1. What technical papers or reports has SBSTA prepared, or asked the Secretariat to prepare, in the past? What are examples of reports that would be comparable to a report related to limiting the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius?
2. What mandate or rules of procedure apply to SBSTA that would allow it to prepare (or commission) a technical paper related to 1.5 degrees’ increase? In particular, how SBSTA or the Secretariat, and not necessarily the IPCC, can prepare such a report?
SBSTA has on occasions requested technical papers or the provision of information similar to a report related to limiting the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius from other bodies, but does not appear to have prepared one itself.
SBSTA has to comply with the draft Rules of Procedure applicable to the COP and its subsidiary bodies and which are applied by the Parties (save for Rule 42 re voting procedures) despite not having being formally adopted by the UNFCCC.
Since Rule 42 is not applied by the Parties, all decisions taken by the COP and its subsidiary bodies (including a request by SBSTA of the Secretariat to produce a technical paper) must be taken by consensus. The consequence of this rule is that this proposal could be blocked by any one Party voting against it.
1. Previous SBSTA technical papers
It appears that SBSTA has not itself prepared technical papers or reports in the past. However, SBSTA has on occasions requested the Secretariat to provide technical papers for various issues.
We have not found any request made by SBSTA that the Secretariat prepare a paper dealing with limiting increases in global average temperatures to a certain amount.
However, in relation to temperature changes and regional climate models we have found one example of SBSTA asking for the Secretariat to collaborate with the IPCC with a view to providing the relevant information to the Parties for consideration.
Additionally, at the second session of SBSTA (Geneva, 27 February – 4 March 1996) SBSTA requested IPCC to provide an assessment of the implications for projected temperature increases, sea level rise and other changes in climate of different proposals for the limitation of greenhouse gas emissions by Annex I Parties.
Other examples of technical papers issued by the Secretariat at requested by SBSTA include:
• Standardised baselines under the clean development mechanism; and
• Physical and socio-economic trends in climate-related risks and extreme events in the context of their implications for sustainable development.
2. SBSTA mandate/rules of procedure
Competence of SBSTA to prepare a technical paper
Article 9.2 of the UNFCCC states:
“Under the guidance of the Conference of the Parties, and drawing upon existing competent international bodies, [SBSTA] shall:
(a) Provide assessments of the state of scientific knowledge relating to climate change and its effects.”
SBSTA is therefore competent to prepare a technical paper related to a 1.5 degrees increase. However, past practice has been for SBSTA to request other bodies with technical expertise to prepare a technical paper for it.
Procedure to request the preparation of a technical paper
SBSTA is a ‘subsidiary body’ under the UNFCCC. SBSTA is therefore subject to the same procedural rules under the UNFCCC as the COP and other UNFCCC institutions. Article 7.3 of the UNFCCC provides:
“The Conference of the Parties shall, at its first session, adopt its own rules of procedure as well as those of the subsidiary bodies established by the Convention, which shall include decision-making procedures for matters not already covered by decision-making procedures stipulated in the Convention. Such procedures may include specified majorities required for the adoption of particular decisions.”
Rules of Procedure for the COP and its subsidiary bodies have not been formally adopted and thus remain in draft form. With the exception of Rule 42 (relating to voting procedure), these draft Rules of Procedure are nonetheless applied and followed by the Parties.
Rule 27 of the draft Rules of Procedure confirm that they apply to SBSTA:
“These rules shall apply mutatis mutandis to the proceedings of the subsidiary bodies.“
Since Rule 42 is not applied by the Parties, any decisions taken by the COP or any of its subsidiary bodies must be taken by consensus (i.e. with no Party objecting). As such, any SBSTA decision which requests the Secretariat to produce a technical paper relating to a 1.5 degrees increase would need to be passed by consensus.
The practical importance of this is that any request for the preparation of a technical paper could be blocked by any Party voting against the proposed decision. We note that at the last session of SBSTA (32nd session), a similar request was blocked in this way.