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Media kit:  A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO REPORTING AT THE UN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE IN DURBAN


  1. JARGON BUSTER
  2. HOW WILL COP 17 WORK?
  3. WHERE IS THE BULK OF THE POLITICAL ACTION AND IN WHICH NEGOTIATING GROUPS ARE DECISIONS FINALLY MADE?
  4. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SESSIONS AND EVENTS AT A COP AND WHICH ARE OPEN TO JOURNALISTS?
  5. HOW DO YOU FIND OUT WHAT IS HAPPENING?
  6. WHAT IS WORTH COVERING?
  7. WHAT ARE THE COP 17 HIGHLIGHTS?
  8. WHAT ARE THE MAIN COUNTRY NEGOTIATING GROUPINGS?
  9. WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?
  10. HOW DO I GET ACCREDITATION?

1) JARGON BUSTER

A full glossary of key terms is available on the UNFCCC website, but the below are the most essential.

COP - Conference of the Parties. Essentially the supreme body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); meets annually.

CMP - Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol’s top body; meets annually at the same time as the COP.

AWG-KP - One of two major negotiating groups. The AWG-KP focuses on negotiating further legally-binding commitments for Annex I Parties beyond 2012. Attended by the 37 industrialised Annex I countries, plus other Parties to the Protocol and Parties to the Convention who did not ratify Kyoto but may attend as observers.

AWG-LCA - The second major negotiating group. The AWG-LCA was established in Bali in 2007 to conduct negotiations on a strengthened international deal on climate change, which was to be concluded at COP 15 in Copenhagen. The work of the AWG-LCA was extended by a year at COP 15, and then again by a year in Cancun in 2010. The group will report back to the COP in Durban.

SBSTA - Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice. Serves as a link between information and assessments provided by expert sources (such as the IPCC, responsible for compiling the world’s government-approved science) and the COP, which focuses on setting policy.

SBI - Subsidiary Body for Implementation. The SBI makes recommendations on policy and implementation issues to the COP and, if requested, to other bodies.

PLENARY - A formal meeting of the entire COP, CMP or one of its subsidiary bodies.

REDD - Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.

LULUCF - Land use, land-use change, and forestry. A greenhouse gas inventory sector that covers emissions and removals of greenhouse gases resulting from direct human-induced land use, land-use change and forestry activities.

PARTY - A Party in the international negotiating context is either a country or a regional economic integration organisation. There is only one Party which is not a country in the UNFCCC context, and that is the European Union. The 27 members of the European Union meet to agree on common negotiating positions. The country that holds the EU Presidency – a position that rotates every six months – then speaks for the European Union and its 27 member States. As a regional economic integration organization, the European Union itself can be, and is, a Party to the Convention. However, it does not have a separate vote from its members. Well over ten thousand people are due to attend COP 17. Around half of these are delegates of Parties to the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, so from 194 States plus the European Union.

MEETINGS - Major bodies such as the COP and CMP, chaired by senior government figures, meet in the large conference halls. Alongside these major meetings, there are a plethora of other negotiating sessions organised in such a way that, wherever possible, delegations from individual countries can organise their teams to attend without clashing timetables in what is a demanding schedule. These range from groups (often called informal or contact groups) focusing on issues from the CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) to the Adaptation Fund and REDD. These negotiating/contact groups then feed back to plenaries. The Chairs and their teams consolidate all views expressed from the floor into negotiating texts which are then fed back to the delegations. Further information is available in our fact sheets and a comprehensive explanation can be found in the UNFCCC publication: pdf-icon A Guide to the Climate Change Convention Process.

NGOs - NGOs are non-governmental organisations. They can for example represent business (BINGOs), or environmental organisations (ENGOs). Special rules have been developed over time under the Convention defining what role NGOs can play, what sessions they can attend, whether they can make submissions and so on. Details of these are available on the UNFCCC website. Other NGOs seek to track the delegations and to report on the process.

SIDE EVENTS AND EXHIBITS - Alongside the formal negotiations and informal talks are numerous side events and exhibits. The list of side events is published daily, shown on the CCTV monitors and available on the UNFCCC website.

2) HOW WILL COP 17 WORK?

A COP is a hybrid. It is principally a negotiating forum. But it is also a technical conference where expert bodies under the Convention debate methodological issues relating to climate science and the climate process, which in turn form the basis for political decision-making. At the same time it is part climate change expert meeting with a range of side events and exhibits, attracting key members from governments and civil society who professionally deal with climate change on a regular basis. The COP is, however, first and foremost the place where the Parties to the UNFCCC make decisions, often pre-prepared in the months and weeks of preceding talks and negotiations.

3) WHERE IS THE BULK OF THE POLITICAL ACTION AND IN WHICH NEGOTIATING GROUPS ARE DECISIONS FINALLY MADE?

  • COP (Conference of the Parties,195 Parties)
  • COP/CMP (COP serving as meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol -193 Parties)
  • AWG-LCA (founded 2007, 195 Parties)
  • AWG-KP (founded 2005, 194 Parties)
  • SBSTA and associated Contact/Expert Groups
  • SBI and associated Contact/Expert Groups
    (See above for the definitions)

Note: It will be the COP and CMP that actually adopt decisions.

4) WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SESSIONS AND EVENTS AT A COP AND WHICH ARE OPEN TO JOURNALISTS?

  • Opening ceremonies – first day of the conference and first day of the high-level segment (open)
  • Plenary (open)
  • Informal/Contact groups (not open)
  • Other “Meetings”, (e.g. G-77 and China, AOSIS, LDC) including Bilaterals and Observer Organisations (not open)
  • Side events (open)
  • Happenings (e.g. Fossil of the Day award) (open)

In addition, there are numerous daily press conferences. CCTV Monitors and the Daily Programme indicate whether sessions are open or closed.

5) HOW DO YOU FIND OUT WHAT IS HAPPENING?

  • CCTV Monitors
  • Website
  • iPhone app “COP 17 Navigator”
  • Daily programme (UNFCCC)
  • Announcements
  • ECO Newsletter (published by Climate Action Network International)
  • Earth Negotiations Bulletin (IISD)
  • Twitter accounts @CFigueres, @UN_climatetalks
  • UNFCCC on Facebook

6) WHAT IS WORTH COVERING?

Whilst the opening ceremonies and the high-level segment at the end of the conference attract high-level government participation, newsworthy events take place on a daily basis. Such events are press briefings (up to fourteen on a single day) for example on the part of governments, environmental organisations and UN bodies. These media briefings give an update on the status of the negotiations, are used to announce key decisions, lay out negotiating positions to the public and launch newsworthy studies which relate to the negotiations. The UN Climate Change Secretariat briefs the press during the most intense phase of the negotiations (usually daily in the second week of the COP and three or four times during the first week). In addition, press releases will be issued by the UNFCCC and other organisations.

Side-events have the potential to generate interesting news stories, are not only given by multilateral organisations, governments and NGOs, but for example academia and industry associations. As far as the political proceedings of the COP/CMP are concerned, it should be noted that concluding negotiations can go well into the night of the final day of the conference. The Saturday of the first week of the COP is a regular working day. The Sunday of the first week is often used for field trips organised by NGOs and/or the host government. The conference venue is usually closed on the Sunday of the first week.

7) WHAT ARE THE COP 17 HIGHLIGHTS?

Monday,
28 November
Opening ceremonies, from 10:00 a.m.
Tuesday,
6 December
Opening ceremony of the high-level segment of COP 17 and CMP 7 with a high-level UN official, heads of State and government, ministers
Friday,
9 December
Closing plenaries (adoption of decisions). Note: the closing plenary can continue into the early or late morning of 10 December

The Daily Programme can be picked up at the Documents Distribution Counter.

8) WHAT ARE THE MAIN COUNTRY NEGOTIATING GROUPINGS?

Countries with similar interests and viewpoints tend to negotiate in groups. This enables a single country to speak on behalf of a wider coalition of countries. This helps save negotiating time. The positions of the respective groups are jointly developed in meetings before and during the COP.  Further information on Party Groupings is on the UNFCCC website.

Main developing countries (“non-Annex I”) negotiating groups:

  • AOSIS. The Alliance of Small Island States and low-lying countries sharing similar developmental and environmental concerns. AOSIS has a membership of 42 States and observers.
  • African Group. with 53 members
  • G-77 and China. has 132 members and the chairmanship rotates on a regional basis (between Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean) and is held for one year in all the Chapters.  The chair will often speak for the whole group including China if China was present, but where the sub-members such as Least Developed Countries[1] (LDCs) or AOSIS have different positions, they will speak separately.

Main industrialized country (“Annex I”) negotiating groups

  • ·  Umbrella group: Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States
  • ·  EU: European Union, 27 countries

A case of its own:

Environmental Integrity Group: Switzerland + Mexico and South Korea (both OECD)

9) WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?

  • Press releases
  • UNFCCC Fact sheets and publications
  • Speeches
  • (Draft) decisions
  • Declarations

10) HOW DO I GET ACCREDITATION?

The UNFCCC secretariat has introduced a new, fully online media accreditation and registration system. This system will allow each individual seeking media accreditation to create a personal account, enter personal data and upload required documentation. Applicants can check the status of their requests online by utilizing the login information received when the profile is created. Online accreditation is now the official and only channel to obtain registration for the media for a conference or event. The deadline for application is 16 November 2011.

Media accreditation for UNFCCC conferences is strictly reserved for members of the press (print, photo, radio, TV, film, news agencies and online media) who represent a bona fide media organization (formally registered as a media organization in a country recognized by the United Nations General Assembly). Accreditation will only be given on proof of a track record of reporting for media organizations on international affairs, specifically climate change.

More important information on the accreditation process is available in the press accreditation section of the UNFCCC website, including detailed pdf-icon FAQs.



[1]  The UN Committee for Development Policy sets the criteria for a country to be classified as “least developed”.  The current list of LDCs includes 48 countries.