With the world now on the verge of crossing the thresholds for the Paris Agreement to enter into force, it’s time to start considering what comes next.
The Agreement will enter into force 30 days after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.
Yesterday India became the 62nd country to join when it deposited its instrument of ratification, exactly a year after it submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution. With more than 55 Parties having joined already, we are now a mere 3.11 percent away from also meeting the emissions threshold for entry into force. Based on the decision of the European Council on September 30, the European Union (EU) will also join this week, along with some of its member states (e.g. Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Portugal and Malta). Canada is also expected to formally join this week. If all these steps come to pass, the emission threshold will certainly be crossed this week.
October 7: Key Date for Entry into Force
After entry into force, the Paris Agreement provides that the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (known as CMA1) will be held in conjunction with the next Conference of the Parties (COP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
That makes October 7 the magic date for crossing the threshold. If the threshold is crossed by then, entry into force will happen 30 days later, and CMA1 will be held in conjunction with COP22, which begins November 7.
Why is CMA1 Significant?
Once the Paris Agreement enters into force, the CMA – made up only of countries (and the EU) that have joined – becomes the Agreement’s governing body, with authority over all substantive, procedural, administrative and operational matters. As decisions about how to implement the Agreement and adopt its rules – including transparency rules and processes for the global stocktake and raising ambition – get placed on the table in coming months and years, it will be critical to address the process for making those decisions. CMA1 will be a key moment not only in starting to make those decisions, but also to determine the process for doing so.
Countries that have not yet joined the Paris Agreement can attend and participate in the CMA, but in principle only as observers. Observers can actively participate in discussions by making interventions and submissions but do not have decision-making power. However, there are discussions underway about how to make the process as inclusive as possible and enable countries that are not yet Parties to have a clear role in the process.
This is essential because CMA1 is required by the Paris Agreement to make a number of decisions necessary to fully implement the Paris Agreement. This includes the work program established at COP21 to put in place various modalities, procedures and guidelines (MPGs) for the transparency regime, the information required in communicating NDCs, and the processes to take stock and raise ambition, facilitate implementation and promote compliance. The CMA1 must also make decisions on procedural, institutional and administrative matters, including how and when to complete the work program for the MPGs.
Given the unexpected speed of entry into force, these important technical decisions require adequate time to be negotiated, including determining when the new regime and associated rules will supersede the existing ones.
Moreover, all countries that intend to join the Paris Agreement should have the opportunity to do so before key final decisions are made. However, many countries will be unable to complete their domestic approval processes this year. For further information on what these processes are, refer to the Domestic Approval Map within WRI’s Paris Agreement Tracker.
How Can Parties Ensure Inclusivity?
Since COP21 last December, Parties have been discussing how to ensure that CMA1 can adopt all of the necessary key decisions without overly rushing the negotiations and keeping the process inclusive.
There are three main options to address these concerns if CMA1 is convened this year or next:
Conclude all work on the MPGs within the two week period of COP22 this year;
Decide on some issues at CMA1 this year and do the rest at future sessions; and
Keep CMA1 technically open in a process known as suspension, so that CMA1 would extend over one or more future COPs. As a practical matter, this means CMA1 would open in Marrakech, but would not formally close at the end of the session.
The first two options are less politically and technically viable. Parties are converging around the concept of suspending the closure of CMA1 until such time as the MPGs are fully developed and all countries had had a reasonable opportunity to join. This would give all Parties that wish to join the opportunity to do so and therefore be part of the final decision making and adoption of the MPGs in accordance with the timelines established at COP21.
There are precedents. Suspended sessions have happened before under the UNFCCC, at COP6 in The Hague in 2000 and in the preparatory meetings in advance of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
What Decisions Need to be Taken at COP22 to Manage This Process?
If CMA1 happens this year, there will be some technical and procedural matters to resolve.
To ensure an efficient, robust and inclusive process, the CMA1 at COP22 will need to decide on three key issues:
1. When to suspend CMA1?
CMA1 could open and be suspended immediately without making any substantive decisions (other than to determine a timeframe for suspension and institutional responsibility as discussed further below). It could then re-open next year at COP23 and immediately suspend again or skip COP23 and re-open at COP24. This would allow all Parties to fully participate.
CMA1 could open and begin some substantive work before suspending at the end of COP22, then continue this limited substantive work at COP23. This should be accompanied by an explicit decision by the CMA regarding the ability of observers to participate fully.
2. When would the suspension period end?
Keep CMA1 open after COP22 ends, and re-open it at each succeeding COP, with a new decision made about whether to continue suspension based on progress made. This risks an open-ended CMA1 with little pressure on Parties to finalize MPGs and join the Paris Agreement.
Parties agree an end point to ensure there is still adequate pressure to both join the Paris Agreement and finalize negotiations of the MPGs in a timely manner, avoiding uncertainty or confusion about when they would conclude. A logical end point is 2018 (COP24), which is in line with the timeline for two key decisions points identified in the COP decision at Paris on rules for the transparency framework and on accounting for finance.
3. Which body should be responsible for undertaking the work program?
The COP created an ad hoc working group (the APA) and charged it, along with the existing UNFCCC subsidiary bodies (SBSTA and SBI), to complete the development of the MPGs and work program to implement the Paris Agreement. The current mandate of the working group (APA) established by the COP to prepare for entry into force and CMA1 only extends until CMA1 is convened (para 8 of decision 1/CP.21).
As the governing body, the CMA must determine responsibility going forward.
CMA could continue the preparatory work currently assigned to the APA under its own authority, with the assistance of the UNFCCC subsidiary bodies. That would mean only a limited number of Parties (those that have joined the Paris Agreement) could participate in decision-making; others would be observers.
CMA could ask the COP to continue work under the current arrangements, meaning the APA along with subsidiary and constituted bodies under their current agendas and work plan. That would ensure all Parties could continue to participate, as it would be under the COP.
These are important, and sometimes complex, decisions, but it is also a good thing to have to make them now. Holding CMA1 less than one year after the adoption of the Agreement itself is not only symbolic but also largely unprecedented for international agreements of this importance. The commitment shown by countries in driving rapid entry into force demonstrates the huge political will to tackle climate change. That political will must now be applied towards implementing the Paris Agreement in the most robust, inclusive, and ambitious way possible.