By Vishal Gulati
Glasgow, Nov 9 | The week-long ministerial segment began on Monday at COP26 in Glasgow. The day began with a stock-taking exercise of the past week of negotiations and announcements, conducted by the COP Presidency UK and chairs of the subsidiary bodies for technical assistance and implementation.
Following an announcement-packed start to proceedings with the World Leaders Summit, progress at the negotiating table have slowed down considerably over the past week with several old and new fault lines emerging to the surface, and many unresolved issues which had been flagged in the run up to the conference have persisted.
Common timeframes for NDCs: When the Paris Agreement was born, the challenge was to bring the whole world onto a common instrument of climate action, as per each country’s individual capacity.
Resultant was differentiated timeframes on which action would be taken by the nations.
This issue was expected to be resolved with the adoption of a common timeframe in time for the operationalisation of the Paris Agreement, originally planned for 2020.
Six years after parties to the Paris Agreement first submitted their NDCs, there is still little clarity on the timelines that will be adopted for the implementation of the NDCs, their reporting and updation, despite four years of deliberations on the issue.
The technical negotiation session at COP26 failed to break the impasse on deciding common timeframes for the implementation of national commitments and the schedule for updation post-2030.
The challenge has been to build consensus among parties all of whom are on different developmental trajectories and situations on how long it will take to meet commitments already made and schedule future updates and scale up of ambition, particularly with a lot of climate ambition, particularly in the developing world, hitched to the availability of finance.
There are currently nine different options that have emerged from the technical deliberations which have been forwarded for further discussion to the ministerial segment of the COP.
These included Article 6 of the Paris Agreement that deals with market-based mechanisms and non-market approaches to emissions reductions.
The issue has long been hotly contested, and among the most difficult to build consensus around, particularly given failure of a prior attempt at creating a carbon trading regime to facilitate the offset of emissions in one part of the world with reductions in another.
The previous regime quickly ran into trouble as carbon credits (CERs) that were generated through clean development projects flooded the market while also being counted in domestic emissions inventories, leading to a double accounting of emissions reductions and ultimately a collapse of the market structure.
Despite several rounds of negotiations on the matter, there is still no consensus on whether and how past CERs will be carried forward, and a little clarity on what any bridging mechanism might look like.
Article 6 negotiations have thus had to deal with legacy issues of credits accumulated in the previous regime, as well as formulating a mechanism that avoids the issues that contributed to its collapse.
How these reductions will be adjusted with emissions reductions within and outside country-specific reductions from NDCs has remained a major point of divergence between developed country parties and developing countries.
Apart from this issue, there is also no agreement on what share of proceeds from the market structure would go towards funding adaptation needs in developing countries.
Like the formulation of market mechanisms, climate finance has long been a major issue of discontent among negotiating parties, particularly following the dismal record of developed countries in delivering past promises.
The $100 billion per year by 2020 promised over a decade ago still remains unmet, much to the disaffection of developing country parties who are supposed to be recipient of the finance flows.
There have been strong calls for this amount to be increased, with the African group of nations demanding a $1.3 trillion per year delivery plan by 2030.
A key issue in finance has also been the lack of a standard definition, which developed countries believe is antithetical to the spirit of the Paris Agreement.
But without a standard definition, the “mobilisation” of finance involves various financial instruments such as loans, concessional lines of credits and investment vehicles, other than grants.
One of the lesser-spoken-about chokepoints in the climate negotiations are around the creation of mechanisms which will enhance transparency in the implementation of the Paris Agreement rule book.
This has linkages with other key areas of negotiations, particularly like finance and technology.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)