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COP21: draft text agreed, but contentious issues remain

15 November 2015

From 19 to 23 October, countries met in Bonn for the last negotiations before next month’s climate summit in Paris, where a new global agreement to address climate change is expected. The week got off to a rocky start: the G-77 and China announced their displeasure with the draft negotiating text for Paris. With the incoming French COP Presidency agreeing that the text was ‘unbalanced’, the G-77 insisted on reinserting the issues of concern for the developing world, which had been largely excluded from the draft negotiating text.

The meeting closed with what the developing world applauded as a balanced text, to be the basis for negotiating a new global climate agreement in Paris. Many countries, however, condemned the exclusion of civil society from the talks, requesting that the negotiations remain open to observers in Paris.

The critical question for Paris now is: how will countries reach agreement and overcome their differences, such as finance and differentiation of national obligations between countries at varying stages of development and with different responsibility for contributing greenhouse gas emissions.

Disagreement also surrounds any reference to land-use. Several developing countries, including Brazil and Argentina, do not want any reference to land, fearful that this would affect food production. On the other hand, civil society groups, supported by the EU and Norway, call for a comprehensive reference to food security, which is supported by the Philippines. The Philippines also included language on “the need to respect, promote and fulfil human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples”, and the “integrity of natural ecosystems” among the objectives of the agreement.

Key elements related to forests include whether to include or exclude reference to land use, land use change and forestry, REDD+ and internationally traded mitigation outcomes (i.e., carbon markets) and whether to adopt accounting rules specific to land-use and carbon markets. The only reference to land tenure is in the draft decision (as opposed to the core agreement), which includes language on “respecting customary and sustainable land use systems and respecting the security of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ land tenure”.

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