19-20 April, 2015 – Washington, D.C.
Meeting of the Major Economies Forum
April 19-20, 2015
The Major Economies Forum met in Washington, D.C. on April 19-20, 2015. The meeting was chaired by U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Caroline Atkinson and attended by ministers and officials from 15 of the major economies, with ministers and officials from the Maldives, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Marshall Islands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Switzerland, and Turkey also participating in the session. The co-Chairs of the ADP attended, as did representatives of the UNFCCC Secretariat and the UN Secretary-General’s Office.
Opening remarks were delivered by Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Secretary Kerry stressed the urgency of addressing climate change; its potentially serious impacts on national and global security; the need to work pragmatically towards an agreement in Paris; and the tremendous opportunities that the clean energy market presents. Foreign Minister Fabius underscored the high expectations that the world has for Paris, and the imperative to work towards solutions. He also sketched out the four pillars needed for success in Paris: an agreement; ambitious Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs); finance and technology; and the role and contributions of non-state actors (the “Lima- Paris Action Agenda”).
Ambassador Jorge Voto-Bernales of Peru provided a summary of the recent Lima informal meeting, noting the constructive nature of the discussions, which focused on issues including: the components of the outcome that Parties envision from Paris, including an agreement and supporting COP decisions; treatment of adaptation and loss and damage, which are of particular concern to the developing world; and the process towards Paris.
The Chair then led a tour de table on INDCs. Those Participants who have already submitted their INDCs, including Mexico, Switzerland, the EU, Norway, and the United States, provided short overviews of their contributions. Other Participants discussed their ongoing INDC preparations, with some describing extensive domestic consultation processes, and many providing timeframes for submissions. Many Participants noted the importance of ambitious, timely, and transparent INDCs from the major economies.
Participants discussed the “accountability” aspects of the Paris agreement, with many noting the need for accountability to build confidence, promote ambition, and promote participation by all.
- In terms of the clarity of nationally determined contributions, there was significant support for importing into the Paris agreement the content of paragraph 14 of the Lima decision, which sets out the types of information relevant to ensuring transparency, clarity and understanding of INDCs;
- Participants discussed whether the provision of such information should be optional or required under the Paris agreement, and whether the information in paragraph 14 is sufficient, or could be further built upon, including through COP decisions;
- A number of Participants cited the need for contributions to have an unconditional aspect to enable Parties to understand what countries are prepared to do on their own, thereby ensuring that Parties are “accountable” under the new agreement. There was also general agreement that Parties could include conditional components, setting out what more could be done with international cooperation;
- It was suggested that the agreement include a Workstream II equivalent to address conditional components through cooperative action;
- Participants generally saw the need for early agreement on rules in relation to accounting, including in relation to transparency, markets, and land use, with many Participants expressing support for a common set of rules. Further discussion will be required to converge on the nature of the rules, the extent to which they should be required versus recommended, and the extent to which they need to be decided in Paris or after Paris;
- Many Participants considered it essential for the Paris agreement to call upon Parties to report on their progress in implementing their contributions, and for that progress to be reviewed. Parties were supportive of a facilitative approach, and avoiding any adversarial or punitive processes. Some noted that we should build upon existing review processes;
- Different views were expressed on whether targets should or should not be legally binding. Some Participants emphasized the importance of “legal bindingness” in providing certainty. Others supported using binding accountability features to meet concerns for certainty, noting the importance of not adopting an approach that would reduce participation in the agreement.
Participants expressed much support for reflecting differentiation in the right way. Some Participants cited concerns about equity, which they consider could be addressed by preserving the Convention’s annex-based differentiation. For other Participants, annex-based differentiation is outdated and ineffective. There was discussion of the need for confidence- building between developed and developing countries, including in terms of meeting existing commitments and of acknowledging changing economic and emission realities. In terms of reflecting differentiation, there was considerable agreement that LDCs and SIDs in particular need flexibility, as well as a widespread expression of support for reflecting differentiation in different ways in specific aspects of the Paris agreement:
- With respect to mitigation, many considered that the self- differentiation inherent in the “nationally determined” approach is the appropriate approach, particularly if a “no backsliding” expectation is included. A couple Participants saw a difference between “nationally determined and “self-differentiation.” Some Participants noted that on its own national determination is insufficient, while others suggested that it be supplemented by an expression of progression/direction of travel, dynamic cycles, and a carve-out for LDCs. It was also noted that national determination is supplemented de facto by “expectations,” and that these do not actually need to be written down;
- There was general agreement that adaptation, with the exception of support for adaptation, is naturally differentiated based on Parties’ varying national circumstances in respect to adaptation planning and building resilience;
- On MRV, some Participants supported a common system with flexibility for different Parties, and others supported leaving the current system in place.
