Crossroads in climate negotiations when adaptation and mitigation meet in Bonn

Thomas-Guignard-620x330The June round of climate negotiations commenced with wide recognition amongst Parties of the need for deeper cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to be accelerating negotiations based on the outcomes of the 5thAssessment Report (AR5) released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this year.

This session was the last opportunity for Parties to meet before the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Summit, to be held in New York in September – the first time world leaders have met on the issue since the failed 2009 Copenhagen Conference. High expectations for finance announcements are expected from this meeting.

The June meeting of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform(ADP) occurred against the backdrop of the announcement by US President Barak Obama of a 30% reduction in power plant emissions by 2030 and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) completion of the essential elements required for the full operationalization of the fund.

Ministerial meetings took place, from which Parties hoped to gain insights. Emphasis was largely placed on disappointment over lack of ratifications of the Doha Amendments to the Kyoto Protocol (KP) to enable the second commitment period, a stagnation in developed country ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions and ongoing lack of financial commitments. Many countries spoke of national processes underway for ratification to occur, however no major announcements were made.

The host country for the UNFCCC 20th Conference of the Parties (COP 20) – Peru – made their presence known. With much support from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), at every opportunity Peru reminded Parties of the urgency to act and set down high expectations for the meeting to be held in December in Lima. The incoming COP President, Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal made it clear that he hoped decisions in Lima will be made concerning pre-2020 mitigation, REDD+, GCF capitalisation, intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and a draft text for a new climate agreement.

It could be said that the substantive negotiations have commenced. Points of divergence and convergence are beginning to crystallize, which may enable the Parties to undertake their work to reach a durable and future proof agreement.

The emergence of synergies between adaptation and mitigation

During the Bonn session, it seemed that Parties became more accepting of the synergies and linkages between mitigation and adaptation. The recently released IPCC’s 5th Assessment report identifies that policies governing land use and REDD+ are more effective when both mitigation and adaptation are involved and that REDD+, primarily regarded as a mitigation framework, also has adaptation co-benefits.

During adaptation discussions in the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP), several Parties recognized the link between these two normally siloed issues and the mitigation co benefits associated with adaptation actions. The issue dominated much of the REDD+ discussions concerning non-market based approaches (NMBAs) and non-carbon benefits (NCBs).

The incoming COP President, Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal made it clear that he hoped decisions in Lima will be made concerning pre-2020 mitigation, REDD+, GCF capitalisation, intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and a draft text for a new climate agreement. Photo by UNclimatechange

In a climate finance context, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) already recognises funding for projects that include both adaptation and mitigation. The Green Climate Fund is also identifying linkages between adaptation and mitigation in the outcomes and results areas that are currently under development. The Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) have also commenced consideration of the issue in the context of forests and finance.

However, identification as to the technical details and development of modalities concerning the relationships between mitigation and adaptation has not yet been considered within the UNFCCC. Many Parties have mentioned that such information would be useful. Some preferred that this work should be considered after 2015, whilst others suggested it as a topic for one of the upcoming Technical Expert Meetings (TEMs).

Adaptation actions can have mitigation benefits and mitigation actions can give rise to adaptation outcomes but trade-offs may arise. Further exploration and safeguarding of circumstances where mitigation actions cause mal-adaptation and adaptation actions cause emissions increases may be warranted.

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