The 52nd sessions of SBSTA and SBI met over the period 31 May to 17 June 2021. This was the first meeting since COP25 and, in the light of ongoing covid-19 travelling restrictions, it was held in a virtual format. To accommodate the challenge of working in different time zones, sessions were spread over 3 weeks instead of 2, and compressed over 3 hours every day. Informal consultations and a number of mandated events were conducted. Due to the limited time allocated, some items on the SBs’ provisional agendas were not considered at the meeting.
Progress made has been captured in informal notes. These notes have no formal status and capture a wide range of views and contributions. Only a handful include possible decision text for COP26 in Glasgow – e.g. on matters related to LDCs, capacity-building or the programme budget for 2022 -2023.
Whilst progress was achieved on some topics many Parties have expressed concern at the substantial amount of work remaining to be completed at COP26. The SBSTA chair has indicated that further informal work, including technical expert dialogues, informal consultations and submissions may take place between now and COP26. In addition, issues that were not formally on the SB agendas and as a result got only limited airtime – in particular finance, adaptation and loss and damage – will be discussed at a ministerial meeting hosted by the UK Presidency on 25 and 26 July 2021.
This paper provides a short summary of the discussions in different subject areas. To provide a general overview it groups together discussions on broad topics and does not follow the official SB meeting agendas.
Major discussions on adaptation, in particular on adaptation finance and the operationalization of the global goal on adaptation, were postponed. Adaptation related issues were nevertheless discussed under matters related to LDCs, NAPs, the 4th review of the Adaptation Fund and the Nairobi Work Programme.
The objective of informal consultations on the Nairobi Work Programme on impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation to climate change (NWP) was to share views on progress and outcomes of the NWP since SB 50 in June 2019, on its indicative work plan for 2021-2022, and on how the NWP can be more responsive to developing countries’ needs. In relation to this, there were calls for generally scaling up NWP work and strengthening engagement in under-focused regions, and for making knowledge products more accessible. Discussions also focussed on the scope and modalities of the stocktake of the NWP’s operational and institutional modalities, which is scheduled to take place in June 2022. The informal note is available here.
Under Matters related to LDCs, and pursuant to a decision taken at COP21, Parties engaged in a review of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG)’s progress, need for continuation and terms of reference. There was broad support for extending the LEG’s mandate under its current terms of reference. A proposal to extend it for 10 years with a mid-term review after 5 years was well received. Other issues discussed included the LEG’s functions: whilst there was broad support for the LEG to continue providing support to LDCs for the process of formulating and implementing NAPs, and for improving access to funding for this process under the GCF, some developed country parties noted the LEG’s focus on technical advice and that other entities were better placed to support project implementation. Parties also considered the need for additional members, taking into account the expanding technical needs of the LDCs, regional distribution of members and budgetary implications. The informal note, containing the elements of an outcome, is available here.
In relation to National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), parties were mandated by decision 7/CP.25 to consider information from the reports of the Adaptation Committee (AC) and the LEG, including on gaps and needs and the implementation of NAPs. Parties identified a number of gaps and needs such as dedicated funding for the implementation of NAPs, aligning NAPs with NDCs and adaptation communications, and with national development plans, programmes and budgets as well as other international processes such as the SDGs or the Sendai Framework. It was noted that COVID had had a negative impact on advancing the formulation and implementation of NAPs. NAPs should be seen as part of a COVID recovery, to make countries more resilient. Some issues raised were included in the informal note as “beyond the scope of this agenda item”. They included e.g. establishing a separate agenda item on adaptation, a task force on the global goal on adaptation, and the need to develop methods for measuring progress of adaptation actions and their impacts.
Parties advanced work on the fourth review of the Adaptation Fund (AF) and its terms of reference (ToR) during three informal consultations. From the onset of the consultations, there was general agreement among Parties to use the ToR of the 3rd review to serve as a basis for the 4th review. Recurrent points of disagreement concerned the possible reference to the CMA in the ToR and a draft decision, the timeline of the review, and the inclusion in the scope of the review of the AF’s governance structure and institutional arrangements.
