2013-2015 review: Differences over use of Structured Expert Dialogue report

Bonn, 8 June 2015 (Hilary Chiew)

There are divergent views over the use of the report of the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) in the review of the long term global goal and the progress made towards achieving it (the 2013-2015 review).

Some countries cautioned against picking and choosing from the SED findings as discussion continues on the joint agenda item on the 2013-2015 review of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) and Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). The two subsidiary bodies are meeting from 1 to 11 June.

The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties decided to periodically review the adequacy of the long term global goal and the progress made towards achieving it. The Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) was mandated to assist the SBI and SBSTA to do so.  It is to ensure the scientific integrity of the review through a focused exchange of views, information and ideas. The SED concluded its work following the second meeting of the fourth session in February 2015 in Geneva.

The other joint agenda item of the SBI and SBSTA that also drew much attention at the beginning of the 42nd session is the impact of the implementation of response measures (see TWN Bonn Update #12). The first contact group meeting for both items was held on 2 June, followed by an informal consultation on 3 June.

The contact group meeting on 2 June was preceded by a special event on the presentation of the factual report of the SED that includes a compilation of the summary report of the four sessions of the SED and a technical summary which synthesises the work that includes 10 messages capturing the key findings emerging from its sessions.

At SBSTA 41 and SBI 41 in Lima Parties were further invited to submit their views on any other information or gaps in information relevant to the 2013-2015 Review as well as their views in light of the ultimate objective of the Convention and the overall progress made towards achieving the long-term global goal, including consideration of the implementation of the commitments under the Convention.

SBSTA 42 and SBI 42 currently meeting in Bonn are considering the SED factual report and the submissions from Parties with a view to report to the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris which shall take appropriate action on the basis of the 2013-2015 Review. The two subsidiary bodies are also invited to consider this matter and to take further steps, including preparing a draft decision for consideration and adoption at COP 21.

Following are the highlights from the first week of the Bonn session.

On 2 June, the contact group co-chair Gertraude Wollansky (Austria) informed Parties that five submissions were received so far with the latest just a few minutes ago from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and hoped get more in the next few days.

To take the work further, she asked Parties to consider two questions: what type of outcome they expect of the conclusion of the review, and how to work towards achieving it including a timeline of whether to finish the work in this Bonn session or continue negotiation at SBSTA 43 and SBI 43 in Paris at the end of the year.

The United States said any decision text must draw closely from the SED technical summary and Parties should work as hard as they can to close the review in Bonn.

Switzerland said it is time to focus on the content based on the result of the SED’s report  which Parties will draw heavily upon and would like to have a draft decision in Bonn to be ready for Paris.

Representing the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) Trinidad and Tobago said after a two-year process, it is time to agree on substance and that is why we have the joint contact group and not just end with the conclusion of the SED. In an ideal world, the contact group will wrap up work at this June session with a draft decision text to be firmly based on the SED’s findings.

It wanted a recommendation to strengthen the long-term global goal as it is clear from the SED’s findings that limiting temperature rise to 2 degree C is inadequate as it will not prevent irreversible consequences to many threatened ecosystems and a high number of small island states.  AOSIS also wanted the sixth assessment review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to ensure that its lowest marker scenario is consistent with limiting warming below 1.5C by 2100 as an appropriate recommendation by the contact group.

AOSIS also said that the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) should be informed by the outcome of the Review and include the 1.5C target as a benchmark for the overall level of ambition of the ADP on mitigation.

It called on the strengthening of the long term global goal of below 1.5C as a benchmark for the Secretariat’s synthesis report on the aggregate effect of the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) that are coming.

(At the informal consultation on 3 June 3, AOSIS reiterated that the 1.5C target should be included in the content of the draft decision text and said that it was making a submission to be turned into a CRP document.)

