Weekly Analysis

Weekly Analysis

Draft Glasgow ‘Decision’ Signals Long Path To Final Climate Agreement

November 8, 2021

As the Glasgow climate summit begins its final week, a recently released initial draft of the conference’s formal “decision” suggests negotiators have a long way to go on a range of issues if they are able to reach a final agreement by the end of the meeting.

A “non-paper” floated Nov. 7 by the United Kingdom, the summit’s organizers, as well as early reaction to it suggests negotiators will have to win agreement on a range of issues including when and how countries toughen their greenhouse gas commitments, as well as new trading rules and other questions.

Environmentalists, for example, are pressing for greater clarity on the crucial question of when major countries must float stronger GHG pledges under the Paris Agreement.

The U.K.’s “non-paper” says one “possible element” of a Glasgow decision would say countries that “have not yet submitted enhanced [Paris targets are] expected to do so in 2022.”

While the language is helpful in pressing for further enhancement of key countries’ goals, World Resources Institute (WRI) International Climate Director David Waskow told a Nov. 7 press call that the current document has “a bit of a timing gap” in terms of “really nailing down the timing that would be applicable to some countries.”

He explained that the current wording -- which is widely expected to be revised multiple times ahead of the scheduled Nov. 12 close of the summit -- covers countries such as Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa that have not updated climate mitigation aspects in their initial commitments, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), as expected under the Paris deal’s five-year review cycle.

But there is “another set of countries that have done very modest or minimal enhancements. That language does not address them,” Waskow said.

He cited Russia’s current NDC as “minimally enhanced” from its initial version and argued that China has only made “modest” updates to its climate goals.

WRI and many other environmentalists -- as well as the United States and other members of the so-called High Ambition Coalition -- are pressing other countries to update their NDCs in the next few years if the targets are not aligned with a pathway to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“That’s an important gap to note,” Waskow said. “There isn’t a clear expectation that they would come in 2022 or 2023 with an enhancement” to their NDCs.

The British hosts of the conference held a Nov. 8 “informal stocktaking” event to gauge negotiators’ reactions to the initial draft of the decision, and they are likely holding behind-the-scenes talks on various issues as well, according to WRI’s climate negotiations chief Yamide Dagnet.

She expects another iteration of a draft decision, either in bulleted form or a more expanded narrative, to be released by Nov. 10.

‘Placeholder’ Text

Beyond the issue of climate mitigation and GHG goals, the draft decision suggests unfinished business on multiple other flashpoints such as carbon trading rules, climate-related financial support for developing countries, and funds to compensate for “loss and damage” in vulnerable countries to address climate risks to which they cannot adapt -- all issues that are frequently linked to the ambition of countries’ targets.

For instance, the text includes four explicit “placeholders” under the finance section, reflecting the fact that multiple negotiations remain ongoing and that developing countries have been particularly vocal that richer nations have fallen short of their prior pledges to submit funds.

The draft text expresses “deep concern” that developed countries fell short of a $100 billion annual pledge on finance, while noting that talks are continuing about a “new collective quantified goal” that would start after the current pledge ends in 2025.

Underscoring the links between some aspects of the broader deal, Dagnet in response to a question about Saudi Arabia on the Nov. 7 call cited multiple areas that are important to the major oil-producing country.

For example, she noted that the Saudis are part of the group of countries that would be pressed for tougher NDCs, noting they are “very resistant to be exposed too much in those negotiations.”

Yet, the country has frequently pressed for strong language on “response measures” to minimize unintended effects of climate mitigation policy in developing countries, and it has also sought robust finance for adaptation.

This includes a press for a “share of proceeds” from international carbon trades to go toward adaptation funds -- one of several issues in the trading rules negotiations that is important for developing countries but has been resisted by developed nations.

“There’s a lot of tradeoffs” that often occur in negotiations about formal decisions at climate conferences, Dagnet said.

Regarding the trading rules specifically, the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) in a Nov. 7 statement expressed disappointment that negotiations during the summit’s first week did not “clear out more of the ‘clutter’” in the rules. Rather, the latest draft language includes a host of lingering disagreements that are left for countries’ environmental and other ministers to hammer out this week.

Regarding the “share of proceeds” issue, IETA said it is “optimistic” that such a requirement would apply to so-called project-based trading, but “unlikely” it would apply to trades between countries.

The group also suggested that a final deal would “in some way” limit the carry-over of Kyoto Protocol-era carbon offsets, “chiefly in order to avoid overloading the Paris mechanisms with reductions from the outset,” thus weakening the motivation for continued GHG cuts.

Additionally, regarding the issue of “corresponding adjustments,” which some countries see as necessary to prevent double-counting of emissions cuts, IETA expects a final agreement to include “a transitional implementation over a period of some years.” -- Lee Logan (llogan@iwpnews.com)

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