First thing this morning, the official discussions of COP21 commenced. The day also saw the first meetings of other groups, such as CMP (Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol) and SBI (Subsidiary Body for Implementation). Most of this week will be spent in these focus groups and the aim of the COP meetings will be to thrash out the remaining problems with the draft agreement. The hope is that, by the end of this week, a new draft agreement will be ready for Environment Ministers to finalise during the second half of the Conference.
One of the key outstanding issues is the legal form that the agreement will take. The Durban Platform, which was adopted at COP17 in 2011, calls for a “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties,” to be adopted at COP21. It is still to be decided which of these forms the COP21 agreement will take. This is a contentious issue, particularly for the US. After Secretary of State John Kerry's assertion that the agreement would not be a treaty, the EU has warned that the agreement must be legally binding. However, the US is a key player and the success of the Conference hinges upon their cooperation. Whilst President Obama has emphasised his commitment to COP21, an agreement containing new, legally binding measures would likely require approval from the hostile and Republican-dominated US Senate. This issue is likely to remain contentious throughout negotiations, and arguably the outcome will be an agreement in which only the rules and procedures are legally binding, not the emissions targets of each country.
In addition to finalising the global agreement, COP21 aims to educate and inspire both governmental and non-governmental parties into addressing climate change. With this in mind, the first LPAA (Lima-Paris Action Agenda) Focus events have also taken place today, covering Forest and Agriculture. The LPAA Focus events, when taken together, aim to provide an insight into the steps already being taken in relation to combatting climate change, showcasing existing solutions. They emphasise real world examples and demonstrate opportunities to curb emissions and increase resilience to climate change.
Whilst we wait to see how successful the opening negotiations have been, it may be useful to check out the glossary of terms used, as there are a lot of acronyms flying about and it can be hard to tell your COPs from your CMPs!