2013 Warsaw Climate Change Conference: International negotiations seek to raise ambition to combat climate change

by DLA Piper
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International climate change negotiations are now under way at the 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw,  aiming to lay the groundwork for a new, universal climate change agreement scheduled for adoption in 2015 and to raise ambition to combat climate change before 2020.

DLA Piper lawyers from Europe and the United States are participating in the negotiations, representing the country of Georgia at the climate conference. This is their on-the-ground report about the ongoing talks.

BACKGROUND

In 1992, 192 nations signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the UNFCCC) and pledged to consider cooperative measures to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change and to cope with its inevitable impacts. Five years later, the parties to the UNFCCC adopted the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, which legally bound developed nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5 percent from 1990 levels by 2008-2012. Today, there are 195 parties to the UNFCCC and 192 signatories to the Kyoto Protocol.

At the 2012 Doha Climate Change Conference, the parties, most notably, agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol until December 31, 2020.i In addition, the parties adopted a series of decisions, called the Doha Climate Gateway, advancing measures to:

  • transfer technology and financial assistance to developing nations
  • recommit developed nations to mobilize US$100 billion annually by 2020 to provide climate finance support to developing nations for both adaptation and mitigation measures and
  • complete the development of a registry to record mitigation actions by developing countries seeking recognition for their commitments or matching financial support, among other things.


The parties also set out a timetable to adopt a universal climate agreement to be completed by 2015 and implemented by 2020. ii

2013 WARSAW CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE

The 2013 Climate Change Conference began on 11 November and will conclude on 22 November 2013, and includes the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 19) and the 9th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties  to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 9). Building on the incremental progress of the Doha Conference, the Warsaw Conference hopes to deliver on several key issues:

  • Continue to lay the groundwork for a universal climate agreement to be completed by 2015 in Paris and implemented by 2020.  Such an agreement is anticipated to include all parties to the Convention and is largely driven by national mitigation actions, in accordance with the parties’ common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities
  • Take action to scale up countries’ commitments prior to 2020, including additional action to mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and increasing financial assistance to the developing world for climate mitigation and adaptation activities
  • Clarify financial commitments and institutions enabling the parties to move towards low-carbon development
  • Continue thus-far-unsuccessful efforts to reform carbon market mechanisms (such as the Clean Development Mechanism), while establishing a New Market Mechanism and framework for various approaches to facilitate enhanced climate mitigation and better integrate global carbon markets and
  • Launch a mechanism to compensate or help countries cope with loss and damage associated with climate change.  

In addition, the Warsaw Conference also seeks to engage the parties on issues surrounding the new institutional support mechanisms for developing nations in finance, adaptation and technology agreed upon at the 2010 Cancun Climate Change Conference  - namely the Green Climate Fund, the Technology Mechanism, and the Adaptation Committee. iii  In particular, the parties hope to quickly capitalize and operationalize the Green Climate Fund, the likely primary institution for disbursement of international climate finance.

DLA PIPER REPRESENTATION

DLA Piper lawyers from Europe and the United States are advising the country of Georgia, as in previous years, on international climate change negotiations before the UNFCCC.  DLA Piper lawyers briefed the country on UNFCCC developments prior to COP 19, are continuously monitoring developments throughout the two-week conference, drafting submissions to the UNFCCC and negotiating alongside the client.  The support provided is focused on issues surrounding the Green Climate Fund, climate finance, Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS), national communications, and possible developing country commitments.

The Georgian delegation has been joined on the ground by a cross-border team of lawyers from DLA Piper.  The team is led by Alexander Sarac (London/East Africa), who has been advising the Georgian government on energy and climate change since 2008, and Andrew Schatz (Baltimore), who is assisting Mr. Sarac and counseling the Georgian delegation on the ground in Warsaw.  The team is supported by Andreas Gunst – a new energy partner in our Vienna office – who advises on European and international energy projects and regulations.  Lawyers in our United Kingdom offices (Andrew Smith, Richard Buxton, Alice Puritz) and United States offices (Michelle Anderson, Justin Brown, Catherine Campbell, Katrina Hochstetler, Jesse Medlong, Tom Prevas) are also providing vital support to the team in Warsaw.

COMING SOON

We will be providing a more thorough report about the outcome of the conference shortly after it concludes.  Please watch for it.

i Decision 1/CMP.8, available here.

ii The Doha Climate Gateway, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Nov. 18, 2013), available here.

iii Press Release, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 19/CMP 9 begins with calls for governments to harness strong groundswell of action on climate change (Nov. 11, 2013), available here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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