TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Mar11/02)
4 March 2011
Third World Network

Unease over UNFCCC post-Cancun process
Published in SUNS #7101 dated 4 March 2011

Geneva, 3 Mar (Meena Raman) -- Following the UN climate conference in Cancun last December, several initiatives by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat and the Mexican Government, as President of the 16th session of the Conference of Parties, are underway which have raised the ire of some developing countries.

These moves include:

-- a workshop on possible elements to be considered in a future revision of the guidelines for the preparation of national communications from developing countries such as those agreed in Cancun relating to enhanced reporting to be held in Antigua and Barbuda from 21-23 March 2011 and convened by the UNFCCC Secretariat;

-- the first meeting of the Transitional Committee (TC) to design the Green Climate Fund to be held in Mexico City which was originally scheduled to be held on 14-15 March, convened by the UNFCCC Secretariat, when the full composition of the TC has yet to be finalized. (A notice  on the UNFCCC website was posted on 3 March informing Parties and observer organisations that this meeting has now been postponed to be held in the latter part of April 2011) ; and

-- an informal ministerial consultation on the implementation of the so-called Cancun Agreements to be held in Mexico City from 17-18 March, convened by Ms. Patricia Espinosa, the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs who was also President of the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC.

In relation to the workshop on the preparation of the national communications of developing countries, several developing countries are questioning why the agenda of the workshop includes considering a revision of the guidelines for enhanced reporting of the national communications.

A letter from the Secretariat mentions that this enhanced reporting of the developing countries includes national reports of inventory (of Greenhouse Gas emissions), biennial reports (to be submitted by the countries to the UNFCCC) and reports on mitigation actions and their effects.

These new items for reporting by the developing countries were included in a Cancun COP decision on long-term cooperative action, as part of a process of engendering new obligations on developing countries for having their mitigation actions subjected to international MRV (measured, reported and verified) and ICA (international consultation and analysis).

However, the methodology and details of the controversial MRV and ICA concepts and obligations (and the reports arising from these) have yet to be discussed or agreed to by UNFCCC Members following the Cancun meeting, and the discussion on these can be expected to be lengthy and perhaps heated, as the new obligations are considered onerous by many developing countries.

Thus, there is confusion and consternation as to why the Secretariat has decided to have this issue as a prominent agenda item in a workshop in March even before it is discussed by the Members, whose first post-Cancun meeting will take place in early April in Bangkok.

It is learnt that some developing country delegates have written to the Secretariat expressing their objection to the workshop discussing this item.

The invitation letter from the UNFCCC Secretariat for the workshop (it is unclear which countries have been invited) states that "the workshop is being held at the request of the Conference of Parties (COP) pursuant to decision 5/CP.15 and is organised by the Consultative Group of Experts on National Communications from Parties not included in Annex 1 to the Convention (CGE) with the assistance of the Secretariat."

(Under the UNFCCC, all Parties have to submit their respective national communications, which is a report containing a national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions generated, a general description of steps taken or envisaged by the Party to implement the Convention and any other relevant information. The objective of the CGE is to improve the process and preparation of national communications of developing countries by providing technical advice and support, including in providing recommendations on elements to be considered in a future revision of the guidelines, taking into account the difficulties encountered by non-Annex I Parties in the preparation of their most recent national communications).

An annex to the invitation letter elaborates on the aims of the workshop. The first aim is to exchange views "on possible elements to be considered in the future revision of the UNFCCC Guidelines taking into account the difficulties faced by Non annex 1 Parties in the preparation of their most recent national communications and lessons learned in overcoming these technical difficulties."

The second aim is to "consider relevant COP decisions on possible elements to be considered in a future revision of the guidelines such as those agreed at the 16th session of the COP (in Cancun) where Parties decided to enhance reporting of national communications from non-Annex 1 Parties, including national inventory reports, biennial reports and reports on mitigation actions and their effects."

It is the second aim that is being questioned by several developing countries, who believe that there is no mandate (from the Cancun decision) for a workshop to discuss this issue. In addition, it is learnt that the second aim of the workshop does not reflect the mandate and the work programme of the CGE itself.

The Cancun decision of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) requires the "enhanced reporting" in national communications including inventories on mitigation actions and their effects (which is to be provided every four years) by developing countries (with additional flexibility given to LDCs and small island developing states), as well as the submission of biennial reports containing updates of national greenhouse gas inventories and other items. These are new obligations for developing countries and have been controversial subjects throughout the climate negotiations.

According to the Cancun decision, developing countries' mitigation actions which are internationally supported by developed countries would be measured, reported and verified (MRV) in accordance with guidelines to be developed, while domestically-supported mitigation actions will be measured, reported and verified domestically in accordance with general guidelines to be developed.

