a few of the negotiation rooms, the US led the developed countries, with the European Union, Australia, Canada, Norway and other countries echoing the US’ statements. The US position on many points of the agenda has not substantially changed from the Obama administration to the Trump Administration; only the tone was at times more aggressive, especially with regard to climate finance.
Media reporting on COP 24 seemed to rely on similar sources and thus the points of view of developing countries were not well presented.  The media also seemed to miss or underplayed the strong role played by the US in the negotiations. This is so for the most part with the exception of media reporting on the controversial reactions of some countries to The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C produced by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Here, the US was flagged, along with Russia and Saudi Arabia, for blocking the COP’s explicit welcome of the Report. There is not much reporting on the way the US hogged the process and helped to drag the developing countries across some of their redlines. But the US was not alone; the EU and the US tagged team. They always had the same common objective: shredding their obligations under both the Convention and its Paris Agreement, which enjoined on these parties the responsibility to take the lead on reducing emissions, to provide finance support, including for technology development and transfer to developing countries, and to avoid imposing unilateral trade measures in responding to climate change as such measures could have adverse economic and social consequences for developing countries.
Least anyone thinks that the reason the COP went 30 hours beyond its closing time was due to some hard wrangling about equity, ambition and development, it was not. Instead, the key issue that proved to be the stumbling block to a final agreement was about markets, markets and markets (article 6 of the Paris Agreement).
Given the articulated action of developed countries, the seeming hobbled giants of the South (China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia) whose interventions have often been decisive in climate change negotiations, were in a very difficult position. The African Group of Negotiators tried their best, even walking out on the nefarious ‘INF-INF, INF-INF-INFs’. (These were sets of different parallel and overlapping ‘informal meetings’ that stressed their small delegations to break point, decreased their effective participation in discussions that would impact the future of the continent and which mostly only led to ‘chattering’ as the EU, US, Japan, Canada, Australia stonewalled on key matters of interest to developing countries.)
From Bonn, to Bangkok, to the first week of Katowice, developed countries would only meaningfully become involved in discussions when it concerned the rules for the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), global stock take (GST) and transparency—issue areas where they wanted to nail the door shut on equity, differentiation and ambition and increase the responsibility on developing countries while weakening their own obligations under the Framework Convention.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in general seemed preoccupied with getting the wording ‘we welcome or welcoming’ the aforementioned IPCC 1.5°C Special Report. The UNFCCC’s subsidiary body “invited” the IPCC “to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways”.  And, yes, the IPCC said that 1.5°C is important and possible to achieve (albeit, under some seriously restrictive assumptions). But, importantly, the message it brought is that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050. To accomplish this will require “rapid and far-reaching” and “unprecedented” system transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. This would have implications for unabated coal use and production by 2030, air travel, require full de-carbonisation of the electricity sector by mid-century, and deep cuts in methane emissions, with implication for agriculture. These actions and their consequential results pose significant costs and other development implications for Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and are important underlying issues in the negotiation with regard to ‘economic diversification and just transition’ in the negotiating theme of ‘Response Measures’. The implementation of response measures, as with adaptation, also has implications for the transfer of technology but most of all for financing. Yet in the negotiating rooms, the very developed countries who cried wolf about the lack of welcoming the 1.5°C Report were doing everything in their power not to have meaningful outcome that would lead to system change and shifting from business-as-usual.
Clearly, the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C is about non-business-as-usual for all. But more than that, the limited carbon budget (the report says that 420 GtCO2 or 10 years of current emission remains) must be shared on the basis of equity and historical responsibility, since the developed countries in the EU, the US and elsewhere have used up more than their fair share of the carbon space. Where is the pathway to ambition?  Can any of these rules laid down in the COP 24 agreement really be implemented, if countries feel that they are not treated equitably and there are not adequate and predictable sources of finance for developing countries?
Nothing that came out of Katowice will move the world close to achieving the 1.5°C target. There is no progress towards long term finance goals. But, there is a rulebook that emphasizes the commitments of developing countries while at the same time de-legitimizing the obligations of developed countries and gives short shrift to adaptation by putting pressure on the full scope of the nature of the NDCs as being primarily about mitigation.
