Ahead of ADP2.8: a flashback on our “Accelerated Dialogue with Parties”

Climate negotiators will meet in Geneva for one week starting from this Sunday to kick-off the last round of their negotiations, known as the ADP (Ad Hoc Working Group on Durban Platform for Enhanced Action). These negotiations is expected to conclude with an agreed outcome in December this year in Paris, which will define the new global climate regime in the post-2020 period.

It is also not clear at this stage, tough, how inclusive and ambitious that outcome will be, if ever it is reached.

But since 2012, there has been at least one concrete result achieved by the whole ADP process: the creation of an enabling environment for all observers in the UNFCCC Process to have an Accelerated Dialogue with Parties.

We hope that this practice and culture will continue to flourish this year, and we thought it would be good to have a brief flashback of our experience of the process so far.

Indeed, ICLEI, in its capacity as the focal point of Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Constituency to the UNFCCC and facilitator of the Local Government Climate Roadmap, has been one of the most “frequent flyers” of the ADP journey.

Already at the first session in May 2012, which is now called as ADP.1, we had the privilege of being invited as a panelist, thanks to our submission with the first deadline of 28 February 2012.

That panel was remarkable in terms of the very interesting dialogue (video) we had with Jonathan Pershing, one of the most senior negotiators of the US Delegation at that time, which introduced a very concrete frame to the debate – “we all acknowledge and appreciate all your ambitious and innovative efforts that you are leading as local and subnational governments; but what is your expectation from this process [UNFCCC] to deliver and help you?”

Honestly speaking, three years on, it makes me feel fairly satisfied to see the operationalization of many of the proposals listed in that submission and presented in that panel, such as: having focused technical discussions and analysis on the potential of and opportunities generated by ambitious local climate action; convening Ministerial-Mayoral dialogues regularly; and enhancing the visibility of local commitments, GHG performance and mitigation/adaptation actions.

A concrete example of positive progress in terms of open dialogue was the workshop on urbanization and the role of governments that was held in the first week of the ADP2.3 in Warsaw in December 2013. The enormous responsibility of delivering the introductory presentation of this critical workshop simply lead to the most extreme excitement, stress and honor in my professional career. While the fierce debate (video) among Parties after the presentations demonstrated the scale of the political difficulties around the subject, I was really relaxed at the end after witnessing the fantastic consensus building skills of  H.E. Ambassador Burhan Gafoor from Singapore (video) in his capacity as the facilitator of the workshop.

That workshop played an instrumental role in the adoption of para5b of Dec.1/CP10, the second most important COP decision after Cancun in 2010, which increased the recognition of local and subnational governments in the global climate regime. In addition to the ADP Workshop, this decision was also a result of the impressive support thanks to the milestone COP Presidency Cities and Subnational Dialogue, which included two Ministerial-Mayoral sessions under the leadership of H.E. Minister Korolec in his capacity as the President of COP19/CMP9.

Then came the ADP2.5 in June 2014 in Bonn, which turned out to be the most inspiring and fruitful day-long active dialogue of a diverse group of Parties with another broad group of senior level of representatives of local and subnational governments all around the world through the Cities and Subnational Forum and ADP Technical Expert Meeting on Urban Environment. The positive atmosphere during both at the Forum (video) and TEM (video) in Bonn, compared to the very difficult negotiations just six months before in Warsaw, created a significant motivation for all participants, and the hope that the process would result in concrete outcomes by Lima. During this session, I also personally had the additional pleasure of facilitating the special event of ADP Co-Chairs Artur Runge-Metzger and Kishan Kumarsingh with observers (video), which, I believe, inspired the impressive paragraphs of the ADP Co-Chairs Draft Text presented to ADP2.7 for an enhanced engagement of non-state actors in the new climate regime.

At the stocktaking session (video) ADP2.6 in October 2014, again in Bonn, we – together with our colleagues from the World Bank, UN-Habitat and C40, as international organizations supporting the work of the ADP TEM on urban Environment – had the pleasure of presenting the progress since June, in particular highlighting the Compact of Mayors as one of the most remarkable outcomes of the Climate Summit 2014 (hosted by the UN Secretary-General on 23 September 2014). The positive response of Hugh Sealy from Nauru from the floor, amongst others, as well as the positive messages later on we received from the Peruvian Presidency in terms of possible expectations in Lima, helped to keep our hopes high for the upcoming sessions in Lima.

Ahead of ADP2.7 in Lima, we could not have asked for a better kick-off: the ADP Technical Paper and its addendum on Urban Environment, prepared by the UNFCCC Secretariat, presented a fantastic compilation of options on the way forward, including para164a., which referred to a formal work programme under the UNFCCC for national governments to work with cities and subnational authorities. Moreover, para37a and 37b of the ADP Co-Chairs text introduced an excellent formulation for the engagement and empowerment of local and subnational governments in national and global efforts to raise pre-2020 ambition. By the end of the first week, it was clear that 95 percent of Parties did not have any reservations on these paragraphs as well. Sadly, just like the extreme changes in Lima´s daily weather – cold winds at night following a sunny day – the tensions among Parties in the second week led to the removal of all these bright shining ideas from the table. Through the launch of the Global Protocol for Community Scale GHG Emissions (GPC) (video) and our official UNFCCC side event (video), together with the release of our Lima Communique, we tried to provide positive inputs into these discussions. But more importantly, the NAZCA Platform, launched by the UNFCCC Secretariat and the Peruvian COP20/CMP10 Presidency, kept our hopes alive for next steps, with the carbonn Climate Registry acting as primary data source for local and subnational climate ambitions and actions.

This brief summary seeks to remind all climate negotiators arriving in Geneva this week of the vast amount of work focused on engaging and empowering local and subnational governments within the scope of the ADP process since 2012.

Lima enabled national governments to agree on a new climate regime that will mainly be a bottom-up process, without any significant global mechanism to enforce any additional commitments or actions to any of the Parties.

Let us hope that Geneva may now be the time for negotiators to provide a clear signal on how they envisage engaging with local and subnational governments in this new global regime and on the way towards Paris2015, based on all these dialogues and interactions over the past three years.

Considering that the current national ambitious are far below the global commitments required to keep climate change below two degrees, opening the doors to enable an active engagement and empowerment of local and subnational governments to tap the potential of ambitious transformative actions should not be seen as one option among many for governments, but as the essential path for progress.