With regards to the role of the CMA, many groups and parties highlighted that the AF, whilst established under the Kyoto Protocol (KP), has been serving the Paris Agreement since 2019 and that this factual element should be included in the ToR of the review. They noted that the review should provide relevant information to both the Meeting of Parties to the KP (CMP) and the CMA. Some stressed that both bodies should be able to take decisions informed by the outcome of the review. Other delegates held that the AF remains under the authority of the CMP and is accountable exclusively to this governing body. One country pointed out the CMA has no policy oversight on the Fund and that the review’s purpose is to assess how the AF is serving developing countries’ needs, not the KP or the Paris Agreement.
In relation to the timeline of the review, several delegations favored to maintain the original timeline and to conclude the review at COP 26. Others — noting that the timeline is contingent to the formal adoption of the ToR — argued that the informal nature of the SB session and the short timeline until COP 26 precludes concluding the review in 2021.
Additional divergences concerned the inclusion of the governance of the AF in the review. Some Parties stressed that governance has a direct impact on the Fund’s performance and should be included. Others pointed out that issues related to governance, board membership, and eligibility criteria are beyond the scope of the review and should not be discussed under this agenda item.
After a lengthy exchange on the way forward and some opposition to conducting additional informal consultations (other than the three originally scheduled), the co-facilitators held bilateral consultations with groups and parties. In conclusion they shared a new iteration of their informal note on June 16, which will form the basis for further deliberations at COP 26.
Loss and Damage
Although Loss and damage (L&D) was not on the SBs agenda, the Santiago Network – established at COP25 to catalyse technical assistance for L&D – was discussed at an informal meeting of the COP25 and 26 presidencies. The meeting followed a previous informal meeting held on 26 April 2021 at which a Friends of the Presidencies Group was established and an Input Paper on operationalizing the Santiago Network presented. The objective of this meeting was to discuss next steps and modalities for the implementation of the Network. Most Parties want the Network to coordinate activities; some supported additional implementation functions. With regard to its institutional design most developing country parties appear to be in favour of a permanent structure, e.g. with a secretariat or other coordinating entity, whilst developed country Parties considered a central web based platform to be sufficient. Parties generally agreed on the need to involve development and disaster risk organisations and communities and for overall flexibility – as needs will change. Developing countries called for a decision at COP26 clarifying the Network’s governance structure, mandate, and modalities.
Loss and Damage is one of the key issues due to be discussed at the ministerial meeting in July.
Finance was also formally not on the SB agendas. As a result, the topic was raised only in the context of limited technical discussions on technical and financial support for reporting under the Convention and the PA, the 4th review of the Adaptation Fund (see above, under ‘Adaptation’) and the budget for 2022/2023. In addition two workshops, on Long-Term Finance and on Article 9.5, were held.
The time allocated for consultations on the provision of financial and technical support for reporting was limited and as a result discussions were confined to sharing views, which were captured in an Informal note. Developing countries called on the GEF to streamline its application processes, engage in dialogues with developing countries to identify actual capacity-building needs (to ensure support is based on these rather than GEF’s own assessments), establish a process to develop a long-term strategy to provide support for reporting, strengthen the role of focal points, and further improve the CBIT.
In the workshop on the Long-Term Finance work programme on the provision of support for 2014-2020, topics raised included the need for a clear definition of climate finance and to distinguish climate finance from official development assistance; the need to mainstream adaptation; and whether the programme should continue.
The second workshop covered Art.9.5, PA, which requires developed countries to submit biennial communications on their predicted levels of climate finance. A synthesis report on this was published on 1st June but it only covers submissions from nine parties. Developing countries expressed concern at the lack of predictability – with only three countries putting figures across several years – and ambition (with only $1.6 billion being provided for 2021-2022 based on existing communications) and clarity on balance between mitigation and adaptation finance.
The secretariat will prepare reports on both workshops for consideration at COP26.
Article 6 – cooperative approaches
Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is one of the few areas on which parties have so far failed to agree implementing guidelines, but aim to adopt these at COP26.
In order to progress on unresolved issues, the SBSTA chair organised a series of informal technical expert dialogues that started in April and were completed during the SB session. Each dialogue addressed one of 10 areas of disagreement. The discussions are captured in Chair summaries that set out a range of views and proposals and in some cases the reasoning behind them, but do not contain elements of possible decision text. The dialogues held during the SBs included consideration of the following issues:
- The first dialogue focused on design elements to allow the Article 6 instruments to enable increasing ambition over time. Parties made general comments such as: ambition is as much about adaptation as about mitigation; enabling ambition is not the same as delivering ambition – hence there is a need for robust rules and mechanisms to generate ambitious outcomes. They also stressed the importance of capacity-building to enable all countries to participate in cooperative approaches.
