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COP25 blog – 5 December 2019

Thursday of Week 1 means that most technical papers have been presented at the various working groups, and serious negotiations are beginning. To recap, the importance of COP25 is that the initial 5-year commitments under the Paris Agreement will be reviewed and renewed next year. We want decent jobs and we don’t want to be victims of the transition. That’s why we want Just Transition firmly embedded in as many of the new Nationally Determined Contributions that will be brought to COP26 next year, as possible.

IndustriALL frequently stresses the importance of social dialogue. For the Paris Agreement to succeed, it is important to have social dialogue in the development of policies, and especially the Nationally Determined Contributions. We need to be at the table, and not simply on the menu. The COPs have evolved considerably towards a multilateral approaches that increasingly welcomes dialogue with non-state stakeholders. But to achieve good results, trade unions must be united in our demands. We do not want any worker left behind in the coming transformations.

SBSTA and SBI Chairs meeting:

I had the opportunity to directly question the Chairs of both the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA), and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI). On behalf of the global trade union movement I asked for clarification on the commitment to Just Transition and human and labour rights. The Chair of the SBSTA gave a very encouraging response that indicated that he understood the importance of our issues and considered them essential for a good outcome.

Response Measures

I also attended a meeting of the Response Measures group, and a side event on Just Transition. The side event was encouraging, the Response Measures meeting was less so, seeming to be mired in trivia and technicalities and unable to get at the core issues.

Carbon Capture

IndustriALL affiliate, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, in partnership with the International CCS Knowledge Center, held a well-attended information session with a video on carbon capture and sequestration.

Human Rights

In other news, young Indigenous Peoples succeeded in winning movement on incorporating human rights into Article 6 discussions, at least at this stage in the discussions. It  should not even be necessary to remind the negotiators of the importance of human rights, as the UNFCCC is a United Nations body, human rights should be a given.

Appendix: Alphabet Soup and COP25

Yes, an appendix on a blog entry. This is an unusual, if not unique, event!

I was asked regarding one of my blogs, to clarify the relationship between Just Transition, Response Measures, subsidiary bodies, and other COP25 work.

The short answer is, “it’s complicated”.

COP25 is a confusing network of different work streams, subsidiary bodies, committees, and reports, organized under the direction of a large number of international and national organizations, each with an acronym that is rarely spelled out in full. Worse, the list is different each year making it difficult to keep track of them. Many of these events and reports take place concurrently, which means that a delegate must pick and choose where to observe or participate. Some of the work overlaps, and some Parties to the Convention try to shoe-horn their pet issues into discussions where it should not really belong.

Just Transition, being in the preamble of the Paris Agreement, can legitimately be discussed anywhere and everywhere in the COP, and this is happening. However, it is mainly the joint property of two subsidiary bodies: the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA), and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). These are the two groups whose Chairpersons I was able to question today.

Under the overall governance of the SBSTA and SBI, the work stream on Response Measures (or Response Measures Forum) is a stream of discussions that is charged with looking at: economic diversification and transformation; Just Transition and Decent Work; assessing and analyzing the impacts of response measures; and facilitating the development of tools and methodologies to assess the impacts of response measures.

Some of this Response Measures discussion is quite positive; but some has tilted somewhat towards an attempt to win compensation by resource-rich countries for potentially losing some of their market for oil or coal. Fortunately, this is not a view that is gaining much traction. We are closely monitoring it.

However the Response Measures discussion on Just Transition is far from the only place where Just Transition is being discussed.

Article 6, which I have mentioned a couple of times in previous blog posts, is about market mechanisms, taken mainly to mean emissions trading schemes. This relates to Response Measures in a way, but Article 6 has its own working group under the Subsidiarity Body on Scientific and Technical Advice. However, there have been suggestions to use revenues generated by an emissions trading scheme to fund Just Transition measures, which might bring it back into the discussion on Response Measures.

Confused yet?

For those trying to decipher reports on what is going on at COP25, here is a list of some of the more important definitions and acronyms.

COP25

To start with, COP25 means, in full, the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

BINGO

Business and industry non-governmental organizations.

Carbon market

A popular (but somewhat misleading) term for a trading system through which countries may buy or sell units of greenhouse-gas emissions in an effort to meet their national commitments. Other greenhouse gases are treated as “carbon-dioxide equivalents” based on their relative greenhouse effect power. Note, that an emissions trading scheme does not yet exist under the Paris Agreement – that is why Article 6 is a focus of intense discussion.

Carbon sequestration

The process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir.

CMA

Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. All States that are Parties to the Paris Agreement are represented at the CMA, while States that are not Parties participate as observers. The CMA oversees the implementation of the Paris Agreement and takes decisions to promote its effective implementation..

CMP

Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. Yes, it still exists.

Common but Differentiated Responsibilities

This is a phrase from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which identifies that industrialized countries have contributed much more to our present crisis than developing countries, and therefore should have a greater share of the responsibility for it.

COP

Conference of the Parties. The supreme body of the Convention. It currently meets once a year to review the Convention’s progress.

IGO

Intergovernmental organization.

IPCC

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme, the IPCC surveys world-wide scientific and technical literature and publishes assessment reports that are widely recognized as the most credible existing sources of information on climate change. The IPCC also works on methodologies and responds to specific requests from the Convention’s subsidiary bodies. The IPCC is independent of the Convention.

Katowice Committee of Experts on Impacts of Implementation of Response Measures (KCI)

This Committee was created at COP24 to produce a report for the Response Measures discussions.

Least Developed Countries (LDCs)

The world’s poorest countries. The criteria currently used by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for designation as an LDC include low income, human resource weakness and economic vulnerability. Currently 48 countries have been designated by the UN General Assembly as LDCs.

Loss and damage

At COP16 in Cancun in 2010, Governments established a work programme in order to consider approaches to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

Mitigation

In the context of climate change, a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Examples include using fossil fuels more efficiently for industrial processes or electricity generation, switching to solar energy or wind power, improving the insulation of buildings, and expanding forests and other “sinks” to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

MRV

Measurable, reportable and verifiable. A process/concept that potentially supports greater transparency in the climate change regime, and fundamental to the credibility of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)

NDC

According to Article 4 paragraph 2 of the Paris Agreement, each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions. 

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

Organizations that are not part of a governmental structure. They include environmental groups, research institutions, business groups, and associations of urban and local governments. Many NGOs attend climate talks as observers. To be accredited to attend meetings under the Convention, NGOs must be non-profit.

Party

A state (or regional economic integration organization such as the European Union) that agrees to be bound by a treaty and for which the treaty has entered into force.

Subsidiary body

A committee that assists the Conference of the Parties. Two permanent subsidiary bodies are created by the Convention: the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). Temporary subsidiary bodies may also be created.

Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI)

The SBI makes recommendations on policy and implementation issues to the COP and, if requested, to other bodies.

Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA)

The SBSTA serves as a link between information and assessments provided by expert sources (such as the IPCC) and the COP, which focuses on setting policy.

TUNGO

Trade Union related non-governmental organizations. IndustriALL Global Union, and the International Trade Union Confederation, are examples of TUNGOs.

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