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Background Guide to Negotiations

The first commitment period of the current agreement for managing international climate change – the Kyoto Protocol – runs out in 2012. This year, the world will come together in Copenhagen to agree what is to be done beyond this. In content, there are many policy issues - from developed country targets, to technology transfer to finance initiatives - that will keep the negotiations complex. But what about the process? Getting nearly 200 countries coordinated around the process of making an agreement itself is arguably equally as complicated. This guide is a brief introduction into the world of negotiations, and highlights the negotiation milestones along the road to Copenhagen.




The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an intergovernmental treaty developed to address climate change. Parties to the Convention, ie, those countries that have signed up to the UNFCCC meet annually, at the Conference of the Parties (COP), which is the highest level of decision making under the Convention. In 2007 at COP13 in Bali, Parties agreed to shape an ambitious and effective international response to climate change, to be agreed at COP15 in Copenhagen, December 2009. The deal that’s agreed this December will be built on the existing UN Convention and the Kyoto Protocol to provide an international agreement to deliver global action at a scale and urgency proportionate to the threat. Copenhagen is known as COP15 as it is the 15th time the Conference of Parties has met.


The UNFCCC is ratified by 192 countries – representing near universal membership – it commands near universal support and its legitimacy is unquestioned.


The Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Bali in December 2007 saw developed and developing countries sign up to a Roadmap for negotiations on a climate treaty to take the world beyond the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol - due to end in 2012. The Roadmap set out a clear and comprehensive agenda for negotiations and a timetable ending in 2009.


Negotiations through Working Groups


Sitting beneath the ministerial-level COP are officials' level ad hoc working groups.


At the officials' level, negotiations under UNFCCC progress through 2009 under two parallel negotiating tracks the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA).


The AWG-LCA emerged from the 'Bali Action Plan', which was agreed in Bali 2007, at COP13. The Bali Action Plan is a two year roadmap of the key topics and a comprehensive agenda for what would be discussed in the lead up to, and agreed at, Copenhagen. The key topics the Bali Action Plan identifies for discussion include mitigation, finance, adaptation, technology and the shared vision of Parties for an agreement. This is widely seen as a broader content area that the Kyoto protocol, which is focused on emission reductions from developed countries.


The Working Groups are to present their results in Copenhagen to the COP, which is the ultimate decision making body. Throughout 2009, the Working Groups are meeting at the following negotiating rounds:


  • Bonn 29 March – 8 April

This is the first negotiating session in this critical year that culminates in Copenhagen. The two-track Working Groups  (AWG-LCA and AWG-KP) have spent 2008 discussing key policy areas. This is the first UNFCCC conference following agreement in Poznan (COP 14) to move to 'full negotiation mode' but major breakthroughs or great leaps forward are not likely. What is expected is a much better sense of both where we already have a solid foundation for agreement, but also where input is still lacking for a workable agreed outcome in Copenhagen.


  • Bonn 1 – 12 June.

This is the first time that negotiating text for Copenhagen is tabled and discussed. The publication of the AWG-LCA Chair text is a milestone marking a new phase of negotiations, and the first time text is on the table for Parties to start drafting towards an agreed outcome. The text is an attempt to summarise all the ideas put forward by Working Groups since Bali COP13.

This first session will not produce anything like the final document – the following months of negotiations and consensus building will see the text alter significantly. However, it represents the starting point of Parties deciding what should be in and out of the text – and thus the ultimate deal. The text is 'live text' and begins at 56 pages, ending two weeks' later at 200 pages.


  • Bonn 10 – 14 August (informal)

An informal consultation of the two working groups (AWG-KP and AWG-LCA). With just over 100 days until Copenhagen, negotiators' job will be to focus the negotiating text and get it to a manageable size. Going into this negotiations round in Bonn, all of the text is square bracketed, meaning nothing is agreed and everything is still in play.

Negotiating blocs will spend time coordinating their positions outside the plenary meetings. And outside main negotiating sessions, the corridors are hubs of activity where countries exchange views on proposals and signal where compromise and consensus may be possible.  


  • Bangkok 28 September – 9 October

These 10 negotiating days mark the penultimate negotiating session before Copenhagen, with a 5 day session in November in Barcelona being the last time that negotiators will meet before gathering in Copenhagen. There are, in effect, just 15 formal negotiating days until COP15 begins in Copenhagen.

Negotiations closely follows on from of the last session in August in Bonn. In Bangkok, negotiators aim to consolidate and shorten negotiating texts, which begin as complicated and lengthy and vast amounts in un-agreed square brackets – meaning little is agreed and everything is still in play.


  • Barcelona 2 – 6 November

The last official negotiating round before Copenhagen, aiming for consolidation of text – currently 200 pages – into a manageable, workable size for Copenhagen.

Throughout the five negotiating days, the AWG-LCA is continues focusing on the key elements of the Bali Action Plan through six contact groups on: adaptation, capacity building, finance, mitigation, shared vision, and technology.

The AWG-KP is expected to work through four contact groups focusing on: Annex I parties' emission reductions in the post-2012 period; other issues, including the flexibility mechanisms and land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF); potential consequences; and legal matters.


  • Copenhagen December 7-18.

Meeting of the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15), under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen.

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