Climate Action

The Durban Conference – a two-track negotiation under the Bali Road Map

In 2007, during the thirteenth United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP13), the parties of UNFCCC agreed on the Bali Road Map, which is based on two formal negotiation tracks, so called AWGs: the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (known as AWG-KP), established in December 2005 under the first Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP1), and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Co-operative Action under the Convention (known as AWG-LCA),established in December 2007 under COP13. These AWGs have been the instruments for the two negotiation tracks up to the last COP in Cancun: the AWG-KP is the track on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol and the AWG-LCA is the Convention track.

  • 27 November 2011
  • William Brittlebank

The AWG-LCA has been working to implement the Bali Action Plan, in a process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the UNFCCC through long-term co-operative action, now, up to and beyond 2012. The AWG was created to complete its work in 2009 and should have presented the outcome of its work to the Conference of the Parties for adoption at its fifteenth session, in Copenhagen.

The COP decided to extend the AWG-LCA after COP15 and COP16. In Cancun, the mandate was extended for one year, in order for the group to continue its work with a view to carrying out the undertakings contained in the Cancun Decision, and presenting the results to COP17. The COP has also requested the AWG-LCA to continue discussing legal options with the aim of completing an agreed outcome based on decision 1/CP.13 (Bali Action Plan), the work done at the COP16 and proposals made by Parties under Article 17 of the Convention.

In regard to AWG KP, the COP agreedthat the AWG should aim to complete its work pursuant to decision 1/CMP.1 and have its results adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) as early as possible and in time to ensure that there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods.


Change the Bali Road Map? Out of the question

The COP and CMP in Durban will be the first major conferences after the parties had adopted the Cancun Agreements, which renewed trust in the multilateralism process. The challenge now is to make these agreements operational. In addition, Durban will be crucial to the Kyoto Protocol, taking into account that the first commitment period expires in 2012. If the parties fail to define further commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol, there will be a gap that could undermine this rules-based instrument.

The success of the Durban Conference depends on the parties’ constructive work, based on the agreement and commitments currently in place. Unfortunately there are some strange messages suggesting another unacceptable goal.

The Bali Road Map had been agreed in order to accommodate non-Kyoto parties, while ensuring the comparability of efforts amongdeveloped country parties. However, contrary to what was agreed under the Bali Road Map, some countries have expressed preference for a new model of international regime on climate change, based on only one new track. This is not in line with the process agreed four years ago, and something like that could represent a very dangerous new approach, which could undermine the multilateral rules and institutions that have been created over the past fourteen years. Other countries would like to preserve a rules-based international regime, but not exactly the existing Kyoto Protocol. In a nutshell, these countries are in favour of all big economies committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions based on quantified targets, similarly to the model that today is applicable to developed countries. Meanwhile, some countries are opposing Kyoto focused on the idea that all parties, developed or developing countries, could unilaterally define their mitigation actions, based on an approach similar to and originally thought out for developing countries under the Bali Action Plan.

Some countries have expressed the intention of moving away from Kyoto to present mitigation pledges under the Convention track. It is difficult to accept that a country is abandoning Kyoto in order to do less.


Politically relevant technical issues

The Government of Brazil continues to work with a view to implement the Cancun Agreements concomitant with ongoing efforts to ensure a second commitment period for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol. It simply intends to implement the road map that had been agreed four years ago. The biggest challenge is to make this scenario politically feasible, in order to make it operational from a technical basis. The AWG-KP has been able to achieve a technical negotiation document which is a good basis for the negotiations in Durban. Technical issues like emissions trading and Kyoto Protocol mechanisms are on a good track. Measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to enhance sinks resulting from anthropogenic land use, land use change and forestry activities shall continue to be available to Annex I Parties as a means to reach their quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives.

Although the negotiation text represented a good way forward, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) depends on the Kyoto Protocol because it is based on legally binding targets for Annex I Parties who demanded that the Certified Emission Reductions resulted from the Mechanism. CDM will not make sense in the absence of the Protocol. The continuation of the flexibility mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol, in particular the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), is contingent upon the establishment of quantified emission reduction commitments by Annex I Parties under the second commitment period.

Under the AWG LCA the success of Durban Conference is related to the parties’ capacity to make operational the forty paragraphs on modalities and procedures or working plans contained in the Cancun Decision. Parties must work to enable the early operating status of all the institutions agreed to in Cancun, including:

  • The registry for nationally appropriate mitigation actions and international support
  • The Adaptation Committee
  • The Technology Executive Committee, Centre and Network, and:
  • The Green Climate Fund, which must provide significant means of implementation for immediate action to tackle climate change       

The importance must be stressed of ensuring an appropriate overview of the Green Climate Fund by COP, in order to ensure its adequate management and timely disbursements to developing countries.

Detailed and comprehensive information on fast-start financial flows provided by developed countries should be made available officially. This is a fundamental requirement for dealing with UNFCCC’s implementation deficit regarding the financing building block under the Bali Action Plan.

We are in a new context for rigorous, robust and transparent accounting of finance taking into account that a quantified commitment for finance has been established for the first time. The assessment of progress in achieving the financial targets is crucial, but the existing reporting requirements under the Convention for developed countries to report on finance must be enhanced significantly. An enhanced common reporting format, as well as measurable, reportable, verifiable (MRV) outcomes for supported actions and corresponding support should be considered in Durban.

In Durban, the discussions on measuring, reporting and verifying Annex I mitigation should be based on the development of a common accounting framework and rules, taking the rules of the Kyoto Protocol as the reference. There is a need for ensuring transparency and comparability of mitigation commitments by all developed countries. The revision of guidelines on the reporting of Annex I National Communications should cover supplementary information on achievement of quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets.


The Bali Road Map supporting the Durban outcome

Despite a trend of general acceptance that Durban may not result into a ‘legally binding final agreed outcome’, Brazil will spare no efforts to reach an agreement on a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol, which is the single most important rules-based system, preserving the top-down legal structure created by the Protocol with the institutions that have been created over the past fourteen years.

Aware of the fact that a second commitment period alone is not an option for some parties, progress on the Kyoto Protocol side together with progress on the UNFCCC side is crucial for the negotiation to move forward in a successful way. Achieving a comprehensive, balanced and ambitious outcome in Durban means implementing the Bali Road Map, which has been agreed based on the multilateral response to climate change in the context of sustainable development and in accordance with the provisions and principles of the Convention, in particular the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

Brazil envisages the Durban Conference as a relevant step to ensure the full, effective and sustained implementation of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, as well as a clear signal for the international community that multilateralism can and shall be reinforced.