14 April 2010
Published by Third World Network
Concerns over Mexican reluctance to ensure groups’ meetings at Cancun
Geneva, 14 April (Meena Raman) – Developing countries, at the final day of the climate talks in Bonn on 11 April, expressed surprise at the proposal by the Government of Mexico, the host of the sixteenth meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 16), not to already schedule time for the conduct of meetings of the two working groups under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol during the COP16 in Cancun in November this year.
Several developing countries stated that it was the normal practice in the meetings of the UNFCCC’s Conference of Parties to also include meetings of its subsidiary bodies, such as the working groups.
In an intense exchange between the Mexican delegation and developing countries that lasted around two hours, at issue was whether a COP President can make decisions about working group meetings or whether it was a matter for Parties to make that decision.
The G77 and China was concerned that not having working groups meet to carry out negotiations during the duration of the COP was deviating from established practice.
The final session of the Bonn meeting saw a tug-of will between Mexico insisting on its right as the COP President to decide on the organisation and procedures as regards the COP meetings and developing countries insisting that negotiations on the texts of the two working groups (on long-term cooperative action or AWG-LCA and on the Kyoto Protocol) must continue in Cancun and that it was a decision for the Parties to make and not that of the host country.
Eventually, following a proposal by the Chair of the AWG-LCA and the Secretariat, Mexico agreed that that the thirteenth session of the AWG-LCA will be held in conjunction with COP 16 “for as long as necessary.”
While being puzzled by the Mexican reluctance, the developing countries have fears that the organisers may be planning exclusive meetings at high-level (heads of governments or Ministers) in Cancun that deviate from the transparent and inclusive processes of United Nations, as happened in the Copenhagen that led to its failure.
In Copenhagen, a small group of political leaders were invited by the host country Denmark to a secretive meeting which resulted in the Copenhagen Accord which was not adopted but only “taken note of” because of the objections of many countries that said they had not mandated or even known about the small-group meeting.
At the final plenary session of the AWG-LCA, Saudi Arabia, speaking for the G77 and China on this issue, said that there was need for additional meeting time for the work of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA). It said that it was the common understanding of Parties that the AWG-LCA (as well as the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol) would meet in conjunction with the subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC as well as with the Conference of Parties.
Hence, in considering the conclusions of the working group on the organization and methods of work in 2010 (as regards paragraph 7 of the conclusions), there was need to reflect that the AWG-LCA will hold its thirteenth meeting session together with COP 16.
(Paragraph 7 of the draft conclusions for consideration of Parties on April 11 as proposed by the Chair of the AWG-LCA following consultations did not have any reference to the AWG-LCA meeting in conjunction with COP 16).
Mexico’s special representative for climate change, Mr. Luis Alfonso de Alba Gongora in response to the G77 and China proposal said that the Cancun Conference was not for further negotiating meetings but for concluding negotiations. He said that its purpose was to carry the work forward prior to Cancun. As of day one (in Cancun), there was need to resolve (the issue) of the two tracks to avoid two parallel processes, said de Alba, referring to the two tracks of negotiations in the AWG-LCA and the AWG-KP.
(Developed countries have been advocating for one single treaty, which would require merging the outcome of the two working groups, and terminating the Kyoto Protocol. This is because the United States in not a Party to the Kyoto Protocol, and developed countries would like to have some developing countries also take on emission reduction targets or actions, with all countries committing in a single legal instrument. However the developing countries are insisting on the continuation of the two-track negotiations, so that the Kyoto Protocol is preserved and a second commitment period is entered into).
De Alba said further that Mexico’s intention was not to take content out of the Cancun meeting and that it wanted the negotiating session to be intense, and that would require many hours. What it did not want was “line by line negotiation.” It was his hope that the line-by-line negotiation could be before Cancun and that in Cancun, only difficult issues could be negotiated. Mexico did not want to get to Cancun with work that was not ready.
De Alba said that in Cancun, the COP has more powers and can decide to re-establish the working group or have other groups. It was not its intention to limit the option of Parties. He said that Mexico offered to host the process for substantive solutions.
Saudi Arabia speaking for the G77 and China said that while the Group appreciated the role of Mexico, it was the Parties who decide how sessions take place. It said the Group was acknowledging that the AWG-LCA will continue its work at the COP. Having this clarity would help Mexico in formulating how the session will be conducted and it did not see any contradictions.
Spain, speaking for the European Union supported the Mexican proposal.
The United States said that it heard the concerns of Parties on the need for greater certainty (on the meeting of the AWG-LCA). The US said that a compromise proposal could be for the AWG-LCA receive at its next session in June a report on Mexico’s proposals for work of COP 16 and then decide about the need for the AWG-LCA session at COP 16.
Canada said that the US proposal had merit and that it had confidence in Mexico.
Nigeria in response said that it could not accept the US proposal as the need to make the decision was now and an opportunity must be provided for the working group to meet so as not to repeat the sad and difficult moments of Copenhagen.
Ghana said that its understanding was that Cancun was an option for a further AWG-LCA meeting. If, not, there was a need for additional meeting time.
