The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Supriya Tandan

Working toward climate change governance

November 10 2016 10 November 2016

Monday marked the start of COP22 in Marrakech, where climate negotiators meet for a fortnight to transform political climate commitments into definitive action. Following the ratification of the Paris Agreement by 55 countries, representing 55 percent of global emissions, the Paris Agreement became a fully binding legal treaty, albeit one lacking any enforcement mechanisms. It provides goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions but not, as many observers have noted, the methodology by which that can happen. COP22 is to address this gap by developing the rules, timelines and processes that will guide how the world will limit temperature increases to 1.5 – 2 degrees Celsius.

To build this methodology, parties will have to tackle  climate change governance, namely with respect to transparency and reporting, mechanisms to fund the adoption of alternative technologies by developing countries, a compliance structure; and tying it all together, the creation of the CMA (aka “the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement”). The CMA will be the de facto governing body for the Paris Agreement and is made up of those countries of who have joined the Paris Agreement.

The responsibilities of the CMA will be to develop the rules around transparency, raising expectations for emissions reductions and promoting compliance. Although the creation of this years’ CMA (CMA1) was hurried, it will be tasked with providing concrete steps that the global community can take to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, as highlighted by The World Resource Institute:

"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."

As noted above, CMA1 will establish the Paris Agreements’ “rule book”. Although not international law, the rule book will provide rules, guidelines and clarifications to reach the goal of limiting temperature increases, including:

  • "How countries will communicate their efforts with regards to adaptation, climate finance, transfer of technology and capacity building, and how they will be held accountable for their commitments;

  • How collective efforts will be reviewed, leading to scaled-up actions and support every five years; and

  • How to create a process to facilitate implementation and promote compliance."

Christiana Figueres, the former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change recently wrote that the Paris Agreement, along with the Sustainable Development Goals, form the pillars of a new and emerging, global social contract. Although a laudable goal-setting regime, this so-called social contract has been criticized for lacking any teeth, compelling countries to action.

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