Daily Report from Bonn III: Monday, 2 August 2010

I arrived in Bonn last night to observe my second session of the UNFCCC negotiations. This week marks the eleventh and thirteenth meetings of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) and the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). The Earth Negotiations Bulletin provides an excellent brief history of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol that I won’t repeat here. I will, however, try to answer these basic questions before summarizing today’s proceedings:

  • What are the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA? How are they similar and how are they different?
  • What is the purpose of these meetings in Bonn (April, May/June, August, and October in Tianjin, China)?
  • How do these meetings relate to the UN climate summit each year?

The AWG-KP was formed by mandate of the KP in order to consider further commitments on emission reduction targets for the second commitment period (CP 2). The AWG-KP includes only those countries who have signed the Kyoto Protocol, which is a legally-binding agreement among states. The Kyoto Protocol commits 37 industrialized countries and European community, known as the Annex I Parties, to targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). These targets are achieved through national measures, as well as through three market-based mechanisms provided by the KP: emissions trading, or the “carbon market”; clean development mechanism (CDM); and joint implementation. Later on in the week, I will do my best to explain what the “carbon market” is, and how it is complicating and diverting efforts towards an ambitious emissions reduction. I will also define Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) and quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives (QELROS) in this context. The AWG-KP is under considerable pressure this year since the first commitment period (CP 1) expires in 2012 and insufficient progress has been made thus far.

The AWG-LCA was formed by mandate of the Bali Action Plan to focus on key elements of long-term cooperation, including mitigation, adaptation, finance, as well as technology and capacity building. Unlike the AWG-KP, the AWG-LCA dialogue also concerns countries that have not signed onto the KP but are party to the Convention, notably the United States. This has proved problematic since the AWG-LCA discussions of “limiting global temperature rise” and “peaking of global emissions” inevitably overlap with and, in many ways, depend on AWG-KP decisions regarding “aggregate and individual emissions reductions.” Moreover, as one of the world’s major emitters, the US’ lack of climate legislation and legal accountability under the KP has been viewed as an impeding force in discussions. At COP 15 last year, the US was one of five countries that drafted the Copenhagen Accord, which is a non-binding agreement whose legal status and implications remain unclear. In a future report, I will discuss the Copenhagen Accord in more detail and the effect it could have on the outcomes of both working groups.

The aim of each working group is to produce a text to facilitate negotiations at the annual Conference of Parties (COP). At sessions prior to the COP, the elected Chair of each group determines the agenda, organizes and facilitates interventions, and is responsible for preparing a text that reflects what has been discussed. The Chairs also consult one another in an effort to increase the shared level of ambition and coherence between Annex I and non-Annex I parties. This year, the sixteenth COP will be held in Cancún, Mexico.

Today’s opening remarks sounded much like previous ones. In the AWG-KP opening plenary, concerns included avoiding a gap between CP 1 and CP 2, the continuation of the KP, LULUCF, and legal instruments. The G-77/China, echoed by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the African Group, and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), urged for the session to focus on an aggregate emissions reduction target for CP 2. AOSIS also pointed out that given current pledges, the inclusion of LULUCF would actually produce an increase in emissions compared to the last CP. Grenada  reminded us that these weren’t just “numbers,” but the survival or destruction of homes and communities. Australia, on behalf of the Umbrella Group, agreed that work should focus on LULUCF, but also noted that the Copenhagen Accord covers 80% of global emissions. The European Union (EU) and Japan offered opinions on legal outcomes. Belgium expressed that though the EU preferred a single, legally-binding agreement, they are flexible along as it is binding. Japan stated that they would not accept a mere amendment to the KP, but demanded a single, comprehensive, legally-binding post 2012 framework. The Chair articulated that this meeting of the AWG-KP should result in a draft negotiating text. The incident from the last Bonn session in which a country’s nameplate was stolen, destroyed, and disrespectfully handled was also resolved. Three individuals from civil society were identified as the perpetrators, and more can be read about it here. So much time and energy has been diverted to this unfortunate event that negotiators and NGO members alike seemed eager to move to leave it behind.

The AWG-LCA opening plenary introduced a second iteration of the Chair’s text that received sharp criticism from developing countries in June. Despite the usual stipulations, states generally agreed that the new text is an adequate basis for continuing discussions. Many of the opening statements were framed by each country’s take on the organization and content of the text. As there are several components to the work of the AWG-LCA, I will postpone explaining the specific positions of each group until later in the session. There was, however, some initial disagreement over how discussions should proceed. The Chair picked up the African Group’s proposal for spin-off groups to improve the text, but this was met with concern by delegates as to how one could follow multiple simultaneous discussions. The Chair took noted these comments and said she would streamline the eight proposed spin-off groups into four: shared vision; mitigation; adaptation; and finance, technology, and capacity building.

Tomorrow, I will cover the AWG-KP in length, as an in-session workshop on “the scale of emission reductions to be achieved by Annex I Parties in aggregate and the contribution of Annex I Parties, individually or jointly to this scale” began today.

Your reporter in Bonn,
Jessica Chen, Program Coordinator