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Statement on the outcomes of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

04 December 2013

The nineteenth international climate change Conference of the Parties (COP19) and itsKyoto Protocol (CMP 9) closed late on Saturday, 23 November 2013 in Warsaw, Poland following two weeks of intensive negotiations. 

The Warsaw conference addressed a total of 68 agenda items and took 38 decisions (28 under the COP, and 10 under the CMP). In summary there were 4 major outcomes of the conference. 

Firstly, were a set of decisions aimed at finalising and enhancing the implementation of the international response to the climate crisis now and up to 2020. This involved the finalisation of accounting rules under Kyoto to enable countries to ratify the amendments and their legally binding emission reduction commitments as agreed in Durban in 2011. After two weeks of detailed technical discussions, Parties were able to agree most of the outstanding accounting rules for the Kyoto second commitment period, and this work will be finalised at the next meeting.

In addition to the finalisation of Kyoto rules, there was critical work required to enhance implementation under the Convention in the pre-2020 period for both developed and developing countries. 

A key milestone was reached by finalising the measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) systems for both developing and developed countries. The Warsaw COP adopted the review guidelines for biennial reports (BRs) and national communications in time for the submission of the first Biennial Reports from developed countries in January 2014, as well as, the international consultation & analysis process for developing countries.

Adaptation continued to receive the prominent attention that it deserves under all the Convention bodies with respect to implementation between now and 2020. The most notable outcome on adaptation was the conclusion of the guidelines for developing countries in general to develop National Adaptation Plans. This is a critical outcome for South Africa as these guidelines can now be used to further develop the country’s own National Adaptation Plan, which is currently underway. This put adaptation on a clear path to be in the centre of the legal instrument being negotiated for implementation from 2020 onwards. These negotiations are to be concluded in Paris in 2015.

A major priority to enable enhanced post 2012 and pre-2020 implementation is the question of how to finance climate change efforts. The COP adopted seven decisions on finance. The most critical ones are, a) long term finance, b) arrangements between the COP and the Green Climate Fund (GCF); and c) support to the fundraising strategy and campaign of the Adaptation Fund Board. During the Conference, pledges totalling over US$100 million were made that ensure the continuation of the Adaptation Fund’s support for concrete adaptation projects in developing countries. Meeting this target is a significant step for developing countries as it means work can continue to pilot the Adaptation Fund’s direct access approach to supporting programmes on the ground.  In terms of long term finance, developed countries pledged to scale up available finance, based on the levels achieved during the fast-start period upwards of USD10.2-USD15 billion of public finance per year, with the aim of achieving the goal of jointly mobilising USD100 billion per year by 2020.

With the conclusion of the arrangement between the COP and the GCF, the GCF is now well on its way to concluding its accountability relationship with the Convention and is on track to start its initial resource mobilisation process prior to September 2014, when the UN Secretary-General will convene a high level Leaders’ Summit. This is a huge milestone attained under the implementation agenda.

The second major outcome of Warsaw is the progress made in the negotiation of the climate change system to be implemented beyond 2020. 

This is to be captured in a new legal instrument for implementation post 2020 and is being negotiated under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). Warsaw was able to transition from the exploratory phase of the negotiations to a more formal mode of work. This was achieved by focused discussions on elements for inclusion in the new legal instrument. A decision, highlighting key components of the 2015 outcome was adopted. The ADP is now on its way to producing a negotiation text in time for the 2015 agreement to be reached in Paris. In addition Parties have agreed to start their “homework” - national consultation processes aimed at putting numbers on the table at the Paris 2015 COP.

The third major Warsaw was progress in negotiation of means to scale up ambition in the post 2012 and pre 2020 period.

The United Nations Environment Programme’s 2013 Emission’s Gap Report (on the ‘gap’ between emissions reduction required by 2020 to limit temperature increase to 2 degrees, and emissions reductions pledged by countries at the moment) indicates that developed countries’ overall emissions continue to grow instead of decrease. Even if the current emission reduction pledges are fully implemented, the emission gap in the year 2020 will be 8-12 GtCO2e. This is what makes the decision to accelerate activities under the work-plan on enhancing mitigation ambition up to 2020 extremely important. Parties agreed to identify, implement and scale up actions with high mitigation potential in 2014. This will be done in a coherent manner under the Durban Platform (ADP) workstream II with the objective of closing this 8-12 GtCO2e emissions gap as soon as possible and not later than 2020. 

The year 2014 has been billed as the year of ambition for international climate negotiations. Firstly, the Annex I Parties (developed countries) under the Kyoto Protocol will be revisiting their commitments by April. It is not clear whether developed country Parties under the Convention not covered by the Kyoto Protocol will be doing the same. Secondly, the United Nations Secretary General will be convening a High Level Climate Change Summit on 23 September 2014 to provide political momentum to the climate change talks. The Ministers of Environment/Climate Change will also have a high-level dialogue on ambition during the June 2014 UNFCCC intersessional meeting in Bonn. The Ministers will also have another chance to engage during the pre-COP meeting in Venezuela and the 20th COP in Lima, Peru towards the end of 2014.

The fourth major Warsaw outcome was the finalisation of a very contentious negotiation on an international mechanism to deal with loss and damage caused by climate change.

The key priorities for Africa and other developing countries were an outcome on the establishment of a mechanism on loss and damage due to climate change and finance as part of the urgent implementation programme between now and 2020.  The most recent science as outlined in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report confirms that the severity of climate change impacts now and into the future poses a number of developmental, economic, social and food security challenges to developing countries. While it will be possible for some countries to adapt to climate change to a certain extent, adaptation will take time, and there will increasingly be extreme climatic events such as the recent super-typhoon which tragically struck the Philippines, to which it is impossible to adapt. 

It is on this basis that developing countries have been working towards the establishment of an institutional mechanism to deal with loss and damage resulting from the adverse effects of climate change. In the case of some countries, particularly small island states, losses from climate change will likely be catastrophic, and could involve irreversible damage and the permanent loss of some or of all of their national territory.

I was tasked by the Polish COP President to facilitate negotiations and to find a resolution to this issue of loss and damage. This was a continuation of my role from the Doha Conference last year and I was assisted by Sweden’s Minister of Environment Lena Margareta Ek. 

We facilitated three days of challenging negotiations, and concluded with a landmark outcome with the launching of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with climate change impacts. The decision outlines institutional arrangements, functions and modalities of the Mechanism, which aims to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events. The conclusion of negotiations on this mechanism, with clear linkages to other UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) mechanisms, was very important to South Africa’s expressed goal of achieving a high level of integration of UNFCCC mechanisms to tackle various aspects of the climate change problem.

In conclusion, I will briefly reflect on the way forward next year. It is important that next year’s COP in Peru facilitates a political understanding of the shape of the 2015 agreement in advance, so that technical elaboration of that agreement can begin early in 2015. This is the lesson of Copenhagen outcome in 2009 that realised a political agreement which was needed before being translated into a formal and more technical agreement on the post-2012 implementation system in Cancun and Durban. With proper sequencing Parties can keep to the Durban agreement of reaching a new deal during the 2015 Paris COP 21.

Thank you for your attention.

For media enquiries contact:
Albi Modise at 083 490 2871 

Issued by:
The Department of Environmental Affairs