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First Negotiating Texts on the Table at the June Bonn Talks
With six months left to the climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, Parties at the Bonn Talks in June will discuss the first negotiating texts for a possible agreed outcome in Copenhagen on enhanced international climate change action.  In interviews for this newsletter, the Chairs of the AWG-KP and the AWG-LCA, who drafted the negotiating texts from ideas and proposals submitted by Parties, share their views on what remains to be done to reach a successful outcome in Copenhagen. The negotiating texts can be accessed on the homepage of the UNFCCC website:

Interview with John Ashe, Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Countries under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP)

You have taken the helm of the AWG-KP at a critical point in the process. How do you see this challenge?

It’s certainly a huge challenge, and whether I can meet that challenge, only time will tell. What is clear is that we do need a result, sooner rather than later. And the venue for that result is Copenhagen. I will do everything I can to ensure a meaningful outcome. It won’t be easy, but  Parties understand how important this outcome is, and they are determined to get there. Hopefully together we can reach a successful outcome.

Are you encouraged by what was achieved at the Bonn Talks in March, and what are your thoughts on the pace of the negotiations?

Given the complexity of the issues, the pace at which we are proceeding does not surprise me. Of course I would like things to move faster, and I will certainly do my best to achieve that objective. But you have to be realistic in recognizing what’s at stake, and that Parties will take their time before making commitments.  Countries are having to revamp their economies, and that can’t happen overnight. That’s why we gave ourselves two years to complete the process.

There was also a lot of groundwork to be done first, meaning that real negotiations only started in March this year, hence the need to hold additional meetings to give us more time. But things tend to happen towards the end, and that’s still some way off. The final yardstick, however, should be the breadth, scope and integrity of the final agreement in Copenhagen, not the pace of the negotiations.

The AWG-KP is focusing this year on further emission reduction commitments for Annex I Parties. What is your view on the level of ambition shown so far?

Here is where we see an interesting difference in approach. Industrialized countries, which are required to make emission reduction commitments, are taking the bottom-up approach – building up from their individual commitments. Developing countries, on the other hand, are taking a top-down approach, and want clarity on the overall target which should then be redistributed among industrialized countries. We still have to cross that divide.

If you take the individual target proposals tabled by Annex I countries so far, they don’t match the scale of reductions being put on the table by the non-Annex I Parties. It’s important that the end result corresponds to what science is telling us. I find the emission reduction range of -25 to -40 per cent a useful beacon.

What are some of the other issues that are slowing down the pace of negotiations?

There are some chicken and egg situations scattered throughout the negotiations. For example, some Annex I parties won’t make reduction commitments until they know what their allowances will be from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF.)  However, I am confident that in Copenhagen we can put the final pieces in place.

Although not a Party to the Kyoto Protocol, the United States is a key player in the climate change game, especially under the new Administration. What the United States does, and the comparability of effort across Annex I Parties, are key issues for all countries.

What must be achieved at the Bonn Talks in June?

We now have negotiating texts containing concrete options on the table. It would be good if in June we can complete some of the more solvable issues so that we can then focus on the more difficult ones. Some countries are simply not willing to put numbers on the table until there is clarity on issues
like LULUCF or the Kyoto mechanisms, such as emissions trading and the clean development mechanism, as they are interrelated. So I don’t think we will see numbers on the table until Copenhagen, but we need to begin that conversation. Parties will also need to face squarely the issue of the legal requirement to circulate formal amendment proposals by the deadline of 17 June.

Interview with Michael Zammit Cutajar, Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA)

What was your approach to compiling this first negotiating text?

It was very much a Party-driven approach that attempts to reflect the breadth and richness of Parties’ views, especially in submissions since the March/April session, in which they’ve been focusing on providing inputs to a negotiating text. It is not a neat, streamlined text; it is quite messy, in fact!  But we have tried to keep a balance between comprehensiveness and readability, without going into too much detail.  Once the Parties choose among the options on the table they’ll then develop the hows and the wherefores.

One important point is that the inclusion of an option in the text does not imply that it is not opposed.  Parties will have a chance to express their opposition and propose alternatives to this or that element of the text once work gets going on it.

How did you proceed in actually structuring the text?

I started from the structure of the Bali Action Plan, which has five elements: shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, technology, finance. Following the recent pattern of work in the AWG-LCA, I put adaptation, the all-embracing subject, first; then mitigation as the way to limit the amount of adaptation you have to do; and finally financing, technology and capacity-building as means to enable you to both mitigate and adapt. For developing countries in particular, there is a very strong wish to find a way of having a greater impact on the way technology is developed and the way it flows, the way it is transferred in the real economy.

How will you present the text to the Parties and what are the next steps?

At the opening plenary, I will explain briefly the concept and methods of the text, and hope that Parties will agree right away to start the first reading in which all of them will be able to put in their comments, their new proposals and their brackets. This will be done comprehensively, and should be followed by drafting groups which will sit down and start developing text on different topics. Conducting the readings in the morning, and the breakout sessions in the afternoon would enable small delegations to keep track of the main story in the mornings.

There will certainly be more submissions and we will incorporate them into the ongoing work.  In June, we have to discuss the next steps for the informal meeting in August, as well as for the next formal session in September.

Is there any legal timeline which applies to the final text to be adopted in Copenhagen?

Among the legal options on the table, some Parties favour a new protocol as an outcome. In order to be adopted in Copenhagen, a proposal for a protocol has to be tabled six months before COP 15 starts, i.e. by 6 June. Japan has put in such a proposal and requested the secretariat to circulate it to Parties. The text is required not to prejudge the form of the outcome, i.e. to keep all options open.

What are the main areas of agreement and divergence, and what would constitute success at the June Talks?

The June session must get down to drafting the elements of the agreed outcome and thereby, hopefully, to narrowing down differences. We must sense movement in June towards agreement on substance. However, June is too early to set benchmarks for substantive achievement or for agreement on legal form. Once there is political agreement on essentials, the form will follow.

What are the essentials: Firstly, a fair deal between developed and developing countries that will raise the level of mitigation action by both groups to new heights of ambition. Secondly, an ambitious and innovative package of financial, technological and capacity-building support for the mitigation efforts of developing countries. And thirdly, equally ambitious support for the adaptation efforts of these countries. Adaptation is the priority issue for most of them; they need ambitious mitigation action to limit the adaptation challenge. 

By the way, I think the Major Economies Forum, which the U.S. Administration has launched on a new track, can be very helpful in promoting consensus on mitigation and finance. I would like to see a linkage that will enable any positive impulses from the MEF to flow into the negotiations under the Convention.

AWG-LCA Negotiating text