Suspension of the Conference of the Parties

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Date produced: 08/12/2011

What are the procedures for suspending the COP? How could a Party initiate this process and what would be required to achieve this?

Please answer this query in relation to suspension/adjournment of the current Durban session until resumption in a COP17-bis and CMP7-bis in 2012. This could be by keeping the LCA session open until an intersessional negotiation in 2012.

Summary

The draft Rules of Procedure for UNFCCC (the Rules were never formally adopted) specify at Rule 23 that the Chair has the power to suspend the COP. Also, Rule 38 authorises a vote to suspend or adjourn the meeting. Rule 36 provides for proposals made by Parties, including procedural motions which a motion to suspend the meeting would appear to be.

Advice

1. The draft Rules of Procedure for UNFCCC (the Rules were never formally adopted) specify at Rule 23 that the Chair has the power to suspend the COP:
“(2) The President may propose to the Conference of the Parties the closure of the list of speakers, a limitation on the time to be allowed to speakers and on the number of times each representative may speak on a question, the adjournment or the closure of the debate and the suspension or the adjournment of a meeting.”

2. Also, Rule 38 authorises a vote to suspend or adjourn the meeting.

“Subject to Rule 34 [Points of order], the following motions shall have precedence in the order indicated below over all other proposals or motions:
(a) To suspend the meeting;
(b) To adjourn the meeting;
(c) To adjourn the debate on the question under discussion;
(d) To close the debate on the question under discussion.

Permission to speak on a motion falling within (a) to (d) above shall be granted only to the proposer and, in addition, to one speaker in favour of and two against the motion, after which it shall be put immediately to the vote.”

3. A motion to suspend takes precedence over a motion to adjourn, from which it would seem a suspension is in terms of the rules of slightly longer duration than an adjournment.

4. Accordingly, the Chair has the power to propose the suspension of the meeting under Rule 23. It also appears that a proposal for suspension could be made by a Party in accordance with rule 36:

“Proposals and amendments to proposals shall normally be introduced in writing by the Parties and handed to the secretariat, which shall circulate copies to delegations. As a general rule, no proposal shall be discussed or put to the vote at any meeting unless copies of it have been circulated to delegations not later than the day preceding the meeting. The President may, however, permit the discussion and consideration of amendments to proposals or of procedural motions even though these amendments or motions have not been circulated or have been circulated only the same day.”

5. Thus the proposal should be circulated in writing to delegations by the Secretariat the day before the meeting at which the proposal is to be discussed, unless the President waives this requirement (the proposal to suspend would be categorised as a procedural motion).

6. COP 6 was suspended in 2000 and resumed in 2001 (this practice was also used in respect of INC 5, the deadline for negotiations on the Framework Convention, when the Parties failed to reach agreement and therefore suspended and resumed that session).

7. The resumption of COP 6 in 2001 has been treated by legal commentators as the continuation of an ordinary Conference of the Parties. It is therefore likely that, should COP 17 be suspended and resumed at a later date, it would also be treated as an ordinary session.