- In the dialogue on transitioning CDM activities to the Article 6.4 mechanism, parties considered the necessary next steps by different actors, the deadline by which this transition should be completed, which rules of the 6.4 mechanism could apply to transitioned activities immediately, and what decisions the CMP might have to take to facilitate the transition.
- In the dialogue on delivering an overall mitigation in global emissions as part of the Article 6.4 mechanism, Parties considered the optimal method(s) for achieving overall mitigation of global emissions (OMGE) and how to aggregate and report the impact of OMGE to, for example, the global stocktake (GST).
- On the use of Kyoto Protocol units towards NDCs, parties discussed in what circumstances Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) issued under the CDM could be used towards NDCs and – if so agreed – how this use would be implemented. Reiterating their positions, many groups opposed the carryover of CERs on the ground that it would undermine NDC ambition. Others supported a full or limited carryover. Many supported a proposal to look at the implications of the various carryover options for global emission levels, noting that any decision on this issue needs to be based on the science.
- On reporting and accounting for Article 6.2 (including GHG and non GHG metrics) parties discussed the reporting, review and accounting cycle for Article 6 and whether further elements were needed. They also considered what further work is needed for GHG and non-GHG internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs) to be reported and accounted for. Many countries called for information to show that human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ rights are upheld, and that negative social and environmental impacts are avoided.
- On the implementation of Article 6.8 on non-market based approaches, consultations focused on the overall goal of the work programme. Contributions in this context covered, for example, facilitating the exchange of knowledge, matching needs with those able to provide support, coordinating existing bodies, or identifying areas for support by the Green Climate Fund.
- In a separate dialogue on other matters under Article 6, Parties considered, amongst other things, the appropriate principles for establishing baselines and additionality for the Article 6.4 mechanism as well as capacity building. Many called for further dialogues and technical work between now and COP26.
The dialogues indicated that Parties’ positions may have moved a little closer on some issues such as referencing human rights as part of sustainable development in Article 6.4. Overall, however, many of the substantive disputes, that have previously prevented the adoption of a decision – including the use of Kyoto units, the necessary adjustments of national targets to avoid double counting or concerning the share of proceeds for adaptation purposes – remain.
Towards the end of the conference, the SBSTA Chair convened an informal meeting with heads of delegation to take stock of progress and consider next steps. He indicated his intention to convene further meetings and to continue informal technical expert dialogues throughout the coming months up to COP26. There is also a broad recognition that unlocking some issues will require political steer at ministerial level and the UK presidency will host further informal consultations on Article 6 at ministerial level on 23 June. This will be followed by a broader stocktake on 30 June. Article 6 will also be on the agenda of the ministerial meeting due to take place on 25 and 26 July.
The modalities, procedures and guidelines (MPGs) for Parties’ reporting and the review of their reporting under the Article 13 transparency framework were agreed at COP24 in Katowice in Decision 18/CMA.1. Discussions at the SBs focussed on further technical issues such as common reporting tables that have yet to be agreed. Progress on these was captured in informal notes:
- Common reporting tables for national inventory reports (Informal note);
- Common tabular formats for tracking progress on NDCs (Informal note);
- Common tabular formats for the electronic reporting of support (Informal note);
- Outlines of the biennial transparency report (BTR), national inventory document (NID), and technical expert review report (TERR) (Informal note); and
- A training programme for technical experts participating in the technical expert review (Informal note).
Ironically, transparency was the one issue that was closed to observers, one developing country Party having objected to observer participation in the consultations.
On the first three sub-items, consultations revolved around the structure and content of the tables, with examples of tables serving as the overall framework and guide for the discussions. Parties also provided views on the application of the flexibility provisions contained in the MPGs; the structured summary to track progress made in implementing and achieving NDCs; the use of reporting software; and the necessary capacity-building.
The development of examples of tables represents progress but it was uneven: while some progress was made on draft tables for tracking progress on NDCs, divergent views on a common tabular format for reporting on support still persist. With substantial technical work remaining, there was interest for inter-sessional work, including in-person technical workshops.
In relation to the outlines of the BTRs, NIDs and TERRs, Parties considered a tool prepared by the co-facilitators to facilitate discussions (and included in the annexes of the informal note) that proposed draft elements for each report and the national inventory document. The informal note also outlines areas requiring further discussion.
