The negotiation on how to launch, also in terms of methodologies and definitions on carbon removals, the new global emissions trading mechanism established by Art. 6.4 of the Paris Agreement is proving to be one of the ‘hottest’ at this COP in Dubai. Three days ago we told you about the session, which lasted more than 10 hours and was supposed to lead to a new draft by the middle of the next day (10 December).

The new draft only arrived on 11 December at 4.30 p.m. and immediately triggered a heated debate in the room. In fact, we can still follow this issue moment by moment, since at this final stage of the COP this topic is the only one that remains dealt with formally, i.e. in the negotiating rooms open to us observers and not behind the scenes or in the ministerial rooms. It is no coincidence, in fact, that the new draft circulated was drafted by the co-facilitators and not by the COP President, unlike other drafts that are circulating.

The negotiations, however, are far from simple or smooth. Rarely in years of COP have we seen such harsh interventions by some delegations. Above all the Chinese one, which likes this draft as it is. As, moreover, does the group of Arab countries, Russia, Brazil and, in a mere ‘spirit of pragmatism’, the United Kingdom, which is eager to get out of this veritable quagmire. The European Union, on the other hand, does not like it at all, which has expressed itself in equally harsh tones (‘we can’t accept it‘), the Latin American countries, the small island states and, for different reasons, the United States of America.

But what has changed since the 9 December draft?

Many textual options have been resolved, arriving at a now ‘clean’ text which, however, especially according to the European Union, leaves too much room for interpretation, especially with regard to definitions (with reference to removals, both natural and artificial, of carbon, juxtaposed among the solutions to real emission reductions) and methodologies, which together will moreover form the two annexes I and II of this decision.

In ‘cleaning up’ the text, the co-facilitators removed all reference to tonne-year counts, thus meeting the strong demands of international civil society as well as those of some countries. They also removed, however, references to the planned and now deleted new Work Programme that was supposed to guide delegates over the next few years towards a better understanding of the difference between emission reductions, removals and ‘avoided’ emissions.

Importantly, the fourth paragraph of the decision’s preamble remained intact and, in its place, reminding that countries “shall” (well the language imposes) “respect, promote and take into account” their obligations on human rights: the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and the vulnerable, gender equality, women’s empowerment and intergenerational equity. A long list, absolutely useful, however, to create textual precedents to which countries and civil society can appeal in subsequent years, if they remain in the final text.

Mexico, supported by the European Union and the group of Latin American countries, objected to the new wording of paragraph 7, which – in speaking of the necessary inclusiveness of the process with respect to civil society – concludes with the phrase “while respecting national prerogatives”, according to the three delegates a damaging chorus that weakens what was said earlier in the text.

The next contentious paragraph is 15, which says that “afforestation and reforestation projects, activities and programmes registered under the (old) Clean Development Mechanism will be able to transition into the new mechanism under Article 6.4“. Some countries have stressed making transit between the two systems mandatory, and Latin American countries have expressed great concern about this textual turnaround from decisions already taken at least two years ago in Glasgow. Also, in paragraph 15 it is now clearly stated that the request to accredit, transit a project under the new mechanism from the old CDM must arrive by 30 June 2024.

The controversial paragraph establishing an exemption for Least Developed Countries from the donation to the Adaptation Fund of 5% of the procedural shares in emissions trading (now paragraph 16, it was 13 in the old draft) remains intact in the new draft, a signal that this is a strong demand coming from those very same countries one year after the decision to establish that donation – otherwise there is no explanation for this backtracking. It should be noted that the exemption remains voluntary in any case: those who wish to donate can always do so.

Finally, there is a debate on paragraphs 19 and 22, which repeat several paragraphs from the previous draft. In essence, the group of Like-Minded Countries (representing 50% of the world’s population and including China) disputes the ‘problematic nature’ of the wording of the paragraphs, which they say could lead to a redefinition (at this point in the negotiation no longer accepted) of carbon removals from the atmosphere, whether natural or artificial. The reasoning is based on the (improper) juxtaposition of emission reduction and CO2 removal actions with avoided emissions, on which there is no operational clarity. Paragraph 22 is, in fact, quite vague for a decision of this calibre, since it says that the COP ‘requests’ the SBSTA (technical support body) ‘to continue its considerations as to whether activities under Article 6.4 can include avoided emissions and nature conservation activities’, but then postpones the issue even to the next revision of the mechanism’s rules, scheduled for the 2028 COP. There is confusion. We wonder how the two types of action, reductions and avoided emissions, will be able to coexist in a common context of necessary reporting, counting, and transparency, given that at least to date the world of avoided emissions is closer to the world of speculative assumptions than to that of typical emission inventory counts.

Finally, the US and South Korea strongly requested clarification of the new wording of paragraph 28, which states that ‘in exceptional circumstances’ changes to the status of country credit reports under the new mechanism may be applied. The US and South Korea ask that it be clarified what is meant by exceptional circumstances and that these be stated taking into account the national will of the countries.

A text, therefore, that is fairly definitive, but still with many open procedural questions, which the Presidency will try to resolve today, also thanks to an attempt at mediation by New Zealand, which seems to have been widely accepted, and which in the room anticipated having prepared a new text to be circulated among the delegates in the next few hours.

Article by the ICN Delegation in Dubai

Cover image: ENB

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