President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement provoked a powerful response in support of the Agreement, galvanizing the many countries and stakeholders that are determined to advance and even intensify efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and boost resilience to climate impacts.

To ensure that commitments turn into concrete action and that countries and other stakeholders regularly strengthen their ambition over time, the Paris Agreement provides for progress assessments every five years. That process begins with the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue (FD 2018).  A robust, effective process in 2018 can harness the remarkable support for the agreement and its objectives and be a springboard for increased action. The May UNFCCC negotiations in Bonn showed that this aim for the FD 2018 is within reach.

What Is FD 2018?

In Paris, Parties agreed on 2018 as the first time they would take stock of their efforts, and use that they would use the assessment to inform more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2020. The FD 2018 will be followed with a global stocktake every five years, starting in 2023.

The FD 2018 is intended to take stock of the collective efforts toward the Agreement’s long-term goal on mitigation and to inform the preparation of NDCs. The COP decision referred to the IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways. This report will be delivered in 2018 and can inform the Facilitative Dialogue.

The FD 2018 can provide a crucial opportunity to:

  1. take stock of where we are in our journey towards limiting global temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees C;
  2. demonstrate that the transformation to a decarbonized, climate-resilient world is underway;
  3. show that we can go further, faster to prevent irreversible, dangerous climate change, based on technological advances, additional action by cities, businesses and other non-state actors, and a better understanding of how climate action can contribute to economic growth and prosperity, including the Sustainable Development Goals; and
  4. reaffirm countries’ collective commitment to communicate new or more ambitious NDCs by 2020 that reduce the emissions gap and get us closer to achieving the Paris Agreement goals.

What Progress Has Been Made on Creating the FD 2018 Process?

At COP22 in December 2016, the Moroccan and Fijian governments – in their roles as current and upcoming COP presidencies – were asked to undertake inclusive and transparent consultations with Parties on the FD 2018 and to jointly report back at COP23. At that time, only a few countries saw the FD 2018 as a way to help close the gap between where emissions are currently headed and where they need to be, but Parties have since recognized the importance of this process.

During the Bonn intercessional, the two COP presidencies consulted with Parties and a wider group of stakeholders. There was broad convergence that the FD 2018 should be a process with technical and political components over the course of 2018, rather than a one-off event at COP24. Many Parties also wanted to explore how multilateral institutions, as well as non-state actors like cities and businesses, can inform the Facilitative Dialogue. Negotiators also shared ideas on the format of the FD 2018 aimed at making it more interactive and solution-driven.

What’s Next?

Leaving Bonn, all Parties expressed their commitment to work constructively on solutions and innovative ideas to ensure the FD 2018 is as robust, inclusive and impactful as possible.

Over the coming months, Parties will need to carefully think about how to structure the FD 2018 so that it delivers a strong political signal of Parties’ collective commitment to enhancing their NDCs by 2020. A clear roadmap should emerge at COP23 this year to guide the FD 2018 process.  Important outstanding decision points include:

  • How to complement the findings of the IPCC special report on 1.5 degrees C with solution-oriented inputs that highlight advances in the real economy (e.g. progress from business, states and civil society). These inputs could come from multilateral institutions such as UNEP, IRENA, the World Bank, ILO and other sources. Parties will need to develop innovative ways of ensuring that climate action already underway and opportunities for enhanced action are highlighted and communicated to ministers before and during COP24.
  • How and when to discuss the findings of the IPCC special report ahead of COP24. The report is likely to be released in late September 2018, leaving little time for consideration and dissemination before COP24 in December. Suggestions on when to discuss this report include one or more of the following:
    • An event during the UN General Assembly in September 2018 to discuss the report; this could be an effective way to ensure ministerial buy-in ahead of COP24.
    • An additional event on the margins of a pre-COP ministerial meeting.
    • Briefings by the IPCC earlier in the year as part of the technical phase of the FD2018 to be held in conjunction with the Bonn intersessional negotiations in May 2018.
  • How to structure the political component of the FD 2018 at COP24 as  an alternative to the usual series of ministerial statements. Parties will need innovative approaches to deliver an interactive and action oriented political process designed to send the necessary signals to intensify action by 2020.
  • How to incorporate the efforts of non-state actors in the FD 2018, while still providing the space ministers need to make their decision. Ideas brought forth so far include:
    • Ensure that non-state actors can make submissions and provide information relevant to the FD 2018 process throughout the year;
    • Enable non-state actors to participate in the dialogue and acknowledge that they  can be key messengers to connect the UNFCCC negotiations with  economic events; and
    • Leverage major 2018 events involving non-state actors, particularly the Global Climate Action Summit in California, and the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) Summit in fall 2018.

Moving Forward

The FD 2018 is more salient than ever, but the process must not become overly burdensome, since negotiators will also need to devote their energies to establishing the Paris Agreement rulebook. For some delegations, agreeing on the rules of the game is paramount, because failure to adopt them in 2018 could jeopardize countries’ ability to hold an effective FD 2018 and to commit to enhanced NDCs by 2020.

Yet in the current context, it is vital to see the FD 2018 as the springboard to a larger Arc of Ambition towards global transformation. The journey will continue in 2023, with the global stocktake, followed by submission of a new round of NDCs by 2025. The Arc then stretches to 2030 – the target year for delivering on most of the initial NDCs and for the Sustainable Development Goals – and ultimately culminates in a decarbonized, climate-resilient economy in 2050.