Parties will negotiate in formal ‘contact groups’ in order to start the text drafting process
By: Uthra Radhakrishnan
With just few negotiating days and hours left in the year for parties to arrive at a draft text of a new agreement in 2015, the question of whether negotiations would continue in an informal format or move into more formal discussions hung thickly in the air. This was cleared last evening in a mid-week stock taking session that threatened to go over time.
Kishan Kumarasingh, one of the co-chairs of the ADP track announced that formal discussions in contact groups will be opened at the next session in June. He said that, “the text will be developed by parties through their views expressed in submissions and interventions through a contact group from june.”
In order to keep the deadline for a deal to emerge in 2015, parties had decided earlier last year in Warsaw that a draft negotiating text needed to be readied by the end of 2014 at the meeting in Lima, Peru. However, parties were divided over what the negotiation format should be for starting such a drafting process. The G77 and China lent credibility to many developing country groupings’ earlier call for a contact group by demanding “a more structured and formal mode of negotiations” to start by the end of the week. This was in contrast to what the EU and other developed countries under the Umbrella grouping suggested. They preferred the discussions to continue in the open-ended format where all parties discussed broadly on the elements of a framework for a new agreement.
The open-ended mode of discussions that were initiated under the ADP as a trust-building procedure however, seemed to have run their due course of time. While such discussions are considered more transparent owing to the presence of observer group organisations, they are also more informal and prevent parties from being candid with each other in closed door sessions. Usually contact groups are set up on specific issues where smaller groups of parties deliberate and draft text. However, following a demand from the Environmental Integrity Group that there cannot be a “proliferation of contact groups” and the support for a single contact group by several developing country groupings under the G77 and China, the Co-chair affirmed that this request would be formally finalised when the meeting closed on Friday, March14.
Consistent repetition or overstating usually lends one to question the credibility of what is being said. It was hard to overlook the levels of mistrust that had seeped in despite everyone--co-chairs and parties alike repeatedly confirming the fact that it was a “party-driven” process. Several parties, including India complained of the level of progress made and some even criticised the format of the discussion thus far as being the reason. The Indian delegate said he was “deeply concerned about the mode and substance of work. We have failed to make progress in our current format on the elements as mandates by Warsaw. We are disappointed in the logistic arrangements.”
Some sought clarity on how exactly the party-driven process would manifest in a text. It was agreed that the final text would be a compilation of party submissions and interventions. Those in the halls and on twitter forums, who feverishly debated the issue were looking to the past for their explanations and answers. Leading up to the Copenhagen summit, the last time a major deal on climate change was attempted, text compilations ran into the hundreds of pages. Avoiding such lengthy, bracketed texts was one of the reasons some parties endeavoured to keep discussions open ended. Yeb Sano, a lead negotiator for the Philippines, however presented a different proposition for all to consider. He said, “why should we have a problem with a 200-page text? I would rather have 200-page text that all parties could own rather than a 3-page text that only a few owned.”
The co chair closed the session by reminding everyone that while co-chairs had no authority to intervene over party submissions and interventions, a mere compilation of the text would not be final. “Nothing would be final until the last gave in Paris.”