Melissa Harward: Week One Roundup- How much can one read into comma position?

Week one of the conference lead us to think the COP of action was more a COP of congratulating the year’s work. While entering the Paris Agreement into force is important, the work necessary to get the ball rolling will take a long time, considering all aspects of the agreement are consensus based. Key aspects of the treaty include, among other issues, agreeing on how markets will contribute to action on climate change, as well as how much and through which funds will developed nations help the developing.

Especially of note, the reading of Article 6, clause 2 discusses whether all the requirements within the treaty must be included in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions or whether it is only those that follow, as per the common reading of the comma usage. The very technical nature of the agreement means that negotiators may read something very different from their own legal team.

The clause is as follows:

Article 6
  1. Parties shall, where engaging on a voluntary basis in cooperative approaches that involve the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes towards nationally determined contributions, promote sustainable development and ensure environmental integrity and transparency, including in governance, and shall apply robust accounting to ensure, inter alia, the avoidance of double counting, consistent with guidance adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement (emphasis added).

The issues is whether “including in governance” means that the treaty impedes on countries’ sovereignty. At this stage the discussion is unresolved but it shows the depth of the technicalities. Such issues are compounded by 192 countries having different positions on how they wish to implement the agreement. Essentially, to exclude the requirement of “including in governance” would be to exclude parts of the clause from being required considerations in Nationally Determined Contributions. The reason some countries do not agree with the requirement is that the law impeded on individual countries’ sovereign ability to decide what they contribute and how they do so.

In what was a positive step… Australia became the 103rd country to ratify the agreement – not exactly an early adopter. However, it was not expected that the agreement would enter into force so quickly, so many countries were caught off guard and had to confirm their actions more quickly, including submitting their contributions.  As the Paris Agreement procedural matters begin being negotiated on Tuesday of the second week, the Aussies did not want to miss out on having a say in how things progress from here.


All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not reflect those of the Institute.

Posted on November 18, 2016 and filed under UN Climate Talks 2016.