COP23 outcomes

Legal assistance paper

All reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of this information at the time the advice was produced. However, the materials have been prepared for informational purposes only and may have been superseded by more recent developments. They do not constitute formal legal advice or create a lawyer- client relationship. To the extent permitted any liability is excluded. Those consulting the database may wish to contact LRI for clarifications and an updated analysis.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Date produced: 11/01/2018

The 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, was held in Bonn on 6-17 November 2017 under the presidency of Fiji.

The conference focused on (1) developing rules to implement the Paris Agreement (so called ‘Rulebook’), (2) raising ambition for climate action pre-2020 and (3) preparing for the first global review of climate action in time for COP24 in Katowice, Poland, at the end of the year. Other outcomes on the sidelines of the intergovernmental negotiations process are summarised in section 6[1].

1. Paris Rulebook

One of the key objectives of the conference was to progress the development of the Rulebook (which is due to be finalised in December this year) by moving from general discussions to negotiation text. What came out of Bonn did not quite fulfil expectations: the outcome of the negotiations was captured in 266 pages of informal notes summarizing and organising the various proposals made by Parties. This will serve as the basis for the negotiating text to be developed this year.

This means that a vast amount of work still needs to be done in order to ensure the Rulebook is finished on time. This is acknowledged in the final COP23 text, the Fiji Momentum for Implementation which anticipates that an additional negotiating session may be needed between the May intersessional and COP24.

Significant progress was made in some areas, considerably less in others:

·       With regard to mitigation and the guidelines for the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by parties under the Paris Agreement: A 179-page document capturing Parties’ views contains numerous duplications and redundancies. The size of the text indicates that significant differences remain between the Parties on all three main elements under discussion: features, up-front information and accounting (in particular on the issue of scope and differentiation, and flexibility).

·       The issue of flexibility also featured prominently in the discussions on the enhanced transparency framework: the question being to what extent developing country Parties should be given more flexibility in terms of reporting and the international assessment of the information submitted. Despite diverging views on this, Parties were able to agree on a relatively concise document which will form the basis of this year’s negotiations. There was no agreement, however, on whether the framework will be a single system, with all working over time to meet the same standards, or whether it should be a continuation of the existing arrangements, with separate rules for developed and developing countries. Parties also need to decide how the new framework will link up with other areas, such as the global stocktake, compliance mechanism, etc.

·       Discussions in the context of cooperative approaches focused on how far the rulebook goes in defining the nature of ‘internationally transferred mitigation outcomes’ (ITMOs) under Article 6.2, PA and how free Parties will be to decide it for themselves. Another issue is how to ensure a ‘corresponding adjustment’ between NDCs of a transferring and a receiving party to avoid double counting of ITMOs. The negotiations also focussed on how much the new mechanism under Article 6.4 draws on, or departs from, the KP’s Clean Development Mechanism. All proposals were captured in a document, organised at least as far as headings are concerned. On the basis of it, the co-facilitators are expected to produce a proposal for a consolidated text by the Spring.

·       On finance, one of the main issues was how to operationalize the requirement under Article 9.5 that parties provide every two years ex ante finance information communications. The information so far provided by developed country parties relating to Art 9.5 has been qualitative in nature making it difficult, so some developing countries argue, to use it to assess the finance actually being earmarked for meeting developed country obligations under Arts 9.1 and 9.3. The absence of defined modalities undermines the predictability of these financial flows. The African Group, therefore, proposed to establish a process for considering the modalities for communicating and considering developed countries’ biennal reports. This was resisted by developed countries. The COP referred the issue to the SBI which is to prepare recommendations for COP24.

Some result was achieved on the final day of COP23 regarding the Adaptation Fund, with KP countries formally agreeing that the Fund ‘shall’ serve the Agreement. Parties had previously agreed that it ‘should’ serve the Paris Agreement. The Fund is therefore now formally recognized as a financing source although Parties have yet to agree how it will remain an effective source of adaptation funding for developing country Parties.

·       Progress was made in terms of designing a broad structure for the global stocktake, which will include a preparatory, technical and political phase. Outstanding issues include the scope of the stocktake, eg whether it will include loss and damage, types and sources of inputs, the nature of any outputs intended to inform Parties’ NDCs and how progress will be assessed ‘in the light of equity’.

