First Draft of COP21 Climate Agreement Released, with Glaring Omissions

This week, the first draft of the new climate change agreement set for COP21, the United Nations (UN) international conference on climate change, was presented to governments. The document will act as a concise basis for negotiations for the next negotiating session, which is happening from October 19-23 in Bonn, Germany.

The draft (or “non-paper”) was prepared at a request from countries to have a better basis from which to negotiate. The responsibility fell to the ad hoc working group on the Durban Platform (ADP), the body tasked with negotiating the agreement. ADP co-chairs Ahmed Djoghalf of Aleria and Daniel Reifsnyder of the United States prepared the 20-page document package, which includes a draft of the agreement and a draft decision that operationalizes the agreement from 2020 and discusses pre-2020 ambition.

The 196 governments signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will informally negotiate the details of the draft agreement’s 26 Articles over the meetings leading up to COP21 in Paris. All 196 countries will convene for two weeks beginning November 30 to agree on the final accord.

The draft is riddled with brackets, which will be the subjects of negotiation. The issues of mitigating climate change and capacity-building for developing countries may be among the key points of discussion.

A point of contention for external stakeholders may be what has been removed from the agreement; previous texts have included over 80 pages.

“[This] new text has left out a significant piece of the climate change solution puzzle: forests. The land-use sector accounts for about 10 percent of annual global emissions,” said Gustavo Silva-Chávez, Program Manager for the Forest TrendsREDD+ Expenditures Tracking Initiative (REDDX).

“The text that will kick off negotiations in Paris needs to have clear and specific mentions of the key mitigation role that REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) can play, the levels of finance needed to pay countries for reducing emissions from deforestation, and a way for countries to meet a portion of their national climate commitments (also known as ‘INDCs’) by using REDD+. Previous versions mentioned REDD+ in several sections but this new version has left them out completely; this would be a grave mistake,” Silva-Chávez added, and urged forests be re-added to the text during the next negotiation session.

By the beginning of October, 146 countries had submitted their intended national climate action plans to the UN, including all industrialized countries and 104 developing countries, representing 87 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Unfortunately, the current climate pledges will only reduce global warming by 1 degree Celsius, to 3.5 degrees from 4.5, substantially above the 2 degree goal.


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