Inside #COP24: Issues at stake and negotiations

December 4th 2018 – COP24 began on Sunday and FYEG’s delegates are in Katowice to represent the green youth voice of Europe. Yesterday, we talked with Antoine Tifine, our treasurer, about his first two days at COP. He explained how everything was organised, what was the role of delegates and what were the issues at stake especially in terms of agriculture.

EEB: Hi Antoine! Can you tell me a little bit what you did during these first days?

The COP24 began on Sunday, and it’s quite exceptional because normally the negotiations begin on Monday. They advanced some parts this year, some parts that are not really negotiations, that are more formal parts about opening different sessions of negotiations, adopting the agenda, electing the new presidency etc. This happened more on Sunday.

And today, Monday, we really got into the heart of the matter with what is called the High Segment, a part with more people, let’s say of “high level”. The Prime Ministers and the Ministers are coming to talk. In the meanwhile, the negotiators began to discuss the real topics planned during the COP.  

EEB: OK, and how are these negotiations organised  what are the topics discussed?

Everything is divided between different negotiation points. The negotiations are not taking place in the same room at the same time, there are about 10 points on the agenda that are opened and closed as we go along with the negotiations. But, consequently, there are about 20 rooms occupied simultaneously, in which negotiations are happening about the different aspects of the text that are at stake. But what is the most important matter at stake for this COP is the adoption of what is called “the rules of Paris Agreement”. During COP21 three years ago, in the Paris Agreement that was adopted, many countries agreed to make some commitments – for example, improve education on environment, or Northern countries agreed to financially help southern countries to adapt to climate change and its consequences etc. But, for now, we are only talking about commitments, and the question is how do we measure these commitments and how do we follow the work that is going to be done. What is at stake is to find a way to measure that a country is able to actually stick to its commitments.

Moreover, in the Paris Agreement, the States have to actualise regularly their commitments, preferably improve them. Now the focus is on what has to be in these commitments, called the NDCs (nationally determined contributions) to attain the aim of the 1,5°C. So, we are going to discuss what is going to be part of the contributions. For example, make a country commit on the reduction of some gas.

Then, there is another important part: the transparency framework. It corresponds to establishing how we are going to measure the results and how we are going to see if the states really stick to their commitments.

There is one risk: bad rules of the Paris Agreement adopted at this COP could empty the agreement of all meaning. For example, some greenhouse gases could be removed. Or, if you are talking about forests, you could change the way the contribution in that field is calcuted. If it’s not correctly calculated, some countries could say: “Look! I accomplished my duty: I planted 3 hectares of forests, so I reduced my greenhouse gases emissions”, but effectively it’s not the case. So, if bad rules are adopted, everyone will be able to congratulate each other because it would be very simple to comply with the commitments, but it would not resolve effectively the climate crisis.

EEB: So, to which negotiations did you participated in today?

I try to follow everything that has a link with agriculture, and today there was the Koronivia dialogue. This dialogue is about the agricultural sector, and discusses both the adaptation of the sector and its reduction of greenhouse gases emissions. The idea is to search how to promote “good practices” in the agricultural sector, to reduce our vulnerability linked to climate change in this area, and at the same time to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. This program was adopted one year ago during the COP, 6 months ago they agreed on how to organize the program and today the negotiations on this program began, with one entire day of workshop on this topic. And then a series of 4 workshops will follow on topics ranged from how to increase carbon concentration in soils and how the type of agriculture that you practice can absorb carbon from the atmosphere to the question of livestock farming and how can we reduce greenhouse gases emissions that are linked to livestock farming.

EEB: And, how do you concretely negotiate?

We are not in the most difficult part of negotiations yet. For now, experts and mostly diplomats from international organizations are explaining what is already set up and what can we do then. Actually, while the question of concrete commitments is already being discussed, the contents are also currently debated. Because for example when Northern countries commit to implement programs of technology transfer to Southern States [1]: which type of technology should be chosen? Concerning agriculture should we promote models such as agroecology, not intense in technology but very innovative though, or should we choose to use a lot of robots, to do very high-tech things.

Then, in the upcoming days, concerning agriculture, another important thing will take place. In the rules of the Paris Agreement, some principles are supposed to be transferred in the contributions of each country. For example, in the contributions for food security, the states will have to explain how the measures they implement will not damage food security and precisely how the measures that are going to be implemented are going to guarantee food security despite climate change. Because for example, if one state is explaining that its way to increment its environmental performance is to double its forest areas, you can be sure that it will be taken on agricultural lands and in this case, what is the impact in terms of food security at an international level. So, that’s why food security is something that has to be included in the Paris Agreement, in order for the countries to keep that in mind.

And from tomorrow, when the work of Koronivia will be done, we will rather follow these chapters of negotiations in order to try to see what happens. As soon as we understand what are the issues at stake, who are the countries blocking the process and the ones that are going in the right direction, we will get in contact with the NGOs that are more experimented on the topic, discuss it with them and then begin to try to talk with delegates, and convince them that it is important to do such commitment or the other.

EEB: Thanks Antoine! And good luck for the negotiations!


[1] Northern countries and Southern countries are defined in the 1st annex of the 4th convention of the UN, a text adopted during the Earth Summit of Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In this annex, there is a list of developed countries, the countries that should make most efforts and have to contribute financially. All the countries that aren’t in the list are considered as Southern countries and don’t have to do these efforts. It can be discussed.