New LRI briefing paper: declarations in connection with the 2015 climate agreement

12 October 2015

On Monday 5 October the Co-Chairs of the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) issued a revised note on the content of the 2015 climate agreement (ADP.2015.8.InformalNote). It contains a draft agreement (section A) and a draft COP decision (B). The new ‘Draft Agreement’ comprises 26 articles on 9 pages that cover all the areas under negotiation (mitigation, adaptation, finance etc.).

However, many key issues are only addressed in very general terms and this may lead to a reinterpretation of the Parties’ existing rights and commitments under the UNFCCC (and the Kyoto Protocol), other international treaties or customary international law.

This trend has been a concern for many poor and climate vulnerable developing countries for a while. Following the publication of the “Co-Chairs’ tool” in July in preparation for the last ADP 2-10 session, several delegates asked for advice related to, for example, the following issues:

  • Under the UNFCCC developed country Parties have agreed to support the adaptation to climate change impacts in developing countries. However, there is no legal obligation on developing countries to adapt to the adverse (or other) effects of climate change. In view of this, some delegates were concerned that under the new agreement additional commitments for developing countries Parties could be introduced (without corresponding clear and predictable financial commitments by developed country Parties).
  • International lawyers increasingly agree that the principle of prevention or ‘no harm’ applies to climate change. As a result, states have a duty to ensure (with due diligence) that greenhouse gas emissions under their jurisdiction or control do not cause harm to the environment of other states or in areas beyond national jurisdiction. If states, however, agree to address loss and damage from climate change under a new treaty, the application of the general rules on transboundary harm may be limited.
  • For many years developing countries have been arguing in the climate negotiations that developed country Parties have obligations under Art.4 UNFCCC to provide additional financial resources including the transfer of technology. To date, they have not met these obligations and a new agreement may water down the initial responsibilities agreed and fall behind the rights and commitment under the Convention.

In response to these concerns, LRI advisers have prepared possible draft text for declarations on, for example, finance and technology transfer, adaptation and loss and damage. Declarations are statements made by a State when signing, ratifying or accepting an international treaty to clarify its understanding of the scope of the treaty or certain of its provisions. Unlike reservations, however, declarations do not alter the legal effects of the treaty on the party making the declaration. They are essentially of a political nature but may help to strengthen arguments and negotiating positions in the future.

The draft text has been compiled and organised in one briefing in French and English.

To help francophone delegations, LRI has produced an informal French translation of the Co-Chairs note. This is for information purposes only. Access Projet d’Accord 05.10.15

Downloads available

UNEP Portal developed in partnership with LRI launched this month

22 September 2015

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the Law and Environmental Ontology Portal (LEO) at the 6th Multilateral Environment Agreement Information and Knowledge Management (MEA IKM) Initiative Steering Committee Meeting, held from 15-17 September 2015, in Montreux, Switzerland.

The LRI was one of the partner organisations involved in developing and maintaining the content of the portal, among other specialised agencies and UN organizations.

The LEO Portal is open to everyone and is supplemented by the InforMEA’s e-learning tool, which provides open access courses that support users in the development of a comprehensive understanding of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).

Reporting from Bonn: slow progress but hint of compromise

4 September 2015

With signs of slow progress, the tenth part of the second session of the ADP working group concluded today.

Only five scheduled days of official negotiations remain before Paris COP 21 begins on 30th November.

Over the last five days, delegates from over 190 nations have been engaging in facilitated sessions and spin-off groups to discuss the “Geneva negotiating text”. This was consolidated and divided up by the ADP Co-Chairs in advance of the meeting (“Co-Chairs’ tool”) in three different sections, with part one illustrating provisions appropriate for the agreement; part two, provisions for COP decisions; and part three, with paragraphs and sections that require further clarification. While the Co-Chairs insisted that there was no hierarchy among these three sections, many delegates from developing nations expressed their dissatisfaction that some important provisions and concerns for their countries were not reflected in part one of the tool. Countries worked to address the imbalance during the course of discussions this week.

