PARIS—It’s “crunch time” here at the climate change conference. The different “spin-off” groups, “informal” workshops, and “informal informals” involved in the drafting of a potentially historic climate treaty have until the end of Thursday (7 am Friday, Manila time) to complete their work before passing on the draft to the next stage. And the wheels just seem to be spinning.
“We’re in a very difficult stage of the negotiations,” Dean Antonio La Viña, spokesperson for the Philippine delegation, told Philippine media covering the 21st Conference of Parties, or COP21.
“I think it’s fair to say that today, this Thursday, there’s a sense of being stuck,” said La Viña, himself a veteran climate negotiator. “Now of course it’s always like that [in the first week of the annual conference], but I think it calls for innovative thinking” if an agreement is to be reached.
The various technical groups working on different parts of the draft agreement have until the end of Thursday to submit their work. The French presidency — that is, the hosts of COP21 — will then process the text on Friday and Saturday, according to their lights, to have a working draft ready for the next stage: the ministerial level.
The draft has gone through several stages: It was 86 pages long in Geneva last February, then was transformed into a 20-page “non-paper” in early October, then (after controversy erupted over the much abbreviated text), turned into a 51-page working draft in Bonn in late October.
As soon as the heads of state or government left the Le Bourget convention center on Monday, the negotiators began to work. At 8 am Thursday, or four days into the two-week negotiations, the draft was pared down from 51 to 50 pages.
“It’s crunch time,” La Viña said. “Progress is slow.”
Under the elaborate rules of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and recent decisions by the Conference of Parties, the drafting of the proposed new Paris agreement limiting global greenhouse gas emissions is done through the ADP, the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. In the draft, contentious provisions are placed in brackets by the spin-off groups, after consultation with the informals and the informal informals.
But La Viña, who took part in the negotiations that led to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, said Sec. Emmanuel de Guzman, the head of the Philippine delegation, was explicit in his instructions to “find ways to bridge proposals together, and also to have some flexibility.”
The Philippine profile in recent COPs has risen, in part because of the country’s vulnerability to the severe effects of climate change and in part because of the strength and experience of the country’s negotiators. That reputation has been reinforced in the last year through the country’s active leadership of the growing “leadership and advocacy” group called the Climate Vulnerable Forum.
La Viña gave an example, of an ADP group working on the Preamble and Article 2 of the draft treaty, where the Philippine position was getting a good hearing. “In human rights, we have language already in the Preamble that’s very good. But we don’t yet have operational language [in Article 2, the section on Purpose], and we’re trying to work on that.”
But for every bright spot, it is possible to find many more gray areas.La Viña emphasized the position of the influential negotiating bloc called the Group of 77 and China, to which the Philippines belongs, that calls for ambitious adaptation finance — that is, massive amounts of funding from developed economies to help developing countries adapt their economies to a low-carbon regime. “Climate aid is not aid, not assistance, but a legal obligation,” he said.
He noted, however, that “right now, all provisions on finance are bracketed.”
Philippine Daily Inquirer
By John Nery
December 04, 2015