This weekend’s Conference of Parties 25 was concluded on Sunday as a consensus was reached and all delegations signed the Cologne Agreement. The comprehensive agreement includes both, strong negotiation results as well as remaining question marks.
Most importantly, with regard to first three articles covering mitigation, the countries agreed to enhance their ambitions to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, peak global emissions in 2025 and to form three new categories of countries according to the official UN classification: Developed, developing and least developed countries. In addition, the delegates recognize the need of annually contributions to the green climate fund of USD 300 bn by 2025 and USD 500 bn by 2030. On the other hand, the countries postponed the decision on a compliance system for meeting the NDC targets to the following COP. However, the Cologne Agreement requires the countries that do not meet their NDCs by 2025 to provide comprehensive reports to the Compliance Committee and to work out concrete measures in order to meet the NDCs.
In the market mechanism group some stronger protection for indigenous people was implemented into REDD+, so that initial opponents were also able to agree to it in the end. For the Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM) the conference just turned around at the edge of a cliff: In the last minute countries refrained from financing fossil fuel solutions thanks to the steady opposition of the Canadian representative. On the other hand the agreement surprisingly allowed for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) solutions under the SDM, despite the severe accident in Norway this morning and experts now saying that the technology is not suitable to protect the climate anymore. Also in the article on shipping the language remained rather vague due to a lack of time to properly discuss the topic.
In the end all countries agreed to a final draft, but the inhabitants of planet earth can only hope that future negotiations can take more ambitious actions in the area of market mechanisms to protect the climate.
The adaptation working group agreed to initialize the transition towards integrating the Adaptation Fund under the Green Climate Fund. The integration should happen as soon as possible but no later than 2 years from now. Furthermore, prioritization in the allocation should be go to the most vulnerable countries. With regards to article 2, the distinguished delegates found consensus to underline the urgency of implementing commitments related to financing and transfer of technology as well as enhancing the link between technology transfer and finance. When it came to Loss & Damage, delegates agreed that the annual budget should not be less than 1.5% of the annual Green Climate Fund available. The financing of this additional budget will be the subject of priority negotiations during COP26.
As a result, delegations can look back at a successful Conference of the Parties 25 and can be hopeful about what future COPs have to bring. The Cologne Agreement in full can be read here.
On the final day of COP 25 in Cologne, love seemed to be in the air as a multitude of side agreements were reached in addition to the Cologne Agreement.
Russia and China agreed on intensifying and improving the international relations and trade with each other to foster both countries economic developments. Furthermore, Russia and China will discuss possible incentivesto increase the ambition level of the nationally determined contributions. More specifics will be agreed upon in a bilateral meeting in the upcoming months in Moscow.
Another bilateral agreement was announced by Brazil and China, with the goal to increase the exchange of clean technologies including nuclear, solar, hydro and forest management. The specifics of this agreement will be discussed during a bilateral meeting in Rio de Janeiro in December 2019.
Last but not least, the delegations of Germany, France, UK and Brazil were disappointed by the outcomes oft the Market Mechanism Working Group and have consequently reached a multilateral agreement. In this agreement, the named countries have pledged $300 million dollars to be available for Brazil to combat deforestation through the REDD+ program. These funds shall be offered for a period of five years.
In a heated debate, also in the light of the recent Norway explosion, NGOs tried to fight against the inclusion of CCS and fossile fuel projects in the NDCs. One party that didn’t want to hear anything from the NGOs was Namibia. It pointed out that the “NGOs are just making noise” and that the Namibian delegation only wants to base decisions on “proper research”. This is why Namibia proposed to revoked the NGOs speaking rights and surprisingly convinced the chair to do so. This happened without a vote. NGOs thus suddenly found themselves frozen out of this important debate.
Attac, also speaking on behalf of WWF, Friends of the Earth, 350.org, Greenpeace and Indigenous environmental network, are furious: “The NGOs are here to present civil society and also the voters. Revoking the speaking rights means pushing out minorities, those without a voice, and the civil societies of the respective countries. This is unacceptable. If it was not for the fact that this is the last day and an agreement is necessary, we NGOs would take drastic measure to defend our speaking rights”
People are now wondering what kind of a result will come out of COP 25, now that some important stakeholders can no longer make their opinions heard in the debate.
The terrible events that happened this morning in Norway strongly questions the future role of Carbon Capturing Storage technologies. Several delegates therefore acknowledge the changed importance of such solutions and stress the breakthroughs in other fields of the COP25 negotiations. However, the WCA, IGU and IOGP commented on the situation by pointing out the positive aspects of CCS plants.
