Issues on Consensus in the UNFCCC Process

Briefing paper

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Date produced: 08/12/2011

The concept of “consensus” is important in terms of the decision making process of the Conference of the Parties (COP), Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) and subsidiary bodies, working groups and committees of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Convention) and the Kyoto Protocol.

The draft rules of procedure1 are applied by the COP and its subsidiary bodies except for Rule 42, concerned with voting. Each of the two alternatives (A and B) of the draft rules provides for rules relating to the adoption of COP decisions and includes reference to consensus.

Although draft Rule 42 has not been adopted, the COP has adopted the practice of making decisions by consensus.

The importance of the concept of consensus was highlighted at Cancun where the principal COP/CMP decisions were taken despite a sustained stated objection by Bolivia.

Earlier this year, Papua New Guinea and Mexico submitted a proposal to amend the voting rules, the essence of which is to amend the Convention to allow an exception to the default rule of consensus and permit decisions to be taken by a three-fourths majority. This proposal is being discussed at COP17 in Durban. The implications of the proposal are discussed in a separate briefing paper.

This present paper considers;
(A) The meaning of consensus in the UNFCCC process;
(B) Precedents for consensus issues in this process;
(C) Precedents for consensus in other fora; and
(D) Possible future developments in relation to consensus.