Implementing the Paris Agreement

The history of the UN climate process begins in 1992 when the global community adopted the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This eventually led to the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, which required developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. However, in 2015, the Paris Agreement was adopted providing news dimensions for national and international policy frameworks for limiting global temperatures to well below 2C, and also for taking required adaptation actions and addressing loss and damage.

The Paris Agreement came into force in 2016 within a year of its adoption (almost unheard of in the realm of international agreements). However, the Paris Agreement requires further implementation guidelines, which is why countries are currently engaged in negotiations to structure the implementing framework known as the Paris Rulebook under the Paris Agreement Work Programme to operationalize the agreement.

In accordance with the mandate accepted by the parties of Paris Agreement, the Paris Rulebook needs to be adopted at the 24th climate change conference, which will be held in Poland in December 2018 (known as Conference of the Parties or COP 24).

But parties are currently facing huge challenges to develop the modalities, procedures, and guidelines of the implementation framework of Paris Agreement in a fair, inclusive, and effective manner.

The Paris Agreement legally binds countries to setup and implement ambitious plans to reduce their national greenhouse gas emissions. However, to ensure countries follow through on their plans, this requires a cooperative and facilitative approach.

Parties need to come together to to report, communicate and review the national and/or collective progress requiring a multilateral process for building trust, confidence, and credibility among the countries. This is key to the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The Bangkok Climate Change Conference, held on 4-9 September 2018, was a special session, organized before COP 24, to streamline the negotiating text through multilateral process with a view to structure a clear, robust, and cohesive implementing framework of the Paris Agreement that can be adopted at COP 24

Some of the critical issues related to implementation guidelines include procedures for submission and updating of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) with cyclical and iterative nature and for reporting and communication on the progress on the actions taken under the Paris Agreement under a transparency framework and a global stock-take process to assess the collective progress to meet the goal agreed under the Paris Agreement.

In Bangkok, countries were engaged with last moment negotiations on a variety of critical and procedural issues required in the Paris Rulebook related to mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, finance, technology, capacity building, market and non-market approaches, transparency framework, global stocktake, and compliance.

There are some key issues, in terms of complex technical nature and political disagreements underpin the substantial progress in Bangkok, and would also be a challenge for COP 23 to be agreed and adopt the Rulebook.

In terms of technical complexity, parties are facing difficulties to develop the modalities, procedures, and guidelines for the transparency framework, while parties have different capacities and willingness to share the clear and consistent information related to their actions.

In addition to that, difficulties remain to include and review the inputs from other work streams of PAWP. Likewise how and what sources would provide the required inputs for global stock-take is still to be ascertained. There are technicalities involved with the compliance committee to work on the reports and communications and to take actions related to compelling parties to cooperate.

In Bangkok, countries were engaged with last moment negotiations on a variety of critical and procedural issues required in the Paris Rulebook.

In terms of political contention, parties are facing difficulties on agreeing on modalities and processes related to reporting and communication of information related to finance in accordance with Article 9.5 of Paris Agreement, that stated “that developed countries shall communicate quantitative and qualitative information related to the financial resources they intend to provide in the future”. Developed countries would like to know the need for which developing countries need financial resources in future, while developing countries would like to know first the commitment so that they can plan well ahead, and they want to discuss both in parallel. Additionally, negotiations related to Article 9.5 involves other work streams PAWP and creates disagreements. Article 9.5 requires to provide information on future finance flows, while the transparency framework provides guidance for national reporting on past actions parties have taken.

In terms of political contention, another huge issue is differentiation. The UNFCCC differentiated the actions to take for climate change identifying parties as Annex I (developed) and non-Annex I (developing) countries, while the Paris Agreement in general differentiated the actions to take for climate change identifying parties as developed and developing countries. In addition to that, the Paris Agreement refers sometimes only to the capacities of the countries that differentiate even among the developing countries, which concerns particularly emerging economies and creates difficulties to determine actions and support and blocking up negotiation on other agenda items of PAWP. Loss and damage is another political contention and particularly developed countries don’t want to see loss and damage in the rulebook arguing the mandate of the PAWP. But a standalone article (Art.8) incorporated in the Paris Agreement on loss and damage and developing countries, in particularly least developing countries, provided their preferred options on loss and damage in every relevant agenda item in PAWP. So, loss and damage will be a big political issue for COP24 during the adoption of Paris Rulebook.

This Bangkok session even made some progress, the negotiating text still is compiled in a 307 pages, and presiding officers are mandated to work further to streamline the texts to advance the parties. Parties will negotiate further in the Katowice Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in December 2018. So, negotiators, in particular from LDCs, need to take enough technical and political preparation before going to Katowice, so that the rulebook can craft their prepared options to implement the Paris Agreement.

Originally this article was published on September 24th, 2018 at Climate-Tribune (Dhaka Tribune). The author M Hafijul Islam Khan is an advocate working with the Centre for Climate Justice Bangladesh (CCJ-B) and ICCCAD .

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