Tag Archives: COP

Beyond Facilitative Accountability in the Paris Agreement: Three Additional “Accountability Pathways”

By Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen

During the UN Climate Conference of the Parties (COP 23) in Bonn, the fourth workshop of the Facilitative Sharing of Views (FSV) was held as part of the 47th meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). Here, five developing countries (non-Annex I), after submitting reports for technical review, presented their reports on the development of domestic MRV systems and the mitigation policies they have adopted. This was followed by an opportunity for the other states to ask questions.

This peer-to-peer exchange, and its equivalent for Annex I countries in the form of the Multilateral Assessment process, is to provide learning for what the development of the ‘facilitative’ accountability framework for individual countries under the Paris Agreement may look like (see Article 13, paragraph 3). In the same way, the Facilitative Dialogue in 2018 is a kind of practice run for future global stocktaking, aimed at prodding countries to adjust their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) upwards, in order to keep the overall Paris Agreement goals in sight.

In a recently published paper in Climate Policy,  we argue that additional accountability processes, formal and informal, and primarily at domestic levels, have stronger potential to entice compliance from states. We also systematically explore four pathways of accountability.

The first is the global pathway of peer-to-peer accountability among states within the regime itself. The effectiveness of this pathway – with the facilitative tools it will employ – depends considerably on whether compliance with the Paris Agreement (beyond the procedural legal obligations) becomes the norm. Countries want neither to lose face nor to be left behind, and they will work harder to do their best if others they respect do the same. Only a limited number of countries will ignore being internationally named and shamed, and others will still want to show moral leadership.

The second pathway goes through national institutions and, for EU member states, also via European institutions, such as the parliament, inspection agencies and other legal bodies. They can play a key role in formulating the national contributions to reduce CO2 emissions and to develop effective policies and legislation.

The third pathway is enacted through the public such as individuals, civil society organisations and scientists. At the COPs, on international forums and over social media, many civil society organisations assess countries on their efforts and alert them to their responsibilities. The power of this type of ‘accountholding’ from these non-state actors depends on how well they can perform their own research, set up campaigns and win the support of policymakers. It is also essential that traditional media report on these activities and that governments give citizens plenty of scope to manoeuvre and rebel.

Finally, executive governments might hold themselves to account, for example through their own internal systems of monitoring and evaluation of policy effectiveness and efficiency. The functioning of this pathway will largely depend on the kind of administrative traditions and cultures existing in each state, and what provisions for this they include in their implementing climate laws and policies.

These four pathways invariably interact in various ways and form an intricate web of ‘watchdogs’, arenas and mechanisms through which accountability for state obligations under the Paris Agreement can be enacted (both legal and moral). We see plenty of potential for comparative research of these pathways and the web they weave, which can provide the foundation for identifying ways to improve both their effectiveness and legitimacy.

About the Author

 

Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen is Assistant professor in the Public Administration and Policy Group at Wageningen University and Member of Climate Strategies.

 

Note: this blog draws partly on a blog posted on the Wageningen University website. The original post was part of the University’s efforts to share research with the public via advertisements accompanied by a blog. Further information at: http://www.wur.nl/en/In-the-spotlight/show-in-the-spotlight/More-roads-lead-to-compliance-with-the-Paris-Climate-Agreement.htm

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Was Blocking SBI in Bonn Justified?

By Anna Korppoo

I was asked after Bonn whether Russia, Ukraine and Belarus blocking SBI seemed justified. Blocking SBI (or any other negotiation stream) is of course a radical undertaking as it wastes the scarce negotiation time the UN process has per year. However, this time the action of these three countries, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, cannot be labeled as a simple protest only, as they are raising an important substantive point.

Adding an agenda item on procedural and legal issues related to decision-making gained importance in the eyes of these countries in Doha in December, when the amendment to the rules of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was adopted against their agreement. This further stretched the vague concept of consensus decision-making. Even though consensus does not require unanimity amongst all countries, this time the view of a group of countries was ignored on a legally binding substance matter that applied to the protesting countries (redefinition of their commitments for the second commitment period). Even though they can decide not to ratify the second commitment period, they still felt strongly that this was unprecedented.

So perhaps we should rather be asking whether the request of these countries to add an agenda item (or originally sub-item 17a, which had been recorded in the agenda as a separate item 19) to ensure that the matter is discussed, was unreasonable. And why it raised opposition amongst others, as the concern on the vagueness of the procedural rules is sympathized by many other parties – although all this sympathy may not always be spelled out in the negotiation room.

It could be argued that an additional agenda item could cause at least two kinds of procedural trouble in the future. First, also other countries could start suggesting agenda items, which would slow down the process, and make it difficult to judge which item could be legitimate to add, and which one not. Second, and maybe more important, is the difficulty of the task such an agenda item would establish. The consensus rule is not easy to define further due to its nature. The adoption of the Rules of Procedure for the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC have so far failed, and thus, COPs have been run on draft Rules of Procedure for almost two decades. This means that for instance voting rules do not exist, and thus, ‘consensus’ is used in decision-making. As a result, the agenda item could possibly delay the negotiation process. The counter-argument of these three countries is that it would be problematic to negotiate a new agreement without clarity about the procedural rules. Further, some more political opposition to a new agenda item came from countries which have unsuccessfully suggested agenda items in the past (most importantly: India on intellectual property rights).

The compromise suggested by the Chair would not have ensured that the issue raised had got sufficient attention in the future, as its aim was not to record the item in the actual agenda, but in other documents. Such recording could have easily been sidelined by parties willing to do so. Thus it is understandable that these compromises were turned down.

Finally, all this takes place in a setting which has got used to thinking that these countries do not take climate protection very seriously. Their domestic measures are vague, and their pledges for the Kyoto second commitment period were unrealistically loose, allowing them more or less unlimited headroom for emission growth. Russia has withdrawn from the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in terms of legally binding commitments. Also, especially Russia has demonstrated its ability and willingness to block the process in the past in order to gain political or economic benefits, and even though the substance matter is this time legitimate, it must be difficult for other parties to overcome this past, and see the protest as a separate event. Also the way the debate has evolved due to Russia’s rhetoric has perhaps strengthened this impression, and wider political motivations behind the argument from this camp certainly come to mind.

For more on Russia’s participation in the climate negotiations, see Anna’s article on Doha in Climate Policy. (vol.13, no.3).