During the last years as well as in the next weeks in Lima, the international community will discuss the shape of a new climate treaty. The talks shall be concluded in 2015 in Paris during the COP21 and the new treaty shall be in force from 2020 on. This long time for the ratification is not unusual, even the Kyoto-Protocol, the world’s first legally binding agreement on emission reductions, needed several years. Similarly to the Kyoto-Protocol, the new mechanisms, such as the new Market-based Mechanism won’t be concluded in Paris.
The ADP (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) is the part of the negotiations in which the new climate treaty is being discussed. In Bonn this June and October as well as currently this December in Lima, the so called “INDCs” played and will play a major role. The acronym INDCs stands for “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions”, that is to say the contributions to the new treaty, which will be given by different states. During the first months of 2015 (March) the countries need to come up with their contributions.
Let’s have a closer look on two words: “intended” and “contributions”.
Currently, there is still some uncertainty about the meaning of “intended”. Will they be binding after the adoption of the treaty in Paris or after the ratification in 2020 ? Can they still be changed, even if the treaty is as legally binding as possible ? These different interpretations will be discussed in Lima. This uncertainty could even not be cleared until COP21 in 2015.
The second strange notion is “contributions”. In Warsaw at the last Climate Summit in 2013, the parties discussed if the wording shall be “commitments” or “contributions”. “Commitments” are more legally binding, but it has been criticized since using this wording could result in emissions reductions only. Nevertheless having chosen the concept of “contributions” does not imply automatically that the INDCs will also cover areas such as agriculture, adaptation, capacity-building, climate finance etc… This question is going to be discussed during COP20.
On the same point, there are countries, such as Germany, saying that “nothing has changed”, whether the words “contributions” or “commitments” are used.
Concerning emission reductions, all Parties agree that they shall be part of these contributions. However it is questionable if this means that all countries should reduce emissions or only Parties from the Global North (such as it is currently in the Kyoto Protocol).
The second point being discussed is even more crucial. Shall these contributions include additional other areas previously mentioned, also to be part of the new agreement? Many countries from Global North officially express their fear, that it would be too much for the UNFCCC process (unofficially it actually allows them keep their contributions in these areas low), while most countries from Global South strongly argue that Global North-countries need to contribute more than emission reduction.
One good example for this controversy would be adaptation to the climate crisis. AOSIS (Association of Small Island States), directly affected by sea level rise, and some Latin-American countries support the inclusion of adaptation in the INDCs. These countries played a major role in Warsaw during the negotiations on “Loss & Damage”, concerning slow-onset events (ocean acidification, sea level rise) and extreme weather events such as hurricanes. As at the COP 19 in Warsaw, parties decided that “Loss & Damage” should fall under adaptation, their aim is to include “Loss & Damage” in the INDCs and this way in the new climate treaty.
One other example is financial contributions, proposed by a group of African countries in June 2014. Due to this, they opened the discussion about another crucial part of the new agreement: How to implement the new agreement under the umbrella of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Including financial contributions would cross cut with the Green Climate Fund and could create double-counting: financial contributions to both the GCF and the new treaty.
Through these examples, we can see how much the negotiations on the meaning of INDCs are crucial for the new climate treaty and reflect the issue of climate justice. Countries from Global South argue that they should be as broad as possible, whereas the Global North globally try to keep the Kyoto Protocol form, except that all countries should take emission reductions goals.
What is the position of the Civil Society concerning INDCs ?
“The INDCs are a really big deal. It’s the first time every country that is party to the UNFCCC will anchor climate action plans in a global agreement. Because INDCs will apply to developed and developing countries alike, they’ll need to be flexible – but in every case laying out government’s plans to respond to Climate Change. In some cases, the INDCs could also help us understand what governments could do if they get the necessary climate finance. A lot of civil society groups and some of the most vulnerable countries are also emphasizing the need to build in a process to review whether the aggregate impacts of INDCs are adequate for keeping global warming below 1,5°C.”
The FYEG Climate Change and Energy Working Group want to raise awareness on these discussions. The next discussions in Lima on INDCs will be crucial for the new climate treaty. We need to put pressure from now on to reach a climate treaty as ambitious as possible.