How will developing countries implement their NDCs? What are real the commitments of the EU, the US, Australia, Canada and other developed countries to enhance their already weak commitments on emissions reductions in their NDCs? What support will developing countries receive in pre-and post-2020 to implement, much less enhance their NDCs?
Katowice is willfully silent on these points.
The Katowice Outcome reflects very little substantial advancement of the global climate protection agenda. The resulting rulebook (some elements of which remain to be fully agreed) is in place and will be thus until 2024 when there will be another chance to review some elements, such as the NDCs. But there are no scaled-up financing for developing countries to undertake climate actions, and no increased ambition from developed countries for emissions reductions. 
Recall that the purpose of the widely hailed ‘landmark’ Paris Agreement was to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels (a.p-i.l.) and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, a.p-i.l.; increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilient and low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; and make finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low GHG emissions and climate-resilient development. On this basis, the Paris Agreement Work Programme (the so called Paris Rulebook) was set to deliver an agreement that promotes lower GHG emissions though the mechanism of National Determined Contributions (NDCs).
From the perspective of developing countries, NDCs were to include, in its scope, adaptation, mitigation, finance, technology development and transfer, etc. Hence rules were to be developed around: adaptation communication, finance flows from developed to developing countries, particularly, with regard to information on the finance to be provided and the accounting of finance provided. Rules were also to be developed on market and non-market cooperative approaches (Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, rules for voluntary cooperative approaches between countries in the implementation of their NDCs), in essence carbon markets now named ‘the international transfer of mitigation outcomes’. Ultimately, a new mechanism, the Sustainable Development Mechanism, would replace the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol. Progress towards these actions was to be assessed through an enhanced transparency framework (to yield accountability on progress), global stock take (to measure progress every five years) and compliance.
In general, developing countries expected these frameworks under the Paris rulebook to be developed in the context of the Convention’s emphasis on equity and differentiation, and the availability of appropriate, predictable flow of finance. They sought rules that would require detailed quantitative and qualitative information on public finance, both before and after, such finance are provided. But developed countries, led by the US, wanted none of these distinctions. Instead, they emphasised the mitigation focus of NDCs, sought identical guidance with regard to transparency, GST, compliance etc. and under emphasised finance matters. Developed countries hence wanted to provide as little information as possible and maintain the freedom to define what they consider as climate finance.
Developing countries walked away without the comprehensive climate finance package they sought.  There was no clear commitment on new and additional financial resources, no finance for loss and damage, no common reporting time-frame for developed countries’ finance flows to developing countries, and no mandatory reporting on the grant-equivalent value of all finance provided. Their gains in the finance area were mostly procedural: developed countries must provide forward looking information starting 2020 and this will be collected by the UNFCCC Secretariat on a new publicly accessible web portal and analysed and fed into the biennial in-session workshops and high level ministerial dialogue, starting 2021
[1]. The developing countries may have to wait until 2025 for the setting of a new collective quantified climate finance goal. Due to strong objection of developed countries, in particular, the US, there was no process put in place in the Katowice Outcome to determine this goal. Working on the basis of the agreed US$100 billion per year by 2020, under the Cancun Agreement, the Paris Agreement, which extends the time-line to 2025, had stipulated the scaling-up towards a new collective quantified climate finance goal from a floor of the $100 billion prior to 2025. Recognizing that the proposed initial $100 billion promise in 2009 was made by the developed countries without any consideration of the needs of developing countries or without regard to the output of climate science, developing countries wanted to see the new finance goal set in the contexts of their assessed needs, based on science as well as in collaboration with them. (Katowice did result in the recommendation that the UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance undertake the task of preparing a report on the financing needs of developing countries. This is an important gain for developing countries.)
But unfortunately, the new rules now allow a broad definition of climate finance that includes commercial loans and export credit guarantees, voluntary reporting on grant equivalent and non-financial effort such as capacity building or technology transfer. Developed countries now have the latitude to determine ‘new and additional’ according to their own understanding, as there is no commonly agreed definition. They can therefore include anything in their financial flow as climate finance. This makes it difficult to compare the finance provided across and within developed countries. The text on finance also now makes reference to ‘providers of climate finance’ instead of the conventional ‘developed countries’ language in the Convention and in the Paris Agreement. These were clear US positions. Acceptance in the rulebook as it relates to accounting for climate finance flow is also a vindication of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s climate finance methodology utilized in its major reporting on climate finance provided by developed countries to developing countries.