In the consultations on the training programme for technical experts participating in the TER, Parties considered examples of the structure of a training programme and thematic areas for the training courses.
Across the sub-items, many developing countries highlighted the need for capacity building and financial support to assist them in meeting the enhanced requirements of the new transparency framework. They expressed disappointment that the issue had not adequately been reflected in the informal notes.
At COP24 in 2018 it was agreed that all NDCs should cover a “common timeframe” from 2031, with the length of the timeframe to be decided later. Parties meeting in Madrid a year later were unable to reach agreement on what the common timeframe should be, putting forward a list of 10 options that included five-year timeframes, 10 years, a choice of either, or hybrids of the two.
In order to help parties consolidate some of the options, the SBI chair prepared shortly before SB52 an informal note that sets out possible elements for consolidating the options. This was followed by a revised note, which builds on the latest consultations, aims to capture all the options put forward by parties and further summarizes and structures the views expressed. It sets out four options: five years; 10 years; “five years + five years”, where parties would submit two five-year NDCs every five years, on a rolling basis; or “five or 10 years”, where parties could choose. In addition an annex to the note lists eight further proposals from parties.
Thus, whilst all parties agree on the need to have a decision by COP26, they could not agree on streamlining or consolidating proposals. Parties also have different views on how best to reach agreement at COP 26: some parties have called for further technical work, while others believe technical work is exhausted and have indicated the need for higher-level political engagement.
Sources of input for the Global Stocktake
During informal consultations Parties also exchanged views on complementing the comprehensive list of sources of input for the global stocktake they already agreed in Katowice (decision 19/CMA.1). Based on an invitation by the SBSTA Chair, they also considered how to efficiently deal with the potentially large number of submissions from non-party stakeholders and observer organisations.
Parties and other stakeholders were also invited to comment on the first draft of a non-paper prepared by the SB chairs that is intended to assist them in their preparations for the first GST, bearing in mind that the information collection and preparation component will commence at the SB session in November 2021.
Several developed country Parties were of the view that no complementary inputs were needed at this stage, also suggesting that this could be reconsidered after the first GST. Many developing country Parties, in comparison, suggested complementary inputs on adaptation, means of implementation and loss and damage. This included biennial reports under Article 9.5, the report of the Standing Committee on Finance forum on financing nature-based solutions, and adaptation-related reports, such as those of the Adaptation Committee and the Nairobi Work Programme. Discussions also covered methodologies for assessing the sources of inputs.
Commenting on the non-paper, several developing country groups recalled the objective of the GST as a catalyst for enhancing ambition and noted that it needs to be forward looking, to help parties in updating their NDCs. Many also highlighted the role of equity and best available science, which should be framing the design of the GST in all its components. A number of developed countries commented that Article 2.1.c, PA, on finance should be treated on an equal footing with Article 2.1.a and b in the guiding questions.
The final informal note acknowledges calls by some groups for the Secretariat to be provided with resources to assist non-party stakeholders and observer organizations, particularly from developing countries, to make submissions. Others questioned the budgetary implications of such an initiative.
Koronivia joint work on agriculture
In informal consultations on this item, parties considered the reports of three workshops on topics from the Koronivia road map. The relevant topics were: improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems (topic 2(d)); improved livestock management systems, including agro-pastoral production systems and others (topic 2(e)); and socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agricultural sector (topic 2(f)).
Parties asked the co-facilitators to develop possible elements based on Parties’ inputs and discussions held during the sessions. Those possible elements, together with a contextual note, are presented in three informal notes on topics 2(d), 2(e) and 2(f).
At regular intervals, the SBI conducts comprehensive reviews of the implementation of the capacity-building frameworks under the Convention and the KP. During the May-June 2021 session, Parties discussed:
- the 4th comprehensive review of the implementation of the framework for capacity-building in developing countries under the Kyoto Protocol (KP), and
- the 5th review of the implementation of the framework for capacity-building in countries with economies in transition (EIT) under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol.
During informal consultations all Parties expressed support to use the outcomes of the 4th comprehensive review of the framework for capacity-building in developing countries under the Convention – concluded at COP25 and captured in decision 10/CP.25 – as the basis for the review under the KP. They emphasized the importance of addressing the gaps and needs that still remain unmet in certain priority areas, of continuing to identify and disseminate lessons learned, and fostering cooperation among stakeholders including non-state actors. These contributions were captured by the co-facilitators in an informal note which will be considered by Parties in Glasgow with the view of adopting a final decision.