Furthermore, there will be a process for international consultations and analysis (ICA) of biennial reports, through analysis by technical experts and through a facilitative sharing of views. Developed countries have been the prime movers of proposals for the "enhanced reporting", "MRV" and "ICA" of the developing countries.

In this regard, the Cancun decision calls on Parties to submit their views in respect of the initial scheduling of the processes relating to MRV, biennial reports and ICA by 28 March. A work programme is then to be developed for the development of modalities for the guidelines for these matters.

There is no mandate for any workshop to be held on these matters in the Cancun decision, including that of "enhanced reporting", prior to the submission of views by Parties and the development of the work programme.

Another concern raised by some developing countries relates to a notification on the inaugural meeting of the Transitional Committee (TC) which was originally schedueld to be held on 14-15 March in Mexico City. However, two developing-country regions have yet to finalise which countries are to be on the Committee.

The TC has been tasked by the Cancun decision to design the Green Climate Fund. It is to comprise 40 members, with 15 from developed countries and 25 from developing countries, with seven members from each region of Asia, Africa and the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.

It is learnt that the Asian Group has received around more than 15 nominations and has not been able to decide on the seven members to be on the TC from that region.  It is also learnt that the Latin American and Caribbean group has yet to finalise its list for the committee.

The Asian Group, through its Chair, Saudi Arabia, in early February requested Espinosa, the Mexican Foreign Minister as COP16 President for more time for the selection of its candidates. The group is expected to meet in Bangkok during the AWG-LCA meeting in April to decide on its nominees. It is learnt that the Group has also proposed that the first meeting of the TC take place after all regional groups present their final list of names, with all the regions being properly represented.

Despite this request, a notification was sent out by the UNFCCC Secretariat on 23 February that the first meeting of the TC will take place from 14-15 March in Mexico City to design the Green Climate Fund.

It is learnt that in response to the request of the Asian Group, Espinosa asked the Asian Group to speed up its consultations and select its members, maintaining that the notification by the Secretariat to hold the meeting in March was in accordance with the Cancun decision. The Cancun decision in this regard states that the TC "shall convene its first meeting by March 2011."

However, according to some legal experts, it is clear from the decision that the TC has to be properly constituted beforehand with all regions being properly represented with their respective nominees before such a convening of the meeting can take place. What is imperative is the proper constitution and composition of the TC and not just a convening of the meeting without such representation.

It is learnt that the Chair of the Asian Group informed Espinosa that the Group sought a clear decision for the postponement of the TC meeting to allow the Group to make its selection following a meeting of its members in Bangkok to enable the establishment of agreed criteria for the selection and consequent agreement on the nominees to represent the region on the TC.

The Environment Ministers of Brazil, South Africa, India and China in a joint statement dated 27 February 2011 had also expressed concern over the UNFCCC Secretariat's convening of the TC, "even before many regional groups of countries have nominated their members". According to the statement, the decision on the meeting in Mexico City on 14-15 March was "premature", and the Ministers "stressed the need to respect the rules regarding convening of meetings and ensuring accountability, transparency and inclusiveness". (See TWN Climate Info Service, 3 March re: " BASIC countries reaffirm existing UN climate architecture").

Several senior developing country delegates also questioned how such a meeting of the TC can proceed without the presence of the Asian Group.  Some have suggested that a convening of the meeting of the TC without all the regions being represented is illegal and contrary to the Cancun decision.

It is learnt that the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC) is also in a similar situation, with more countries interested to represent the region than the seven seats available.

A notice on the UNFCCC website was posted on 3 March 2011  informing Parties and observer organisations that the first meeting of the TC scheduled to be held on 14-15 March 2011 is now postponed to the latter part of April 2011.

According to some sources, Mexico has  also floated the idea that its representative should chair the TC, with the possibility of South Africa (who will host COP17) being the co-chair. According to some developing country delegates, the decision as to who should be Chair and Vice-Chair of the TC is for the members of the TC to decide.

Another issue is the convening of an informal ministerial by the Mexican Foreign Ministry, also in March.  Some senior climate negotiators are questioning the mandate for this initiative. The ministerial is being called to "focus on the implementation of the Cancun Agreements and to prepare for the Durban Conferences."

According to the letter from Espinosa, "the purpose of the meeting is to informally exchange views on how to facilitate our work during the current year and ensure the fulfilment of the mandates derived" from Cancun.

The Cancun decision mandates South Africa, as the host country of the next COP, "to undertake inclusive and transparent consultations in order to facilitate the work towards the success of that session."

It is thus surprising that it is Mexico and not South Africa that is holding the Ministerial consultations. Some delegates are also of the opinion that the process is un-transparent and non-inclusive, as it is not clear which countries are being invited and which are not.

"All these moves, together with all the unauthorized workshop on non-Annex I national communications and limited ministerial consultations on the ‘Durban deliverables' are really quite worrisome," said a senior climate diplomat.