COP 25 held in Madrid (under Chilean Presidency) left many key issues unresolved. There was an unprecedented use of “Rule 16,” which is invoked when parties cannot reach agreement, even on a procedural conclusion, and the issue is then automatically added to the agenda of the next meeting. When Rule 16 is used, all documents developed or any changes to negotiation texts made at the meeting are set aside.
The outcomes at COP 25 signal that trust among parties is at an all-time low.
Below is a list of issues that were not completed or progressed at COP 25. They are organized to provide some context. Some issues always end with no agreement. But for other issues, including several related to the Paris Agreement, a lack of agreement is new.
This list does not include other issues where parties agreed to procedural conclusions, which will allow for future work based on the progress achieved during the COP. Article 6 (market and non-market mechanisms) is notable among these items. Parties remain apart on many aspects of the market mechanism’s design and how to trade credits. They agreed to forward all of the alternate negotiation texts developed during COP 25. They have to sort through these texts, agree on what to include in a single negotiation text, then find compromises on the rules contained therein.
These issues are integral to the Paris Agreement. They enhance common interpretation and implementation of its provisions.
Common time frames: This agenda item is crucial to the ambition mechanism. Negotiations are aimed at bringing all nationally determined contributions (NDCs) into sync; they would have the same length. All parties would therefore submit new NDCs at the same time, enhancing trust and leading to all countries raising ambition in step. In Madrid, parties put forward new options, which others disagreed with even including. While agreement is not due on this item until the next round of NDCs, it many countries have called for a rapid conclusion to this issue, including at COP26 (the EU, Least Developed Countries, Alliance of Small Island States, Latin American countries in the AILAC coalition, Brazil). Countries in the Like-minded Developing Countries (LMDCs, including China, India, Saudi Arabia) prefer the allowing greater flexibility for countries to choose the length of their NDCs.
Membership of the Adaptation Fund Board: Parties are debating how, or whether, to revise the membership of the Board. This matters for several reasons. First, developing countries currently have a majority, which shows the importance of “getting adaptation right” for these countries, and tailoring funding to their needs. Second, this Fund serves the Paris Agreement and the Convention. The withdrawl of the US from the Agreement (but not the Convention) complicates its involvement. Third, this Fund will benefit from a share of proceeds from the Article 6 market mechanism. It is therefore a useful bargaining chip to those wishing to exert more influence in those market-related negotiations.
Enhanced Transparency Framework: On the agenda, this is called Methodological Issues Related to the Paris Agreement. The negotiations are to develop common reporting formats for all parties, while also providing for flexibility for developing countries because reporting can be onerous and time intensive (and, many developing countries have few emissions to report). Progress had moved forward on some of the tables. In the end, this issue ended with no agreement because the African Group and the Like-minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) coalition (that includes China, India and Saudi Arabia) argued that this issue should not move ahead because developed countries were blocking issues of importance to developing countries, namely finance and adaptation.
Public Registries under the Paris Agreement: NDCs are to be made available online in a public registry. LMDCs and the Arab Group want two separate registries, one for adaptation and one for mitigation. There was some resolution in 2018, and a prototype developed. In Madrid, countries could not agree to the prototype. This means there is no agreed portal for countries to submit their revised NDCs.
These issues are related to the implementation of the Convention. Disagreement on these issues shows that deep divisions remain, even at the level of the constituted bodies that undertake specific work to implement mandates from the COP.
These issues have not had substantive conclusions or agreements for several years.