by Amy Wilson
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) is held once a year for two weeks. However, as discussed in ClimaTalk’s article ‘What happens in between COPs?’ many other discussions and events take place between two COPs.
Monthly multilateral consultations are one type of event that takes place throughout the year . The previous year’s Presidency and the incoming Presidency work together to set out a multi-layered approach to identify and test solutions to topics relevant to the next scheduled COP . The Presidencies also work closely with the Subsidiary Body Chairs and the UNFCCC secretariat .
COP25 to COP26:
Several ministerial, expert and Heads of Delegation meetings and consultations have taken place since COP25. The focus of this article will be on the sessions in 2021, and the key outcomes or negotiation barriers identified in the summary reports .
In January 2021, the Heads of Delegations and Group Chairs met virtually to discuss how to work together towards COP26 (taking into account COVID-19). Parties agreed on the need to find alternative and inclusive modes of working until in-person meetings were safe . Since this meeting, many of the sessions and meetings have been held online.
Key discussion points identified in January’s meeting for COP26 included:
- Article 6 of the Paris Agreement,
- Common time frames,
- Loss and damage,
- Mitigation and
- Ambition .
The first of these topics, adaptation, was discussed in February 2021 by the Heads of Delegations. Specifically, they discussed the steps needed to increase work on global adaptation; to define the goal of what progression means; to encourage the exchanging of good practices; and to develop methodologies to translate global goals into national-level frameworks and enhance knowledge and capacity in areas such as forecasting . Parties raised the importance of finalising the public register for adaptation communications and enhancing the quantity, quality, accessibility, predictability, and effectiveness of adaptation finance .
In March 2021 the consultations turned to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement . Parties confirmed their commitment to progressing the work surrounding Article 6 but the Heads of Delegations came to no agreement . There were calls for technical expert dialogues, non-papers to summarise options, and for the secretariat to provide analysis regarding the impacts of Article 6 . Article 6 was then later discussed during the ministerial informal consultation in July 2021 . Minister Grace Fu of Singapore and Minister Sveinung Rotevatn of Norway held a series of informal discussions . Three questions were used to direct the discussions:
- How can we avoid double counting of emissions reductions?
- How can we recognise investments of the existing market actors while ensuring ambition too?
- How can Article 6.2 and 6.4 support adaptation action?
No conclusions were formally drawn, however. But ministers did acknowledge the need to compromise while ensuring the Paris Agreement goals were not jeopardised. We look to COP26 to see if the Article 6 challenges can be overcome.
April’s meeting saw discussions on Transparency and Common Time Frames . The Heads of Delegations agreed that resolving the issues surrounding these two topics would require technical assistance and political leadership to set the scene for decision-making by Ministers . Some noted a practical solution may be the development of software and provision of related training to facilitate reporting on emissions . Additionally, a decision on common time frames is urgently needed, with the two main proposals being to include five or ten year time frames .
Further discussions on climate finance took place in May 2021, to discuss the goal of mobilising $100 billion per year until 2025 and concerns surrounding the tracking of this mobilisation . Parties suggested COP26 provides an update on this, and is a place for lessons learned on mobilising finances and the desire to discuss finance concerns during CMA meetings .
Many informal meetings also took place in June 2021 to discuss the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage, Oceans and Climate and the route to COP26. These informal meetings continued to highlight problems surrounding virtual meetings, meeting notes, the importance of engaging Ministers, Heads of Delegation and experts . August 2021 saw discussions on loss and damage, with the agreement that further work was needed in relation to climate finance (specifically for adaptation too) . Some Parties expressed the need for greater investment in renewable energy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions . There was also a call for guidance on how to integrate loss and damage into NDCs . The governance of the loss and damage mechanism was also debated; either CMA governance or dual governance (COP & CMA) 
September 2021 saw discussions on the enhanced transparency framework, Article 6 and NDC Common Time Frames in preparation for the negotiations at COP26. One of the remaining questions is how the framework can be implemented by all Parties, after taking into account their different starting points in relation to reporting .
The informal meetings and consultations provided a platform for discussions on important topics ahead of COP26. We look to the climate conference to see if any of these challenges can be overcome and resolved.
Featured image courtesy of the UNFCCC Flickr account.
 United Nations Climate Change, Informal consultations by the COP 25 Presidency and the COP 26 incoming Presidency, URL: https://newsroom.unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/bodies/supreme-bodies/conference-of-the-parties-cop/presidency-consultations-and-other-presidency-meetings/informal-consultations-by-the-cop-25-presidency-and-the-cop-26-incoming-presidency (last accessed 02/09/21)
 United Nations Climate Change, Co-chairs’ summary of the Presidencies consultation on the way forward, (2021), URL: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/January%20consultations_co%20chairs%20summary%20by%20the%20Presidencies.pdf (last accessed 02/09/21)
 United Nations Climate Change, URL: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/Co-Chairs_summary_adaptation_consultations_Final.pdf (last accessed 02/09/21)
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 United Nations Climate Change (2021), Co-Chairs’ Summary of the Presidencies’ Consultations on Transparency and Common Time Frames 28-29 April 2021, URL: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/Co-chairs%20Summary_CTF.pdf (last accessed 02/09/21)
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 United Nations Climate Change (2021), Co-chairs’ summary of the Presidencies’ consultations with Heads of Delegations on loss and damage, URL: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/Co-chairs%20summary%20of%20the%20Presidencies%20consultations%20on%20Loss%20and%20Damage.pdf (last accessed 16/09/21)
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