Stocktake (according to Collins English Dictionary):
The COP is confusing. Especially when you have a stocktake of the stocktake and informal informals. Let me explain.
On Saturday, the Fijian presidency took a stocktake of the stocktake. The second stocktake in that sentence refers to the Global Stocktake (GST), which is being done to measure progress in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. The key part of the Paris Agreement is that all countries submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and then meet every 5 or 10 years (this is being negotiated as you read this) to see how well everyone is doing in reducing emissions and pledging more cuts (or less). The idea behind the GST is for parties to meet and ratchet up ambition, that is to say, we want a mechanism to increase climate action in the future by all parties, and this is the way they have negotiated to do that.
By having a stocktake of the stocktake, the Fijian presidency wants to see how things went during week one. Week one was busy, but some countries complained they were not productive enough. In the first intervention once the president opened the discussion, the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), represented by Switzerland, complained that they were making slow progress and feared that not enough had been accomplished. Ecuador representing G77 and China followed the EIG by calling for more financing to developing countries for climate adaptation and mitigation. While week one was full of negotiations, there remains large pieces of the puzzle to be solved. This stocktake of the the stocktake served as a forum for all countries to share their opinion of week one, and you can imagine that there are about as many opinions as there are countries. Needless to say, week two will also be full of exciting action.
This week the foreign ministers and heads of state arrive. While the US contingency is notably lacking a recognizable high-level representative at this meeting, more political appointees from Washington are expected to descend on Bonn in the coming days. It is will be interesting to watch how these negotiations continue. We do expect a strong showing from other countries including Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France, among many other leaders around the world.
On the informal informals. The idea behind informal consultations is that parties get together to negotiate various texts. Frequently, as observers, we are able to watch these negotiations and be in the room. However, sometimes countries ask to have informal informals. This means that no observers are allowed in the conversation and parties want the chance to hash out their grievances without observers being able to report on it. I saw this process work first hand this week as parties entered into informal informals to finalize text related to the Informal Consultations on Research and Systematic Observations. When they emerged from these conversations, the text was nearly complete and they quickly agreed on all the completed paragraphs. This is quite frustrating as an observer because you don’t get to see the process happen. The most important thing about being at the COP is getting to see who says what and different interests parties hold in the negotiations. Parties will frequently ask colleagues to explain their position and then you get to see why the country holds their beliefs. Frequently this is for legal reasons, but occasionally you get a glimpse into the countries politics. For example, this week the US was asked to explain some of their positions and they simply said that they were waiting on an answer from Washington. We don’t know who they were waiting for in Washington, but clearly there are communications between the group here and those still in D.C. It will be interesting to watch how the tone shifts this week from the US as more political appointees arrive in Bonn.
Today starts the next exciting week of COP23, we look forward to following the negotiations today and all week! Stay tuned for more all week from our UMaine delegation.
Will is a US National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Maine where he is pursuing a masters degree in the School of Earth and Climate Science. Will is interested in glaciers around the world and works with remotely sensed and in situ data to answer questions about glacier dynamics and mass balance.