Parties singing from the same book in Bangkok

Day 2 of SB48-2:
Negotiations in APA, SBI and SBSTA moving into informal consultations and informal informals

As the Bangkok climate negotiations kicked off yesterday, it became clear very quickly that parties, for the next week, will be saying the same thing. From the opening ceremony, to the plenaries, to the contact groups as well as the informal consultations, almost all chairs, facilitators and parties started their interventions with similar themes; we’re running out of time, we should not waste any more time now, and we must leave Bangkok with a draft text to bring to COP24.

Parties are so eager to get straight to work, that they proposed and agreed to forgo the opening plenary interventions from parties as well as CSOs. While it is clear to see why parties chose this course of impromptu action, several Youth CSO representatives did not appreciate the decision to cut out one of only two opportunities for CSOs to speak at this SB session.

While parties continue to reiterate the need to move fast with negotiations in Bangkok, CSOs are calling for parties not just to move swiftly but also to produce a strong and robust draft text for each facet of the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP). The hope and expectation is to head into COP24 with draft texts that will be ready to be negotiated on in Katowice, Poland.

What does it mean to have draft negotiating texts coming out of Bangkok?

Currently, agenda items relating to the PAWP are being negotiated on the basis of informal notes and tools which have been drafted by the respective facilitators of each agenda item. These informal notes and tools contain inputs from parties from the past several sessions, dating back to SB44 in May 2016. The task ahead of parties in Bangkok is to distill the inputs and streamline the options with clearer and meaty text.

With stronger and more focused text coming out of Bangkok, the hope is that it will facilitate a good session of high level negotiations at COP24, with the ultimate goal of completing the PAWP by the December 2018 deadline.

What are the potential risks in Bangkok?

While it is promising and encouraging that parties see the urgency and feel the pressure, they also run the risk of pushing out draft texts that are weak. On the other hand, should parties take their time to negotiate, or come across stumbling blocks, they run the risk of ending the Bangkok session with incomplete draft texts.

Either option is unacceptable. And parties have no other choice than to work in overdrive. The current situation was perfectly captured in the opening address by COP23 President and Fiji Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, who said, “In three months’ time we will be in Katowice, and frankly, we are not ready. I don’t think that statement should surprise anyone in this room.”

Although discouraging, the COP23 President’s words were necessary. He told it like it is. The situation is dire now. Parties have left it all to the last minute and need to find as much common ground as possible over the next four days if we are to get any closer to implementing the Paris Agreement in 2020.

Written by Mike Campton
Reviewed by Daniel Teoh

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