Still on the road to Paris?

by Joy Hyvarinen, FIELD
Saturday, 15 March 2014 00:58 GMT

The Eiffel tower in Paris is pictured during sunset on March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

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A look at where international climate negotiations sit as Bonn talks wrap up

As the latest session of the climate change negotiations is finishing in Bonn, countries don’t seem much closer to a shared view of what the 2015 climate agreement should look like.

The G77 & China say that the new agreement must reflect the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its principles, which treat developing and developed countries as different groups with different rules. Developed countries such as the United States, Japan and Australia don’t want what they call a “binary” approach in the future agreement.

Countries are meant to put forward “intended nationally determined contributions” as a first step in constructing the new climate change agreement. The discussions in Bonn showed very different perspectives, with developing countries emphasizing that the contributions are not only about mitigation, but also involve for example adaptation and financial support.


Reviews that consider what countries are doing and if the 2015 agreement as a whole is doing enough to slow climate change are likely to form an important part of the new agreement.

FIELD thinks that an effective review mechanism could help to bridge the gap between nationally determined contributions and the deep emission reductions that are necessary to slow climate change.

The first new “periodic review” under the UNFCCC, the 2013-2015 review, is currently under way. It can provide lessons for how reviews under the future agreement should work.

Country submissions on the 2013-2015 review give an idea of how they see reviews. For example, a submission last year from the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) stated that strengthening the current goal of holding climate change to a 2 degree Celsius increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius is critical for the survival of many island states, least developed countries and coastal communities.

As mentioned in a recent FIELD brief, 26 March is the deadline for countries to submit information on how the 2013-2015 review should inform the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). This is a very important question: countries have the opportunity to say how scientific understanding of climate change and its impacts should be taken into account in the negotiations on the future climate change agreement.

2015 OR 2020?

People talk about the “2015 agreement”, but the “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties” which is under negotiation is only meant to kick in from 2020.

One of the two strands in the negotiations is focusing on pre-2020 action. Stronger action to reduce emissions before 2020 is crucial to slow climate change to a safer level. It is important for trust between developing and developed countries as it can show that developed countries are keeping their promise to take the lead in combating climate change, before asking developing countries to take on tougher legal commitments. It can also provide opportunities for developing countries, for example to advance REDD+.

If the Paris climate change conference next year adopts the new legal agreement that is meant to start in 2020 together with a strong pre-2020 deal, that could add up to a true “2015 agreement”.


The Warsaw climate change conference in 2013 created an international mechanism on loss and damage, but how loss and damage might feature in the 2015 climate agreement is an open question.

In an article this week, which may create debate, Kirstin Dow and Frans Berkhout argue for reframing the approach to loss and damage. They advocate moving the focus from countries to vulnerable groups, regions and sectors. They also argue for moving from questions of liability and compensation to focusing on support and assistance.

FIELD has been considering how lessons from transitional justice could help to find solutions to loss and damage.

Loss and damage is a big question and how it is answered in the 2015 agreement has potential legal and other implications. It is one of the issues that should be on the negotiators’ agenda when they think about the structure of the 2015 Paris package.

Joy Hyvarinen is the executive director of FIELD. This blog first appeared on the FIELD website.

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