The newsroom

1 December 2015

G-20 leaders tussle over climate change language

Negotiations on the outcome document from a gathering of leaders from the G-20 coalition of major advanced and emerging economies ran into the early hours of the morning on 16 November in Antalya, Turkey due to differences over a dedicated paragraph on tackling climate change, according to several reports.

The key divisions involved an internationally agreed target of keeping global temperatures below a two degree Celsius rise from pre-industrial levels, a process to review individual country pledges for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cuts, and how to distribute the burden of climate action.

The focus on climate change comes ahead of the UN climate summit in Paris, geared towards agreeing on a new climate regime to take effect at the end of the decade. The G-20 leaders’ communiqué also addresses a range of topics from macroeconomic policies and growth, tackling inequality as well as financial and tax system reform.

Next steps for sustainable development indicators 

A technical group focused on developing indicators for the 169 targets linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed on key next steps during a meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand from 26-28 October. According to a work plan, a draft report on a potential global indicator framework will be made available by mid-December.

The SDGs are part of the newly-adopted “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” signed off by world leaders at a UN summit at the end of September, and designed to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a roadmap for global priorities over the next 15 years.

The 17 SDGs and accompanying targets cover an exhaustive range of challenges, from tackling climate change, food insecurity, and extreme poverty, to protecting the ocean, forests, and building peaceful societies. Among the outstanding areas to hammer out, however, are robust indicators to help benchmark progress and ensure the SDGs’ full implementation.

EU TTIP sustainable development proposal 

The European Commission publicly released on 6 November its proposal for a chapter on sustainable development within a trade and investment agreement currently being negotiated with the US, calling for a series of provisions on labour and the environment.

The proposal is divided into four sections: overarching principles, labour aspects, environmental aspects, and cross-cutting issues.

On the same day the EU executive also released a comprehensive report on the latest round of these Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, which were held in Miami, US last month.

The report on the Miami round indicated that the two sides reviewed the sustainable development proposal over three days, with that time dedicated to explaining the EU proposal in further detail, reviewing areas of interest to either side. 

TPP text environment chapter scrutinised

The 12 economies party to the freshly-inked Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have made public the full text of the trade and investment agreement. The deluge of thousands of pages of detail organised into 30 chapters and a host of additional annexes covers an exhaustive range of issues from goods tariff liberalisation schedules, customs administration and trade facilitation, trade remedies, services trade, investment, electronic commerce, competitiveness and business facilitation, transparency and anti-corruption, labour laws, among other many others.

The TPP also includes a much-anticipated environment chapter that was the subject of considerable debate and speculation by civil society throughout the negotiations.

While some other regional trade agreements (RTAs) have included environment provisions, several experts have suggested the TPP’s environment chapter could be the most important to date.  

Ministers focus on climate issues, warnings escalate

Ministers from over 60 countries converged on Paris, France at the invitation of Laurent Fabius, the country’s foreign minister, for three days of informal talks from 8-10 November on exploring potential compromises to issues that have proved tough to navigate in efforts to date to hammer out a new, multilateral climate regime by this December.  

The gathering reportedly resulted in some general agreement on several issues related to ambition, a periodic review of countries’ mitigation commitments, and financing climate action in poorer parts of the world. In addition, the fraught concept of fairness around mitigation action, known in UN speak as the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” (CBDR), was also touched upon.

Governments have agreed to sign off on this new deal during an annual UNFCCC meeting due to be held in December in the French capital. The “Paris agreement” would replace the existing UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol and should be capable of curbing greenhouse gas emissions in the years ahead in order to keep the planet below a two degree Celsius rise from pre-industrial levels.

HFC amandment to the Montreal Protocol agreed 

Parties to the Montreal Protocol put an end to years of arduous debate during a meet held from 1-5 November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by agreeing to a “Dubai Pathway” for negotiations on an amendment to phase down global climate-warming hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions.

“After seven years of efforts, we have at last agreed to amend the Montreal Protocol next year to phase down HFCs,” Jeem Lippwe, a negotiator for Micronesia, told reporters on the conclusion of the talks. During the gathering, countries adopted a number of other substantive and procedural decisions. However, HFCs remained the “major topic” of concern for parties throughout the week, according to media reports.

A decision for parties to work towards an HFC amendment under the Montreal Protocol was agreed following last-minute talks, as countries worked to overcome some of the mistrust built up over the years between developed and developing nations around other phase-out programmes mandated by the pact. The adopted decision states that parties will begin to work within the Montreal Protocol towards an HFC amendment in 2016. 

EGA trade talks set to review draft final list 

A “draft final list” of potential products slated for tariff cuts as part of an effort to secure an Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) has been circulated to participating WTO members on behalf of the talks’ chair, officials confirmed following the latest negotiating round.  The draft list reflects the latest areas of convergence among the 17-member group – which counts the 28-nation EU as one – around various product nominations, building on work undertaken during talks held from 29 October-4 November in Geneva, Switzerland, sources say.

The document will be reviewed at the next negotiating round scheduled from 30 November-4 December, although it could also be subject to some revisions intersessionally, based on participants’ comments.

Since the EGA plurilateral talks launched in July 2014, participants have been discussing the types of products that might be included, followed by product nominations put forward by most players last April equal to around 650 tariff lines. The next round will take place just ahead of the WTO’s Tenth Ministerial Conference (MC10) scheduled for mid-December in Nairobi, Kenya.

Obama rejects Canada pipeline project 

US President Barack Obama announced on 6 November that the State Department would not be approving the Keystone XL pipeline project, a controversial proposal which had become symbolic for the White House’s broader stance on climate issues.

In a speech focused on clean energy and climate change, the US executive said that approving the transboundary project – which aimed to bring crude oil and bitumen from the Athabasca tar sands in Canada’s western province of Alberta to US refineries – would “not serve the national interest of the United States,” given the State Department’s assessment.

The State Department decision, Obama said, was the result of the following three findings: that the long-term economic benefits of Keystone would negligible; that the pipeline would not lead to reduced gas prices; and that “shipping dirtier crude oil” into the US would not yield benefits for domestic energy security. The US President then flagged the various achievements under his administration in transitioning toward a clean energy economy.

This article is published under
1 December 2015
Towards a Workable and Effective Climate Regime – CEPR, FERDI – November 2015 Published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and la Fondation pour les Études et Recherches sur le...
1 December 2015
The WTO’s highest court has ruled that the revised version of the US’ dolphin-safe labelling regime for tuna products is still in violation of the organisation’s rules, granting victory to Mexico in...