UN Climate Chief Outlines Draft Text for Paris Summit

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By Stephen Gardner

Sept. 15 — A text that will form the basis of an international climate deal, which could be signed at the United Nations climate summit in Paris later this year, has seen faster-than-expected progress in recent days and will be issued during the first week of October, the UN's top climate change official said Sept. 15.

Speaking in Brussels to members of the European Parliament's environment committee, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres gave a generally upbeat report on preparations for Paris and said the “first draft of the true Paris agreement” when it is released in October “will bring a smile to your face.”

Environment committee members will be “quite surprised” at progress, after voicing their concern that preparatory talks for Paris were moving too slowly, Figueres said. Negotiators concluded their penultimate session of pre-Paris talks Sept. 4, leaving only a five-day negotiating session from Oct. 19–23 in Bonn prior to the climate summit.

At the meetings that ended Sept. 4, Ahmed Djoghlaf and Daniel Reifsnyder, co-chairmen of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action negotiating track, were given a mandate from delegates to produce a new document.

Figueres said Sept. 15 that an agreement based on the draft text should be possible in Paris “without drama and without delay.”

Elements of Deal 

Figueres said the text to be issued in early October will have three main elements: a baseline assessment of emission reduction pledges submitted by countries, a process for reviewing pledges in order to build on them, and a “clearly defined final destination,” which will be “cemented in the Paris agreement.”

The final destination will be “climate neutrality, certainly in the second half of the century,” meaning that sufficient greenhouse gas emissions reductions would have to be achieved to keep the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, Figueres said.

Ahead of Paris, national emissions reduction pledges for the post-2020 period are contained in Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which countries have been submitting to the UN.

According to Figueres, 62 INDCs have been submitted so far (including one for all 28 EU nations), representing about 70 percent of global emissions. She expects INDCs from major emitters Brazil and India on Sept. 27, while Indonesia's is expected “sometime soon,” she added.

Figueres added that is was “absolutely clear” that the INDCs for Paris would be insufficient to stay within a 2 degrees temperature rise, but, assuming the INDCs are implemented, “we will probably be around 3 degrees by the end of the century,” which she said was a significant improvement on the 4 or 5 degrees of warming that could be expected without the pledges.

The challenge for the Paris summit would be “how are we going to build ambition over time” to ensure deeper greenhouse gas emission cuts that those contained in the INDCs, Figueres said.

Five-Year Reviews?

Figueres signaled that the pre-Paris text will probably opt for five-year review periods of national emission reduction pledges. The drafters were “coming round to the five-year periodicity rather than 10,” she said.

Many INDCs set out pledges through 2025, or five years into the post-2020 commitment period, but some economies, such as the European Union, have opted to make pledges up to 2030.

Figueres said some flexibility would be given to economies that have made longer-term commitments. They would not necessarily be obliged to review their pledges after five years, but would receive an “invitation” to do so, she said.

She emphasized the importance of financial offers to developing countries from developed countries at the Nov. 30–Dec. 11 Paris summit.

Developed countries have promised to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance to poorer countries, but climate finance for the post-2020 period was “not getting the attention that it should,” Figueres said.

There also is “an understandable expectation” on the part of developing countries that at Paris, developed nations would confirm the $100 billion a year figure for 2020 and would clarify the sources of the finance, she added.

Aviation, Shipping Sectors

Peter Liese, a German center-right member of the European Parliament, said the Paris conference also should address greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation and maritime sectors.

Aviation and shipping were “handled far more generously than other industries,” with decisions on measures on emission reductions left to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), he said.

Figueres said aviation and shipping emissions were being considered outside the INDC pledge-and-review process, and ICAO and IMO were “looking at a flattening rather than a reduction” of emissions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted to the United Nations are available at http://bit.ly/1isWfkv.