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COP 22 and the ratification of The Paris Agreement

Written by Gregor Erbach and Clare Ferguson with Jack Meredith,

COP22The agenda of the 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), due to take place between 7th and 18th November, is expected to revolve largely around the issues surrounding the implementation of the Paris Agreement and how to deliver on the commitments made. In particular, this will focus on addressing issues surrounding support for developing countries including climate finances, technology transfer and mechanisms for addressing climate change.

The entry into force of the Paris Agreement was enabled ahead of COP 22 following the EU’s decision to ratify in October. The Agreement required the ratification of at least 55 parties responsible for at least 55% of estimated global emissions and thus came into force 30 days from the day it reached that goal, on 4 November 2016. To date, 97 parties have ratified – above the 55% threshold – including the China and the USA – the two largest global emitters.

Ratification of the Agreement triggers important consequences, including the launch of the Agreement’s governing body, known as the CMA, which will take place at the COP 22. Important topics for negotiation will be:

  • Enhanced action prior to 2020
  • the contents of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)
  • The type of information to be contained in the adaptation communications
  • The modalities and rules for cooperative mechanisms
  • Modalities of the global stocktake and preparation for the facilitative dialogue in 2018
  • The transparency framework

A summary of the negotiations can be followed on the progress checker (UNFCCC 2016), which is regularly updated by the UNFCCC secretariat.

It is also thought that COP 22 may be used by some nations as an opportunity to finalise coordination and ratification of the Paris Agreement.

Important topics surrounding COP 22

Various issues in global politics may influence the uptake and effectiveness of the Paris Agreement and its execution may hinge on the outcome of such events. One such event is the result of sectoral agreements on international transport and fluorinated gases in 2016. Areas displaying slow progress in these agreements may cause calls for additional action under the UNFCCC.

The United Kingdom decision on leaving the EU, Brexit, is also likely to influence circumstances. Plans to begin the two year withdrawal process in March 2017 may mean the UK and the EU would need to come to an arrangement on how each could fulfil their common obligations under the Paris Agreement, with the possibility that the UK could emerge as a separate actor in international climate change negotiation.

The US presidential elections set to take place on 8th November, the second day of COP 22, will also play a potentially large role in the effectiveness of the Paris Agreement, particularly should the winning candidate decide to revoke some or all of outgoing President Obama’s executive orders, including the decision to ratify the Paris Agreement. Under Article 28 of the agreement, the USA may also decide to withdraw, which is possible at any time three years after it enters into force.

COP 21 and the Paris Agreement

The European Council and the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris 2015 (COP 21)

© COP21

In December 2015, the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 21) saw the adoption of the Paris Agreement for global climate action. Central to the agreement are commitments, including:

  • The maintenance of a temperature rise of considerably below 2°C above pre-industrial levels while pursuing efforts to keep the rise below 1.5°C
  • The commitment to ceasing the rise of emissions as soon as possible and ensuring efforts are made to balance emissions and removals of greenhouse gases in the second half of the 21st century.
  • The adaptation to climate change by ensuring support, financial or otherwise, for developing nations, technology transfer and capacity building as well as loss and damage.

Important to the agreement, differentiating it from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, is its scope and ambition. While the Kyoto Protocol only required commitments from 39 developed nations, the Paris Agreement requires all nations, developed or developing to prepare and commit to nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to achieve positive action on climate change.

The agreement has also targeted a constantly rising degree of expectation and ambition by implementing a review in 2018 and every five years thereafter, whereby each country must update its NDC with greater ambition each time. COP 21 also affirmed prior goals to mobilise climate change finances of US$100 billion per year. With the Paris Agreement, the developed countries agree to continue mobilising finances at the same level up to 2025. This target will then be raised again for the following period. Although these commitments were met with positivity, it has been noted that it will take a huge and concerted effort to realise the agreement’s ambitions. COP 22 may thus play a key role in its implementation.

Moving beyond Marrakesh

The entry into force of the Agreement in November 2016 came earlier than many had anticipated, therefore subsidiary bodies will have a busy schedule in 2017 as they prepare draft decisions for adoption by the CMA. Topics will have to be completed by 2016 under Decision 1/CP.21, including topics on the modalities for the accounting of financial resources provided and mobilised through public interventions and the modalities, procedures and guidelines for transparency of action and support.

Key negotiations under the Convention in 2017 will include the meeting of the subsidiary bodies (APA, SBSTA and SBI) in Bonn from 8 to 18 May 2017 and the 23rd session of the

Conference of the Parties (COP 23), which is due to meet in Asia from 6th to 17th November 2017 in a location yet to be determined.

After the COP 23 nations will await the IPCC’s findings on impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways in its Special Report. This report will serve as a key input to the facilitative dialogue due to take place during COP 24 in 2018. It will allow Parties to assess collective efforts communicated and provide the first real test of the Parties’ contributions and the goals and mechanisms of the Paris Agreement

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