Draft Agreement: A Close Reading of the Articles

December 9, 2015 | 00:00
Draft Agreement: A Close Reading of the Articles
Draft Agreement: A Close Reading of the Articles
Yesterday a new version of the draft Agreement was presented by President of the COP, Minister Laurent Fabius. The new version is 29 pages and the number of brackets has been reduced by 75%. At 8 P.M. delegates convened for the 4th meeting of Comité de Paris to comment on the draft version. Talks were expected to continue throughout the night with the aim of presenting a new draft on Thursday afternoon. The final outcome text is scheduled to be ready on Friday. That is if everything is going as planned, as COPs are notorious for overrunning their deadline.

The President said there is a convergence toward a compromise on a number of issues:

  • Capacity Building (Article 8);

  • Transparency (Article 9);

  • Technology Development And Transfer (Article 7);

  • Adaptation to climate change impacts (Article 4);

But there are still cross cutting points that need to be addressed. The three most important ones are:
  • Differentiation;

  • Finance;

  • And the level of ambition of the agreement.

A closer look at the articles

Article 2 Purpose
Article 2 contains one of the hotly debated issues of COP21: whether to state as the purpose of the Agreement to limit the increase of the global average temperature to 2 °C or 1.5 °C. The 9 December draft offers three options:

Option 1: below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.
Option 2: well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels [and to [rapidly] scale up global efforts to limit temperature increase to below 1.5 °C] [ , while recognizing that in some regions and vulnerable ecosystems high risks are projected even for warming above 1.5 °C],
Option 3: below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels

The inclusion of option 1 is surprising as it was cut from the 5 December draft version, which had “well below 2 °C” as the least ambitious option.

During the Comité de Paris meeting the Chair of the Caricom group representing 14 Caribbean member states held a passionate speech. He said option 1 is simply not acceptable because the science proves a 2 °C temperature rise will be devastating for some of the vulnerable countries. “The goal should be 1.5 °C because that is what will keep us alive. We are willing to explore option 2 and 3 with a preference for option 3. We will not sign off on any agreement that will be the certain extinction of our people."

Article 3 Mitigation
A lot of issues on mitigation of climate change are still open. Section 1 deals with the collective Long-term goal. Here the text can still go many ways. The most important issue is whether it will include a concrete target. In all the options the long-term goal is defined as “the collective aim to reach the global temperature goal referred to in Article 2”. The choice still open is whether to support that goal with a tangible target.

Option 1 calls for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by a certain percentage by 2050 and thereafter striving to net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Both the percentage and the time of complete decarbonization are as yet undetermined.

Parties collectively aim to reach the global temperature goal referred to in Article 2 through [a peaking of global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking requires deeper cuts of emissions of developed countries and will be longer for developing countries; rapid reductions thereafter to [40 – 70 per cent][70 – 95 per cent] below 2010 levels by 2050; toward achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions [by the end][after the middle] of the century] informed by best available science, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Note that if all the text between brackets would be removed, there would be no concrete target at all.

Option 2 begins and ends the same as option 1 but here the goal is formulated as a transformation toward decarbonization or climate neutrality.

Parties collectively aim to reach the global temperature goal referred to in Article 2 through a long-term global low emissions [transformation toward [climate neutrality][decarbonization] ] over the course of this century informed by best available science, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Article 5 Loss And Damage
The text on loss and damage (L&D) is exactly the same as the one presented in the 5 December draft text. A footnote explains the deliberations about this issue were still underway when the new draft text was finalized. L&D deals with the issue what to do if neither mitigation nor adaptation has worked and a number of people suffer grave damage from climate change. It is not simply an economical issue, said Julie-Anne Richards of the Climate Justice Programme on a press conference earlier on Wednesday. If an island nation drowns because of rising sea levels, they'll lose their home, their culture and the country they live in.

Little is known about the discussions on L&D because they have all been held behind closed doors. Rich countries are fiercely resisting L&D and the fact it's all so secretive probably means they aren't playing nice, Richards said.

Developed countries and other big polluters like fossil fuel companies resist L&D because they do not want to run the risk of being sued for climate change induced disasters.

“It's abhorrent rich countries are fighting loss and damage being included in the agreement in a meaningful way. The provisions they oppose most - compensation and liability – are already off the table, and still they ask for more. We should agree to have an honest process to discuss what we are going to do with loss and damage.”

One of the questions still open in the draft Agreement is whether L&D will be a stand-alone Article or whether it should be tucked under Article 4 on Adaptation. During the Comité de Paris delegate after delegate expressed their strong preference to give loss and damage an Article of its own.

Image: Decline of brackets in the draft Agreement until December 9. Source: ParisAgreement.org
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