With reference to the 5th review on capacity-building in countries with economies in transition, Parties agreed to take into consideration the decisions on previous reviews – as captured in decisions 17/CP.23 and 4/CMP.13 – to serve as the basis for the 5th review. Some delegates noted that countries with EIT are in need of further capacity-building in fields such as the regular update and implementation of emission reduction targets, adaptation strategies, and the implementation of national long-term, low-emission development strategies. One Party expressed an interest for expanding the scope of the framework to include capacity-building activities in relation to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Many delegates noted that the framework was operating exclusively to support the effective implementation of Parties’ commitments under the Convention and under the Kyoto Protocol. The co-facilitators captured these draft elements in an informal note which will be considered by Parties in Glasgow for a final decision.
During informal consultations on this matter parties took stock of progress made by the Katowice Committee of Experts on the Impacts of the Implementation of Response Measures (KCI). They considered the KCI reports and the recommendations on the mandate of the Forum on the impact of the implementation of response measures, and discussed the implementation of the Forum’s work plan. Concerns were expressed by a number of delegates that the pandemic had affected the KCI’s ability to meet and progress on the work plan. Some developing country groups supported holding an additional session of the KCI before COP26, but developed countries opposed this.
Stressing the social and economic implications for developing country Parties, a number of developing country groups and parties called for the KCI to assess the impact of trade measures, such as carbon border tax adjustments, and for the Forum to develop good practices on such measures. Several developed countries opposed this on the ground that this was not within the scope of the Forum’s six-year work plan agreed at COP 25, and highlighted other international fora to discuss trade-related issues.
In the third set of informal consultations, consensus was reached on forwarding the annual report and recommendations of the KCI to the COP. Parties also agreed with the co-facilitators’ proposal that they would prepare a note capturing the main elements of views of Parties in the discussions. In the closing plenary, the SBSTA Chair noted that the final informal note reflected a compromise proposal that did not provide a strict mandate on the way forward.
Second periodic review of the long-term global goal
During the SBs the second session of the first meeting of the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) under the second periodic review of the long-term goal under the Convention and the overall progress towards achieving it took place (the first session had been held in November 2020) It included presentations and contributions from scientists and other experts from the IPCC, International Energy Agency, GEF, World Bank, FAO, CBD, UNEP, WHO and WMO, amongst others.
An informal note contains proposed elements towards draft decision text. It welcomes the first meetings of the SED and agrees to convene the third meeting of the PR2- SED in conjunction with the SB sessions in June 2022 to allow for the consideration of contributions of Working Groups II and III to the IPCC’s sixth assessment report, due to be published in August.
Whilst the discussions were described as “constructive” in the note, there were divergences of views on some issues, including on the need to balance scientific integrity with means of implementation.
Separately, another informal note summarises discussions on matters relating to research and observation. This note also offers “possible elements” of text to be formally adopted at COP26.
Alignment of the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) review and the periodic assessment of the Technology Mechanism
During consultations on this topic Parties considered an information note prepared by the secretariat, as requested at SBI 51, on possible options, and their implications, for aligning processes pertaining to the independent review of the CTCN and the periodic assessment of the Technology Mechanism. On the basis of the discussions, the co-facilitators prepared an informal note that contains possible elements of draft conclusions on this matter.
The discussions indicated broad support for the option of maintaining stand-alone processes in the short term but aligning the periodicity of both processes. Parties also considered conducting the CTCN review as a component of the periodic assessment of the Technology Mechanism and the potential legal implications for the relationship UNFCCC/Paris Agreement, and COP/CMA.
Review of the Doha work programme
At COP 25 the COP requested the SBI, at its fifty-second session, to launch the review of the implementation of the Doha work programme on Article 6 of the Convention (education, training and public awareness raising), and to consider future work to enhance the implementation of Article 6 of the Convention and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement.
During the consultations, delegates reflected on an informal note prepared by the SBI chair, which captured informal consultations and expert group meetings held prior to the SBs. They also expressed views on elements of the Doha work programme that had been successful, as well as gaps and challenges that need to be addressed and opportunities for advancing the ACE work programme in the future.
Based on these discussions, the SBI Chair informal note, documents prepared for this session and written inputs, the co-facilitators prepared a note on possible elements. It also clarifies that it has not been discussed, streamlined or agreed by Parties.