·       There was also some progress in relation to the mechanism to facilitate implementation and promote compliance. On the scope of the committee’s work there appeared to be support for some general guidance on provisions that are legally binding, applicable to individual parties and sufficiently precise to be objectively assessed, and for the committee to address systemic issues such as patterns of non-compliance. Parties generally agreed with the idea of self-trigger but not with allowing parties to bring one another before the committee. On outcomes, there was general support for allowing the committee to advise parties on how to improve implementation and compliance but not to take any action that might appear punitive, eg declaring a party as non-compliant.

2. Talanoa dialogue

In Bonn, the Fiji Presidency set out a roadmap for the 2018 facilitative dialogue, renamed the Talanoa dialogue. The facilitative dialogue was established in Paris to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties to progress towards the long-term goal referred to in Article 4.1 PA, and to inform the preparation of NDCs pursuant to Article 4.8. Like the global stocktake in 2023, the dialogue will focus on collective progress but, unlike the stocktake, its scope will be mitigation only.

The dialogue will consist of a year-long process including a preparatory phase during which parties and non-state stakeholders (including cities, businesses, civil society groups etc) can provide input through an online platform, and a political phase at COP24, where ministers will engage in high-level roundtables. Fiji and Poland will preside over the dialogue together. Inputs are also expected to include the latest IPCC report on the 1.5 degrees C target, to be published in September.

3. Pre-2020 climate action

Bonn also saw a renewed push by developing countries for stronger developed countries’ action and support pre-2020. Agreed steps include a call for developed countries to ratify the Doha Amendment setting 2020 emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Parties also agreed to include a pre-2020 focus in the Talanoa dialogue and to conduct separate stocktakes on global emission reductions and provision of support in 2018 and 2019.

4. Loss and Damage

Despite its inclusion in the Paris Agreement, the workstream on the development of the rule book does not include loss and damage as an agenda item meaning that it is not given a major space in the UNFCCC process. Discussions therefore take place in a separate forum: the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) set up at COP19 to promote the implementation of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change. Developing country Parties view the WIM as underfunded and inadequate and pushed for loss and damage to be designated as a standing item on subsidiary body agendas. They also asked for new additional sources of finance to be allocated to loss and damage.

Parties did not succeed, however. The WIM agreed on a new five-year rolling plan, finalizing a proposal from October, and agreed to hold a one-off expert dialogue (the Suva dialogue) at the May intersessional in 2018 which will inform a technical paper feeding into a review of the WIM at COP25. This means that discussions on finance are unlikely to take place until 2019.

5. Gender, Indigenous Peoples and Agriculture

Amongst other significant outcomes, one notes the adoption of a Gender Action Plan, which highlights the role of women in climate action and promotes gender equality in the process, and the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform which aims to support the exchange of knowledge and sharing of best practices on mitigation and adaptation action.

Another outcome was ending the deadlock on agriculture which had lasted for years. Parties agreed to streamline two separate technical discussions into one process; the decision on agriculture requests SBSTA and SBI to simultaneously address vulnerabilities of agriculture to climate change and approaches to tackle food security. Parties have been invited to submit their views on what elements should be included in the work by 31 March 2018, with options including how to improve soil carbon and fertility, how to assess adaptation and resilience and the promotion of better livestock management systems.

6. Other developments

Other notable outcomes of the conference include:

·       25 countries, states and regions formed the “Powering Past Coal Alliance” pledging to phase out of coal by 2030

·       The Government of Norway, Unilever and other partners announced a $400 million fund to support more efficient agriculture, smallholder farmers and sustainable forest management

·       25 cities committed to becoming emissions neutral by 2050

·       Fiji launched the Ocean Pathway Partnership, which aims to strengthen the inclusion of oceans in the UNFCCC process.

·       Launching the “America’s Pledge” report, a coalition of US cities, states and businesses claiming to represent half of the US economy pledged continued support for climate action and the Paris Agreement

·       Launch of a new InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions, bringing together G20 countries in partnership with the V20 nations

·       Launch of Fiji Clearing House for Risk Transfer – a new online platform using artificial intelligence to help vulnerable countries find affordable insurance and solutions to avoid climate risk.


[1] The following sources have been used for the preparation of this summary: W.Obergassel et al, Diplomatic obligations fulfilled, but political leadership lacking, Wuppertal Institut, November 2017; Outcomes of the UN climate change conference in Bonn, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, November 2017; Paula Caballero et al, Despite some major bumps, Bonn climate summit got the job done, World Resources Institute, 20/11/2017; J. Timperley, Everything you need to know about Cop23 UN climate talks, 20/11/2017, Climate Home News