COP22 began under grey skies and rain on Monday, with celebration of the entry into force of the Paris Agreement only slightly overshadowed by nervous anticipation of Tuesday's US election.
After the opening plenary, at which France’s environment minister Segolene Royal handed over the presidency of the COP to Morocco’s Salaheddine Mezouar, Parties were quickly down to business.
Most files were immediately put into informal consultation rather than working groups, which reflects some of the pressure that is on the Presidency to reach agreement at least on the path forward for all main issues.
Work on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is being carried out under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and technological Advice (SBSTA), agenda item 12, and a first informal consultation was held on Monday.
This group is focusing on the three key issues within Article 6: Article 6.2 (cooperative approaches/ITMOs/accounting), Article 6.4 (the so-called sustainable development mechanism or emissions mitigation mechanism) and Article 6.8 (non-market approaches).
Under the chairmanship of Hugh Sealy and Kelley Kizzier, the meeting began with discussion of a timetable for these discussions, before moving fairly quickly on to matters of substance.
For the most part, Parties indicated they were happy to set a two-year process in motion, with the goal of reaching agreement on Article 6 by 2018.
A few Parties were not completely happy with the two-year schedule, saying they preferred not to pre-judge the timing of the various other negotiating tracks.
However, most linked the Article 6 track with the UNFCCC schedule to deliver a Facilitative Dialogue in 2018, at which Parties will discuss the ambition of NDCs in light of new information from the IPCC; to many, a two-year process is the most obvious timetable.
(Bear in mind that under the decisions reached at Paris last year, the first Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1) is supposed to finish their work here in Marrakech, but the general consensus is that this will take two years, and that CMA1 will simply be suspended until all the work is complete.)
The second half of the session concerned more substantive matters. Hugh Sealy identified five overarching issues that concern all the main elements of Article 6:
1. Incentives for progression
3. Relationship with other provisions of the treaty
4. Environmental integrity
5. Sustainable development
At this point, many Parties seemed to be surprised that the discussion had moved on to substantive matters so quickly! But after some initial hesitation, there were plenty of preliminary views on offer.
Interventions covered ensuring the environmental integrity of the mechanisms, on the transition from the CDM to a new system, on accounting rules and how the market accounting will relate to the wider global accounting system under Paris, and on how Article 6 can incentivise all Parties to develop economy-wide NDCs.
In particular, some Parties expressed the view that non-market approaches need to have the same accounting rigour as market-based mechanisms, so that a clear picture can be built of progress towards the Paris goals.
Talks on non-market approaches under Article 6 are scheduled to continue for another two hours today, with a break on Wednesday. After a further two-hour session on Thursday on accounting, the co-chairs will present their draft conclusions on Article 6 implementation. Parties will then have Thursday and Friday to reflect and consult.
Elsewhere on Monday, the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) decided to convene a contact group to conclude work on the Review of the CDM Modalities and Procedures, with a view to concluding this item in Marrakech.
At a side event on Monday, participants discussed the options for the CDM under Paris. Suggestions included a “fair trade” CDM where the UN would set a minimum price for offsets, or funding for reductions from the Green Climate Fund.
Monday was also Africa Day at COP, and we noted enthusiasm for Article 6 at an event hosted by Tunisia. An Ethiopian official spoke highly about Article 6 and said his country would like to use ITMOs. A Tunisian speaker gave insights into the country’s plan to deliver efficiency gains from its cement sector and to develop more solar power.