Due to budgeting constrains, many representatives from developing countries could not attend the meeting, leaving their negotiating delegations outnumbered. This added considerable challenge upon these delegations, which had to juggle numerous meetings and coordination sessions in a disproportionate manner.

By the conclusion of the session today, the general feeling was that the meeting did not result in significant progress with a draft text towards Paris COP 21. Many textual proposals are still under consideration and critical issues are yet to be resolved – a review mechanism for INDCs to ratchet-up ambition over time is one of them. On a positive note however, the issue of loss and damage – a critical aspect for developing countries, saw a hint of compromise. Marking a shift in their positions, both the US and the EU are considering compromise options on this highly sensitive matter. This is definitely a step forward in bridging gaps and finding consensus towards a successful Paris deal.

LRI has been supporting delegates from some of the smallest delegations since the start of the session. The range of legal queries received by the LRI has reflected both the complexity and breadth of issues being discussed at this crucial juncture in the negotiations. LRI has been asked specific questions addressing the possible content of the 2015 agreement (including the necessary references to a mechanism on loss and damage), the legal form of the agreement, various queries related to INDCs, institutional arrangements and governance issues of the new agreement, among other queries.


Delegates of Trinidad and Tobago with LRI team.

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Ahead of next negotiation session, LRI facilitates workshop in Cameroon

6 August 2015

LRI co-facilitated a workshop in Duala, Cameroon, on 3 – 5 August 2015. The session was organized by COMIFAC, the Central African Forest Commission.

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The session was attended by 20 lawyers from the Foreign Affairs and Environment ministries of the countries from the Congo basin region. Its objective was to unpack the latest version of the Geneva negotiating text and identify options most suited to the interests of countries in the region, thereby helping countries’ negotiators to prepare for the next round of negotiations in September.

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Mr Gervais Itsoua Madzous (left), Pascale Bird from LRI (middle), Mr Edmilson das Neves Cravid and Ms Luvia Rossana de Cavalho d’Almeida (right).

Although the Geneva text has been recently streamlined and re-structured, the document is still 83-pages long. It contains a number of intricate textual options that pose considerable challenges for country negotiators. As observed by LRI during the workshop, an additional and significant one for the participants was to analyse the text in English (the only language in which the text is currently available), when many of them do not have a good command of English.

Despite this difficulty, the group got down to work and by the end of the workshop it was far advanced in putting together its own consolidated version. This included comments and inputs to ensure that for the upcoming negotiation session, country representatives are well equipped and the region’s views are represented.

The Legal Response Initiative (LRI) is committed to create a more level playing field between representatives in the climate change negotiations. To this end, it delivers specialised training and runs an advisory service for negotiators from the smallest nations. For inquiries about our services, get in touch at:

Bonn and 10 more days

16 June 2015

Audience @ Uni Bonn

Audience @ Uni Bonn

LRI @ Institute for public international law

LRI @ Institute for public international law

The Bonn Climate Change Conference concluded on Thursday, 11 June, at 5 pm. Parties did not go into extra time to negotiate a new agreement on climate. The outputs of their negotiations are reflected in two non-papers, the “Working document” (68 A4 pages) and the Streamlined and consolidated negotiation text (85 A4 pages), both dated 11 June and available online at

8 LRI lawyers attended the Bonn meeting and dealt with over 30 requests for legal advice from poor and particularly climate vulnerable developing countries. A new paper on how human rights could be integrated into the 2015 agreement was well received and two events at the university of Bonn on international law and the climate negotiations attended by many students, academics and lawyers.

Volunteers in the 'Situation Room'

Volunteers in the ‘Situation Room’

As an outcome of the Bonn conference, Parties have requested the two co-chairs of the ADP to issue an “additional tool” which should include a fully streamlined, consolidated, clear and concise version of the Geneva negotiating text, as well as suggestions for paragraphs appropriate for a decision versus the agreement, by 24 July 2015.

This is likely to result in further discussions during the next ADP meeting in Bonn from 31 August – 4 September about if and to what extent the co-chairs and the UNFCCC secretariat have accurately represented, summarised and interpreted the Parties’ positions. Unfortunately, there are only 10 more negotiating days scheduled before COP21 in Paris.