International Climate Change

Posted on: 4 December 2015

13 pages down – update on the text at the midway point

Posted by: Frances Lawson

Four days of fervent negotiations have delivered what the COP21 hosts had requested – another revised version of the Paris Agreement text for consideration ahead of the second and final week.

In addition to the Paris Agreement itself, Parties are simultaneously negotiating two other documents – a Decision on the implementation of, and modalities for, the Agreement (referred to as the ‘Decision on Workstream 1), and a Decision on Parties’ actions to ‘fill the gap’ and cover the period between now and 2020 when the Agreement takes effect.

The latest version of the combined text is already 13 pages shorter than it was, showing that efforts to consolidate and streamline the various options on the table are yielding results. Far more important, however, are changes to tighten up the text. The mitigation section, in particular, shows signs of improvement, with the language of Parties’ commitments moving more towards “shall” rather than “should”, and the reduced number of options showing greater clarity in wording.

Another crucial section which is showing signs of improvement is Article 2 on the Agreement’s ‘Purpose’. Option 1 now sets the objective as being for Parties to take action so as to hold the global average temperature increase either to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or well below 2 degrees Celsius. This both reflects an increase in the level of ambition relative to the previous version of the text and the removal of a number of alternative bracketed options. The alternative option remains, however, for there to be no Article 2 at all, which, if adopted, would leave a major hole at the centre of the Agreement.

Article 11 on compliance has also received attention during the first four days in Paris. Now much shorter and clearer, it reveals the potential for developed country parties to be subject to some kind of punitive compliance system if they fail to deliver on their commitments. Nevertheless, options remain on the table for the system in respect of developed and developing countries to be entirely non-punitive, non-judicial and non-adversarial, and even if a punitive approach is finally adopted in respect of developed countries, it may fall far short of what is required to give commitments real legal force.

The latest version of the text can be found here

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