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Countdown to COP21: Jamaica satisfied with new draft climate change agreement

Published:Thursday | November 5, 2015 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor
Dr Orville Grey (left), senior technical officer with responsibility for Adaptation in the Climate Change Division, listens intently to Clifford Mahlung (right), one of Jamaica’s senior negotiators for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COPI21) in Paris, and Jeffrey Spooner, head of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica during a workshop yesterday.

Jamaica appears cautiously optimistic about the global climate-change deliberations to take place in Paris next month, having had, along with others, to significantly rework the text that is to form the basis of their work.

The text is comprised of a draft agreement and a draft decision, with provisions that could go in either, together with areas covered in previous talks, including mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, finance, and technology.

Without that document, which increased from 20 to 51 pages after the October 19 to 23 meeting of delegates, held in Bonn, Germany, it would likely have been even more challenging to secure a meaningful agreement, given political and economic considerations that have in the past impeded progress.

"We had a text that emerged in the first week in October that was supposed to have satisfied the mandate given by the parties to the co-chairs for the preparation of a negotiating text. What emerged was deemed other than satisfactory," explained Jamaica's seasoned negotiator Clifford Mahlung.

"It was considered by many parties, including Jamaica and AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States), that the content was unbalanced. It did not include most of the concerns of the developing countries, and it was decided that this would be communicated to the co-chairs," he added.

Developing countries, including small-island developing states such as Jamaica and others of the Caribbean, are among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts - including extreme weather events, sea level rise, and the associated loss of livelihood and overall quality of life.

This is despite their not having significantly contributed to the greenhouse gas emissions that have landed the world in the fight to stave off global warming from which these impacts stem.

According to Mahlung, given these realities, developing countries were not prepared to accept the text as it was - with critical elements being absent, including specific reference to the links to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), appropriate provisions for loss and damage and, critically, 1.5 degrees Celsius, among other numbers, as the global target to contain global temperatures.




"It was pointed out that this couldn't be the basis for any negotiations, because it never included our concerns as developing countries and until that was corrected, we would have difficulty accepting the text," he told The Gleaner.

And so it was that the meeting of some 1,300 delegates gathered for the Bonn session of the so-called 'Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action' was used to adjust rather than begin full-on negotiations on the document.

The revised document, Mahlung revealed, now:

- makes clear that the new agreement is an extension of the UNFCCC; and

- includes specific targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction, including that being advanced by the Caribbean and AOSIS - 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"We also see a better way of addressing adaptation and the support that will be required for any changes anticipated in the coming years. Specifically, there is now a process for the inclusion of a goal of addressing adaptation in countries," the negotiator noted.

Among other things, he said: "Loss and damage [now] has its own articles and reflects the AOSIS position, which includes the need to compensate irreversible losses associated with extreme weather, such as super hurricanes, sea level rise and ocean acidification."

However, with a draft text now back in play, there is still some way to go.

"We have a text that is acceptable by everyone, but it still has to be negotiated ... , still requires hours and hours of intense negotiations for what is to become a final agreement," Mahlung advanced.

It is a position reflected in a statement from Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres.

"We now have a balanced and complete party-owned text. The challenge facing governments is to bring it down to a much more concise, clear, and coherent structure, with a view to its adoption in Paris," she said in an October 23 press release issued by the UNFCCC newsroom.