OPINION: LDCs approach Fiji COP with high expectations

Gebru Jember Endalew, Chair of the LDC Group in the UN climate change negotiations, reflects on the forthcoming UNFCCC negotiations in Bonn, in November 2017.

LDCs in the spotlight in Bonn

With the 2018 deadline for the completion of the Paris Agreement “rulebook” negotiations around the corner, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have been very busy this year.

In advance of the UN climate change negotiations in Bonn this May, the LDCs made submissions on all the key issues in the rulebook negotiations. We worked with other Parties to advance a shared understanding on the rulebook based on these submissions and worked with other progressive countries to ensure a balanced approach to the negotiations going forward.

But although we need a balanced approach to these delicate negotiations, we need to start making tangible progress that Parties and the rest of the world outside the negotiations can see and build on. On this point the LDCs were among the most vocal countries in Bonn on the need for substantive progress this year – capturing progress, cashing in on the good will of all Parties and banking easy (or easier) wins.

One of the main outcomes from the Bonn intersessional that’ll help us make this progress was the hard-won agreement on a suite of roundtables to be held just before and at the start of the Fiji COP in November. This outcome wasn’t a sure thing with the closing plenary of the Ad hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) on the verge of derailing on the last day of the Bonn intersessional. But a collective spirit of compromise and focus on the urgency of the work prevailed with LDCs at the heart of the huddles and side negotiations.

So, six roundtables on key aspects of the Paris Agreement will be held from 4-6 November on APA agenda items 3-7 which cover issues related to mitigation, adaptation communications, transparency, the global stocktake and the mechanism for facilitating implementation and promoting compliance. These roundtables are in addition to the next round of APA submissions to be prepared before COP23 so there is no shortage of work for the next few months.

There are also various other submissions and roundtables not under the APA. Roundtables under SBSTA on the Article 6 mitigation and sustainable development trading mechanism, cooperative approaches, and non-market approaches as well as workshops on response measures will also be held on 4-5 November.

The LDCs began preparing for all these submissions, roundtables and workshops since the end of the May intersessional and will continue to do so as part of our preparation for COP23.

Reflections on APA discussions during the Bonn intersessional
The rulebook negotiations are fraught with complexity because many issues are deeply interconnected and there’s a lot at stake with the rulebook negotiations as a whole. Some issues are also more complex than others. For example, most Parties agree that transparency negotiations are the densest and most complicated. On the other hand, negotiators working on the global stocktake are developing an essentially new process under the UN climate regime so it’s more likely that those discussions take longer to move from a conceptual phase.

In Bonn, some issues were taken forward much more than others while on the topic of the global stocktake some Parties wanted to effectively press the reset button on discussions on that issue. Due to the informal and dynamic nature of the negotiations at this stage all views are of course valid but it’s still very difficult to see how a restart of negotiations on any issue could be acceptable to other Parties – what about all the work done since the Paris Agreement was adopted, including the multiple submissions and sessions? No doubt there are different Parties who’d like to reset negotiations on different issues for different reasons, but that’s clearly an untenable option if we’re to have any chance of finishing the rulebook negotiations by next year.

One thing that did become very clear during the Bonn intersessional is that a balanced treatment of issues includes the need to progress issues in a balanced manner. This raises important questions for us as LDCs and all Parties: how do we reconcile the need to devote time and energy to all the issues in a balanced manner while avoiding letting some issues fall far behind others – especially when some issues are more complex or novel than others? Should we devote more time and energy to issues that are lagging behind and would that still be an option if it means parking issues that have progressed more to date? There are no easy answers.

On the substantive issues themselves, the LDCs made significant contributions in all the thematic discussions during the Bonn intersessional. In particular, our views on the committee under the mechanism for facilitating implementation and promoting compliance feature prominently in the co-Facilitators’ notes capturing discussions and submissions to date. On adaptation communications, LDCs have spent considerable time and effort developing National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) so our position has been that Parties need to have the option to submit NAPs as their adaptation communication. Because LDCs have a lot of experience and a solid understanding of adaptation-related issues we also have an important role in shaping adaptation-related discussions going forward. In Bonn, the APA tasked the secretariat with preparing a technical paper synthesising adaptation-related information from different types of communications which will be useful to LDCs as we build on our current thinking on adaptation communications.

One issue LDCs hoped would be clarified is that of having the Adaptation Fund (AF) definitively serve the Paris Agreement. From Paris to Marrakech, Parties took only incremental steps to decide that the AF “should” and then “will” serve the Paris Agreement but haven’t yet put this issue to rest by deciding that the AF “shall” definitively serve the Agreement. In Bonn, we pushed for this decision to be taken during the Fiji COP so that we can focus on the important question of how the AF can best serve the Paris Agreement and give LDCs access to the financial support we need for our adaptation plans and actions.

LDCs focus on COP23
One of the things the LDCs have been working hard on is improving our internal coordination so we can be more effective in developing our positions and strategy to negotiate outcomes that reflect our priorities.

In early October, I’ll be convening LDC Ministers, UNFCCC Focal points and lead coordinators in the negotiations in Addis Ababa for important high-level and strategy meetings. We’ll meet to discuss the implementation of the Paris Agreement and strategise how to take forward our climate change and sustainable development priorities.

Based on those priorities we’ll be further developing our LDC positions which we’ve already begun to update to reflect developments from this year.

Our lead coordinators have also begun preparing the LDC Group submissions that we’ll submit in the fall. The APA submissions in particular will be very important in preparing for the pre- and intersessional roundtables since they’ll inform roundtable discussions.

The LDCs aren’t sitting still though. The LDCs will be represented at key meetings over the next few months, including meetings during climate week in New York, a gender workshop being organised in Montreal, a workshop on transparency in Georgia and a number of other technical and high-level meetings. By engaging in these various fora LDCs have opportunities to strengthen progressive alliances and find common ground with partners in the negotiations. We can also use these different platforms to push our messages and priorities to wider audiences inside and outside the negotiations.

Between developing positions, preparing submissions, elaborating strategies and participating in meetings there’s a lot to do over the next few months and our work is certainly cut out for us but the LDCs are up to the task and eager to continue to advocate for the poorest and most vulnerable.

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