Saudi Arabia in expressing concerns over the IPCC criteria and procedure (the Fifth Assessment Report was heavily relied on by the SED’s work) said the science of climate change should be looked at and reviewed by developing countries and scientists. It is not enough to have the IPCC authors give their value judgment, said Saudi Arabia, referring to its experience with the IPCC process. It also acknowledged the SED’s final report as a judgment of the two co-facilitators (of the SED) and cautioned against picking and choosing the findings.

It said what is clear is that the long-term goal must meet the objective of the Convention and that would mean achieving sustainable development, securing food production and doing so while respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). Towards that end, Saudi Arabia said, who are we to just look at 2C or 1.5C without considering those elements. It was against having such skewed findings to be inserted as content of the draft decision to inform the ADP and prejudge the negotiations there.

China said it would like to see a draft decision from this session and did not want to delay the work to the 43rd session of the Subsidiary Bodies in Paris which would not provide time to discuss in-depth. On the content of the draft decision, it wanted it to be a procedural one that can comprise of a summary of the procedural processes over the past years, the information gaps that were identified and how do to address issues identified during the past two years of discussion.

Noting Saudi Arabia’s warning against picking and choosing the findings of the SED’s report, it also cautioned Parties against such practice.

India supported having a draft decision in Bonn that acknowledges the knowledge gained and the gaps in information identified.

Brazil said its understanding is that we should be working on a substantive draft decision but it would also support no picking and choosing, particularly the reference of the means to achieve the goal. It said the draft decision should highlight key messages and with respect to the long-term goal of limiting warming to 1.5C, the difficulties of achieving it.

The European Union (EU) said the SED’s report was useful in helping policy makers digest the IPCC report which is relevant to our work here. It said the priority is to work on a substantive decision, adding that so far Parties have been discussing procedural matters but the real mandate of the Review is to prepare for the action to be taken by the COP. It said we should try to advance work as much as possible.

Solomon Islands speaking for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in associating with AOSIS’ intervention wanted the pre-2020 ambition to be reflected in the content and we certainly need to report the findings to the ADP.

Japan also wanted the ADP to be informed of the final report of the SED and view the draft decision as an important outcome of the Bonn session.

The Philippines said as president of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, the country has made a submission on 1 May that would give substantial advice to the COP and the ADP.  It requested to the co-chairs to allow for a short interactive session next week for the Philippines to explain its submission.

Norway said the SED report is a balanced presentation which fulfilled the mandate. It is ready to take the next step and prepare a outcome with procedural and substantial recommendations to the COP, and preferred to come out with a possible draft decision text in Bonn.

Botswana said strengthening the global goal to limit temperature rise below 1.5C is central in addition to having a draft decision but the gaps of means of implementation need to be addressed as well.

Speaking for the Independent Alliance of Latin American and the Caribbean (AILAC), Colombia said despite the fact that limiting temperature rise to 2C or 1.5C remains challenging, the group believed that we should strengthen the global goal to 1.5C to avoid risks to vulnerable countries and ecosystems.

Bhutan in supporting the Solomon Islands said it would be appropriate if the draft decision addressed the need for limiting warming to 1.5C.

Co-chair Wollansky then announced that the co-chairs will prepare a draft decision text based on what they have heard from Parties in the last one hour.

China said it had concrete proposal for the draft decision and can send it to the Secretariat to be turned into a CRP document.

Saudi Arabia said there is no consensus on how to proceed yet as there is disagreement on the draft decision being one with substantial content instead of being a procedural one.

Wollansky conceded, saying that she would not produce a draft text but a paper reflecting different options.

The CRPs of China and AOSIS were subsequently posted on the UNFCCC website. 

Parties will continue to meet in informal consultation in the second week and is supposed to deliver a draft decision by 11 June. Meanwhile, it is learnt that bilateral were taking place in the corridor between country groupings and individual country and country groupings.

Bonn News Update 11

1 June - 11 June 2015, Bonn, Germany
by Hilary Chiew
Bonn, 8 June 2015