The US and its allies also gained other major advantages. Their redline was also met with regard to the scope of NDCs, which they wanted narrowed to mitigation. Nonetheless, there are references in the text that allow space for developing countries to provide guidance on information, without prejudice to the inclusion of other components in NDCs. This allows for the inclusion of adaptation as a component of the NDCs. The US and allies also gained on the differentiation issues, since its position against ‘dual’ or ‘bifurcated’ rulebook held sway in the final outcome. The final text makes the following reference: “all countries shall provide the information necessary for clarity, transparency, and understanding contained in annex I as applicable to their NDCs”. Developing countries fell back to recalling article 4.4 of the Paris Agreement and trusting the voluntary and bottom-up nature of the nationally determined (versus universal) contribution. The matter will ostensibly be revisited in 2024 when the second round of NDCs will be discussed.
On the global stock take (GST), developing countries were able to hold the line on equity and best available science. But, the US led the developed countries in rejecting the attempts by developing countries to propose indicators to measure equity. So, there is no elaboration on how these will be used to increase ambition. Rather, the text simply says, “Fairness considerations, including equity, as communicated by Parties in their NDCs.”
On the transparency framework, developing countries lost some ground to the developed countries, who pushed for a common (undifferentiated) set of formats and schedules for countries to report on climate policy progress and called for limited differentiation (bounded, limited in duration versus nationally, self-determined). So-called most vulnerable countries do not have to submit quantified pledges or regular transparency report. All other developing and all developed countries must report on climate action every two years beginning in 2024. Developing countries made gain with language that grants flexibilities to developing countries in relation to reporting and review. Another minor gain was the inclusion of loss and damage in the transparency framework and with reference to the inputs to be provided in the GST. Since the Katowice rulebook is but a set of rules to govern the reporting of information on the policies countries are taking and for the most part is self-determined, countries can report on what they are doing and the guidance for NDCs will only take place starting in 2031.
The Katowice Climate Package has, however, a couple of positive outcomes for gender issues and indigenous peoples
[2]. Gender is referred to in quite a few provisions in the package but mainly in annexes of decisions. These include references to the necessity of gender-responsive planning processes for NDC preparation and provision of information on gender-responsive adaptation action under adaptation communication and gender perspective in technology support under the technology framework. In finance, there were references to gender with regard to the guidelines for the provision of ex ante information on public climate finance. Developed countries were requested to highlight the gender-responsiveness of the finance they plan to provide and climate finance providers requested to improve the tracking of and reporting on gender-related aspect of climate finance with respect to the Biennial Assessment by the Standing Committee on Finance. The Katowice Climate Package also created the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, including a Facilitative Working Group, with representatives from indigenous peoples, holding equal number of seats as parties and with the aim of developing a two-year work plan to be approved at COP 25 (2020). This major achievement was a result of the hard work of the indigenous peoples and local communities, with the strong and persistent support of countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador over many years.
In summary, overall, developing countries, as a group, seem to have lost more than they gained from this COP 24 outcome. This was largely due to the paradoxical role of the US which, despite rejecting the Paris Agreement as the internationally agreed framework to combat climate change, continues to decisively influence the development of the rules that will ultimately shape our future on the planet. However, the discussion and further refining of the rules will continue in the UNFCCC’s  upcoming negotiating sessions in 2019 as well as COP 25, now slated for Chile in end of 2019 or early 2020. Hence, developing countries have a chance to regroup and push forward to ensure sustainable development objectives are ensured and protected.
[1] Don Lehr and Liane Schalatek, “Great expectations, low execution: The Katowice climate change conference COP24,” Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung, 8 January 2019.
[2] This section draws on the report by Lehr and Schalatek, Great expectations, low execution, ibid.

Author: Mariama Williams is Senior Programme Officer of the Global Governance for Development Programme (GGDP) of the South Centre.

* The views contained in this article are attributable to the author and do not represent the institutional views of the South Centre or its Member States.

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