“The average CCS plant is currently able to capture 85-95% of CO2. This is a promising statistic, yet there remains a high potential for further improvement, and thus for increased climate change mitigation through CCS. Therefore, we stress that we must continue optimizing current practices and this requires further investments. This announcement shouldn’t hold us from exploring CCS now and in the future. Moreover, even the IPCC affirmed that in order to reach the 1.5C target, we must integrate CCS to the mitigation portfolio. We should not waste the knowledge and milestones we have achieved, but rather invest in improving further to allow big industries to reduce their emissions, rather sooner than later.”
However, NGOs such as the WWF stress that mitigation should be progressed with sustainable and secure measures prioritized over technological solutions that might never make a significant contribution.
“Even with new CSS technologies, the emissions will always be there. A clear shift towards renewables is needed to help the planet combat climate change. Moreover, we want to stress the dangers related to such experiments, as the recent accident in Norway exemplifies.”
It comes down to the distinguished delegates to decide what role CCS should play in the final agreement of COP25.
With the last working group session starting this moment, the big question remains whether a common and strong agreement can be passed at the COP25 in Cologne. Big issues remain unsolved despite the limited time available. In the mitigation group, an agreement on financial contributions to the mitigation fund and green climate fund seems likely, however the discussion covering compliance is still to come. The adaptation working group reached consensus on the matters discussed with regards to the adaptation fund. However, it still needs to agree on a solution in the article three (lost and damage) and article four (climate refugees). In the market mechanisms group, most agenda items related to REDD+ were passed, however there are still disagreements in aviation and shipping as well as the Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM).
While the distinguished delegates run out of time, passionate speeches were given in the second last plenary session. The representatives of the attending NGOs once more stressed the urgency for strong and binding measures. Inspired by today’s Mother’s Day, NGOs recalled the central importance of Mother Earth for our all survival: “
“Yesterday, you have made an ambitious commitment – the commitment to stick to 1.5°. The problem is these are the words we are hearing in the working groups, and they are insanely weak and take us nowhere. It is hippocratic. Now it is time to make commitments.
This is the time for clear language that puts ambition in writing. We, as representatives of the civil society, urge you to be clear and strong in the use of language so that this agreement will not be just words, but make an actual difference. At the end of today, we want an agreement that shapes our future considerably.”
In addition, the distinguished delegate of the Solomon Island reminded the assembled delegates in an emotional speech, that their homes are sinking and only 130 months remain until irreversible damage is done.
The ground for this mornings discussions was already prepared by informal talks last nights. Notably Ecuador took the lead, also making sure to include a strong protection for indigenous people potentially affected by REDD+. They soon built a coalition with Bolivia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Germany, South Korea, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and other countries.
Today morning it became clear that they were successful in convincing all the parties and succeeded in the first big breakthrough for this working chair. All points in the area of REDD+ were passed and the discussion now moves on to Aviation and Shipping.
The Norwegian company Gassnova was testing a new chemical reaction at a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) plant near Bergen, Norway. The aim was to achieve higher degree of compression with a better storage per volume ration.
When trying out the latest experimental protocol including new, undisclosed substances, an unforeseen chain of chemical reaction occurred resulting in this massive explosion.
This event is a massive blow to the hopes for current and future CCS plants around the world since many of them were already built with the assumption of this new technology becoming usable soon. Considering this effects it is fair to assume that no CCS projects are viable anymore for the next 10 years. How will this affect COP 25 in Cologne?
A lot has happened over the first day of COP 25 in Cologne; time to wrap up and have a look at the progress made amongst different working groups
Important steps forward with regard to mitigation
Under the excellent leadership of the two working group chairs, the working group on mitigation was able to report early on major breakthroughs with regards to the agreement on a maximum global warming of 1.5° C compared to pre-industrial levels. In the afternoon, however, negotiations proved more difficult, as concrete peaks of greenhouse gas emission and the financing of the mitigation fund and green climate fund were discussed.
The distinguished delegations agreed to differentiate the Parties between developed, developing and least developed countries according to the official UN classification. All parties further agreed on a global peak of greenhouse gas emissions in 2025. While developed countries have to reach their peak in 2020, developing countries are given time until 2030. The least developed countries on the other hand have to peak before 2035. According to the senior advisor of the MUNFCCC, Mr Fukuyama, the two largest emitters in the field of developing countries, India and China, have a decisive role to play in order to meet the global 1.5° C target. Despite large decarbonisation efforts, India states that it is not ready to reach a peak of its own emissions before 2030, due to its immense population growth. China, on the other hand, is willing to sign a unilateral commitment to peak its emissions before 2025. We interpret this indeed as the main reason why the delegation was awarded the “captain planet” award by the attending NGOs.
Financing of the mitigation fund and Green Climate Fund remains still unsolved. How to raise the needed funding will therefore be addressed in a specially set up task force during the second day of COP 25. The mitigation group chair, however, is optimistic that another major step can be taken before the last day of the COP 25 begins.