- There was a vibrant discussion concerning support. Participants agreed that developing countries are on the receiving end of support. Some noted that the priority should be on the poor and most vulnerable. On the donor end, many support an expanded base while others consider that the responsibility remains solely on Annex II/developed country Parties.
With respect to adaptation, all Participants noted the importance of adaptation and the need to raise its profile in the agreement.
- Some Participants expressed the view that the profile of adaptation could be raised by including universal commitments in the agreement, including in relation to national adaptation planning;
- A couple Participants suggested “cycles” for adaptation, intended to bring leadership attention to the issue; for others, adaptation is a key feature of the INDCs and thus would be subject to some regular form of reporting and review. At least one Participant questioned the utility of adaptation cycles;
- Another suggestion was for a commitment to cooperate on adaptation, given that adaptation efforts are not always only local but may need to be addressed at the regional and sub-regional levels;
- There was general agreement that mitigation and adaptation are linked, but some expressed strong concern about monetizing that link. Other Participants acknowledged that the logic of attribution would be flawed, and suggested that a global goal would be one way to conceptualize the linkage.
Participants also engaged in a discussion about loss and damage to the adverse impacts of climate change.
- Participants noted the importance of the issue, especially for islands and other particularly vulnerable countries;
- Many also noted the importance of operationalizing the Warsaw Mechanism, and there was general agreement that the Mechanism would need to continue, since the issue of loss and damage was not one that would go away;
- A number of Participants noted that the issue was not about compensation or liability, and a couple Participants mentioned that the issue could be framed as one of “solidarity”;
- There were different views expressed on how Paris can address loss and damage. Some suggested continuing to advance the issue under the Convention. Others seek to include it in the new agreement.
Participants engaged in a robust discussion concerning “ambition:”
- There was much support for the notion that one cannot judge the ambition level of the Paris outcome solely based on the INDCs that are submitted in 2015 that relate to the 2025 or 2030 timeframe;
- There was general agreement regarding the need for a long-lasting regime and for regular, harmonized updating of contributions (“cycles”), with some stressing a “forward progression” component and others stressing need for the updating to be informed by science; but there were some different views on whether the cycles should be of 5 or 10 years;
- A couple Participants also mentioned the importance of cycles and ambition in relation not only to mitigation but to adaptation as well as to support;
- Some Participants expressed concern about any kind of “assessment” or top-down review after future “INDCs” are submitted. Others noted that perhaps reviews of overall implementation of the agreement should be “de-coupled” from the period immediately after the submission of INDCs;
- Participants discussed the need for a long-term goal, with some noting that this would send a signal to economic and other actors and help to drive technological change;
- There was some discussion about the idea of countries agreeing to develop, within the next few years, strategies or scenarios for deep decarbonization by 2050, and capturing these in written format, although there was a caution that having to prepare such papers could be divisive;
- Participants generally welcomed the Lima-Paris Action Agenda plan to encourage both pre-2020 action and engagement by businesses and sub-national entities, including through their bringing forward pledges for climate action. A couple Participants noted, however, that such actions should support and reinforce, but not supplant, government action;
- A number of Participants expressed the view that the Paris package should recognize the important role of non-state actors.
The session concluded with remarks by Peru and France, the current Presidency and the incoming Presidency, respectively, on the “Road to Paris.” France noted the importance of capturing the progress made in sessions, especially points of convergence. Participants emphasized the short time remaining before Paris and the need to make the most of both the informal meetings and the remaining negotiating sessions, while noting that informal meetings should not overshadow the ADP process. Suggestions for using the remaining limited time effectively included focusing intensively on the major contentious issues and on socializing solutions.