SBSTA workshops outside formal sessions

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Date produced: 01/06/2010

Is it legally possible for SBSTA to hold workshops outside of a SBSTA session?

Summary: We have not been able to find procedural rules which state definitively that out-of-session workshops are either allowed or not allowed (we note that there are formal procedures on in-session workshops).  However, we have found numerous examples of workshops occurring outside of a formal SBSTA session.  The reports of the workshops all follow the same mandate: SBSTA requests the UNFCCC Secretariat to organise, subject to the availability of supplementary funding, a workshop to do a particular research function before the next session of SBSTA and to prepare a report on that workshop for consideration by SBSTA at its next session.

In addition, the draft Rules of Procedure state that the COP decides on the dates of SBSTA sessions and these can be held in conjunction with COP sessions.  This flexibility seems consistent with the practice of SBSTA requesting the secretariat to convene out-of-session workshops.  On this basis, it seems likely that out-of-session workshops can take place provided that SBSTA requests the UNFCCC Secretariat to organise it, that there is available funding for it and that a report is prepared for SBSTA to consider at their next session.

Establishment of SBSTA: The UNFCCC Conference of Parties established two permanent subsidiary bodies (the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SIB)). Each gives advice to the COP under its respective mandate.

The SBSTA’s mandate includes providing the COP with advice on scientific, technological and methodological matters including promoting the development and transfer of environmentally-friendly technologies, and conducting technical work to improve the guidelines for preparing national communications and emission inventories. The SBSTA also carries out methodological work in specific areas, such as the LULUCF sector, HFCs and PFCs, and adaptation and vulnerability. In addition, the SBSTA plays an important role as the link between the scientific information provided by expert sources such as the IPCC on the one hand, and the policy-oriented needs of the COP on the other. It works closely with the IPCC, sometimes requesting specific information or reports from it, and also collaborates with other relevant international organizations that share the common objective of sustainable development.

SBSTA was established at the first Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC in August 1995 to provide the COP.

The SBSTA and the SBI have traditionally met in parallel, at least twice a year. When they are not meeting in conjunction with the COP, the subsidiary bodies usually convene at the seat of the secretariat.

Procedural rules:

As a subsidiary body of the COP, the applicable rules for the SBSTA are contained in the draft rules of procedure of the Conference of the Parties being applied, contained in FCCC/CP/1996/2.  The draft Rules of Procedure (which apart from Rule 42 on voting, have been applied by the COP though never formally adopted) apply to the COP, the CMP and its subsidiary bodies.   

Rule 27 makes clear that those rules shall apply mutatis mutandis to the proceedings of the subsidiary bodies but specifically Rule 27.4: “The COP shall decide on the dates of the sessions of the subsidiary bodies, taking note of the desirability of holding such sessions in conjunction with the sessions of the COP.”

The apparent flexibility given to the COP in terms of deciding when to hold sessions is consistent with the practice referred to in the examples below of the SBSTA requesting the secretariat to organise the relevant workshop.

Capacity to hold workshops outside the formal sessions:

There appear to have been numerous workshops of the SBSTA which have taken place on an ad hoc basis and a few examples are given below:

i) http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2005/sbsta/eng/04.pdf

See para 15: “The SBSTA requested the secretariat, under the guidance of the Chair of the SBSTA, to organize an informal workshop, subject to the availability of financial resources, before the twenty-third session of the SBSTA to facilitate the development of the programme of work.”

ii) http://www.rainforestcoalition.org/documents/UNFCCCSBSTA200703.pdf

See mandate in paragraph 1(A) (i): “The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), at its twenty-fifth session, requested the secretariat to organize, subject to the availability of supplementary funding, a second workshop on reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries before its twenty sixth session, and to prepare a report on that workshop for consideration by the SBSTA at that session.”

iii) http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2006/sbsta/eng/11.pdf

See para 86: “The SBSTA requested the secretariat to organize, subject to the availability of supplementary funding, a second workshop on this issue before its twenty-sixth session, and to prepare a report on that workshop for consideration by the SBSTA at that session.

iv) http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2006/sbsta/eng/11.pdf

See para 48: “The SBSTA requested the secretariat, under the guidance of the Chair of the SBSTA, to organize, before its twenty-seventh session, a workshop with the participation of Parties, experts and relevant organizations and institutions on the issues, information and submissions referred to in paragraph 46 above. It further requested the secretariat to prepare a report on the workshop to be made available to the SBSTA by its twenty-seventh session.”

See para 86: “The SBSTA requested the secretariat to organize, subject to the availability of supplementary funding, a second workshop on this issue before its twenty-sixth session, and to prepare a report on that workshop for consideration by the SBSTA at that session.”