No major Accomplishments have been achieved in the market mechanism working group
The troubles started in the morning. As one negotiations expert put it: “The market mechanism working group loses critical time with countries restating NDCs and opening statements”. This however turned out to be just to be the start of a troubled morning.
After the first session finally began, a lot of time was lost due to unclear procedures. When participants made suggestions, the chair often changed the text in the draft without putting changes to a vote. These frequent changes of the draft made it very hard to reach a consensus. At times, multiple points were discussed at simultaneously often confusing some of the delegates. It was not surprising therefore that the first session did not find common ground on many of the important points, including the question of whether SDM should include fossile fuel projects or not (Klima Anzeiger reported).
During the afternoon working group session REDD+ was discussed and things seemed to improve. Issues were put to a vote more often, but when the delegates failed to reach a consensus the chairs still struggled to resolve the conflicts. Gradually however, negotiations moved ahead more quickly as delegates started to resolve issues among themselves more effectively. A breakthrough was allusive however due to a blocking position by the US on the REDD+ topic (Klima Anzeiger reported).
In the third and final session of the day various topics were touched upon. The chair made more use of technology to facilitate the negotiations and was able to discuss several issues including the field of Aviation & Shipping. Even though the process of decision making still remained somewhat vague, some progress was made in that all delegations appear to be aware of the many important unresolved disagreements and are now working in informal settings to resolve them.
Opinions differed amongst delegates regarding the state of the negotiations. Ireland and Singapore are pessimistic and are not expecting a successful agreement on the final day. The Czech Republic, the UK, Germany, Canada and Brazil on the other hand were optimistic that all the disagreements could be solved.
Adaptation working group found consensus with regards to technology development and transfer
The afternoon session in the adaptation working group showed some promising progress. Six out of the nine paragraphs of Article 2 (Technology Development and Transfer) could be accepted during the session, whilst the remaining three paragraphs could successfully be rephrased in a task force, which led to consensus amongst the delegations. The completion of Article 2 lead to applause amongst the distinguished delegates.
Article 1 with regards to the Adaptation Fund however, led to a heated discussion about the respective financial contribution to the Fund (paragraph 1). The Solomon Island suggested that the contribution should be mandatory for developed countries and voluntary for developing countries. This motion was directly counter-attacked by the Russia delegation that urged to maintain voluntary based contributions. Furthermore, it was surprising to hear that the United States of America are willing to take a leading position and contribute a significant amount of money to the Adaptation Fund, considering the position held by the US a year ago in Barcelona. However, the delegate of the United States stressed the fact that the contribution should be voluntary and on a yearly basis. Another approach was suggested by the distinguished delegate of Venezuela, who purposed to base contribution on past emissions.
The tension in the room was reduced after the break when the Adaptation Chair suggested to initialise a transition to centralising the sourcing of the Adaptation Fund in the Green Climate Fund through integration of their governing structure, in order to optimise efficiency. However, further specifications with regards to this planned integration are required during tomorrow’s sessions.
Even though progress has been achieved in today’s negotiations, some delegates fear that by the end of COP25 some central gaps will remain unsolved. A representative of the SIDS coalition highlights the concerns:
“We are the last generation that has the opportunity to do things right. This is not a matter of probabilities anymore, but a matter of time. Small island states appreciate the efforts that all countries are putting towards reaching an ambitious agreement. However we would like to stress the urgency of moving from simply agreeing to commit. We kindly ask you to keep in mind the evidence that the IPCC 2018 provides regarding the irreversible damage if we miss the 1,5 target. We demand concrete numbers and plans!”
Initially everyone was positively surprised about the agreement by all countries to work towards a 1.5C goal. Now it looks like one important party is playing power games rather than working productively towards the common goal.
The issue namely arose around the issue of REDD+ funding. The US wants to stay within the mechanism but rejects the use of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) due to their imminent withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, which the GCF is a part of. The US instead proposed a new independent funding mechanism where voting rights are allocated according to the amount of funding provided.
This Idea was quickly rejected by a significant number of other countries. One of them told Klima Anzeiger “With the attitude that the US is currently showing, a climate accord is more distant than ever. If we do not act, the planet is lost.”
An other delegate confided that “negotiations were originally quite friendly, all countries could agree on using GCF funds, but threats from the US to withhold vital funding proved detrimental to any agreement between the US and other countries”
Both sources only spoke under condition of anonymity.
At this moment it is unclear how the issue can be resolved. Because the US originally supported the 1.5C target, other countries are struggling to understand the actual position of the worlds largest economy.
We have in the past already experienced the tendency of the US to make surprise and often abrupt statements. Other countries gathered here today can only be hopeful that the US will find their way back to a reasonable position.