China and India both supported the G77 proposal. India said that the two working groups (of the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP) must continue up to and through COP 16 and that talks must proceed well in the two tracks for good decisions.
Sudan, who is the Coordinator of the AWG-LCA for the G77 and China, said that in Copenhagen, Parties had taken a decision to mandate Mexico to make the necessary arrangement to facilitate work of the Parties. It said that the discussion did not seem to reflect working towards success. Efforts of the COP Presidency to influence the process in this way would not necessarily facilitate success.
Sudan referred to rule 23 of the Rules of Procedure of the UNFCCC which states clearly that the COP President remains under the authority of the COP. It said that enough time was needed to be given to Parties and that the G77 and China is wanted an effective, good and successful outcome.
Uganda, reflecting on the role of the COP Presidency and Parties said that what it was hearing from the host was strange. It said that the host country is imposing conditions on how the negotiations are to proceed. Uganda said that there was no guarantee that the work of the AWG-LCA would finish by Cancun. For Mexico to prejudge that work must be completed by then was to impose unnecessary constraints and stress. It was also concerned that future hosts of COPs may impose worse conditions. Uganda said that this has never been done before and would be a precedent. Uganda said that the imposition by Mexico that the two working groups should not have their meetings in Cancun should be withdrawn.
Gambia said that in Bali, it was decided that the AWG-LCA was to complete its work in Copenhagen. That did not happen and hence, it was a case of “once bitten, twice shy.” On the US proposal, it said that a decision would be needed (in June) as to whether the AWG-LCA should meet in Cancun. Then, discussions would have to restart all over again on the issue. Instead of wasting time, it said that the G77 proposal was a better one.
Saudi Arabia, speaking for the G77 and China said that the issue clearly goes beyond that of just being about time. Time is one element but the notion that Parties have to decide the possibility or lack of possibility of having a session in Cancun is a strange notion. The working groups, like the other subsidiary bodies, are subsidiary bodies of the COP. There has not been a COP session in which subsidiary bodies decide not to meet, especially when the working groups have to come to a conclusion of their work. This meeting is to determine from here to Mexico the organizational matters and the work programme and it is important to have that clarity. This does not prevent Mexico in presenting its view on how they see different subsidiary bodies working.
Egypt said that it was surprising that bargaining was happening about whether to have working group meetings or not during the COP. Parties were dealing with the agenda on the work programme for 2010. The lessons from Copenhagen have not been learnt. It said that different methods of work and committees are not welcome. There should be open-ended meetings in which all Parties have equal voice and are transparent in an inclusive setting. It said that there should be no bargaining about holding the working group meetings in Cancun.
Uganda said that the issue was one of principle on the host country deciding how the COP will organize its work. There cannot be a compromise. A Party cannot dictate to the COP. It asked if the host country has powers to override the COP.
Mexico said that there was a misunderstanding. Its reasoning was to learn from Copenhagen and it had no intention of imposing conditions. It said that it had a substantive responsibility for best outcomes from Mexico. It insisted that that a decision can be made in June on this matter.
The Chair of the AWG-LCA, Margaret Mukahanana Sangarwe of Zimbabwe said that paragraph 7 does not exclude a meeting of the AWG-LCA in Cancun. The Chair and the Secretariat suggested the addition of the “words as necessary” after the words proposed by the G77 and China so that the working group meets at COP 16 as necessary.
Saudi Arabia said that if there is no need for the working groups to meet they will not. Only scenario in Cancun where they would not meet would be if they conclude work prior to Cancun. It said that there should not be a restriction as this was the prerogative of the COP and it is only the Parties who can decide this issue.
Mexico said that it could not agree on how Parties are imposing on how Mexico should organize the session. It said that this was a “storm in a tea-cup”. It said there were two options in relation to paragraph 7 – either to drop the paragraph or to accept the Chair’s proposal to add the words ‘as necessary”.
Following bilateral consultations among some developing country delegates and Mexico, Mexico accepted the proposal of the Chair and the Secretariat, that the thirteenth session of the AWG-LCA would be held as well as to hold its thirteenth session in conjunction with COP 16 for as long as necessary.
The AWG-LCA also agreed that in order to conclude its work it would need to hold two sessions between its tenth session and the sixteenth session of the COP, of a duration of at least one week each, while ensuring sufficient negotiating time as well as allowing sufficient time between sessions to enable Parties to consult and prepare in order to enable the AWG-LCA to continue its work with a view to presenting the outcome of its work to the COP for adoption at its sixteenth session. The AWG-LCA requested the secretariat to make the necessary arrangements.
Hence, in total it was agreed that four meetings of the AWG-LCA (and the AWG-KP) will held in 2010 – in June, in conjunction with the meetings of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA); and another two meetings between the June session and the meetings in Cancun, Mexico.
The AWG-LCA also took note of a proposal for the SBI to consider the option that a high-level session be held between the thirty-second sessions of the SBI and the SBSTA and the sixteenth session of the COP to provide guidance.