By Dr Tim Cadman
Griffith Law School

Members of the Climate, Land, Ambition, and Rights Alliance (CLARA) are disappointed by the extremely weak outcome of the 24thConference of Parties (COP24). The outcome represents a retreat from the necessary level of ambition needed to combat climate change, in line with the findings of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the 1.5°C temperature goal.

CLARA had hoped the so-called ‘Paris Rulebook’ coming out of the Katowice COP would provide a strong and rigorous framework for implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement. But agreed final texts from COP24 pertaining to Nationally Determined Contributions (APA 3) and the Transparency Framework (APA 5) fall far short of the mark — while decisions related to the market (and non-market) mechanisms found in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement were kicked forward to next year in their entirety.

The most egregious examples of the retreat from ambition was in the limiting of the scope of Nationally Determined Contributions to just mitigation. Requirements found in Articles 7, 9, 10, and 11 of the Paris Agreement on finance, capacity building, and other issues were not properly dealt. These texts fail to reflect the desire of the overwhelming majority of Parties for comprehensive and balanced outcome reflecting all elements of the Paris Agreement. They fail to address the mandate given in APA Article 3. The outcome is thusboth weak and unbalanced, addressing virtually none of the concerns of the most vulnerable small island and developing countries.

Equally dismaying was the systematic purging of all references to human rights in APA3 and APA5 texts.

A comprehensive and balanced outcome should have included cross-cutting principles on rights; a central place for equity, that acknowledges differing country capacity and responsibility, including with respect to the Global Stocktake; and a differentiated Transparency Framework.

Progress toward developing market- and non-market-based responses to combatting climate change, as contained in Article 6, have been left for determination at the next COP, a year from now in Chile. Brazil refused to embrace greater ambition, holding up adoption of mechanisms in Articles 6.2 and 6.4 that would deal with problems of double-counting of emissions in a proposed emission credit trading system. As they continue to negotiate final rules for Article 6, Parties must remember the critical importance of adopting environmental, social and governance safeguards – related to respect for human rights, an independent grievance mechanism, and meaningful stakeholder consultation.

Civil society had hoped that with respect to NDCs and Transparency, as well as in advancing ambition consistent with the findings of the IPCC Special Report on the 1.5 Degree goal, the development of a Paris Rulebook would strengthen, rather than weaken, the Paris Agreement. Instead CLARA members are dismayed by documents that are not only unbalanced with respect to outcomes, but that also downgrade the importance of Paris Agreement preambular guarantees pertaining to rights, food security, and ‘ecosystem integrity’ and the conservation of biodiversity.

After three years of negotiations, it is unconscionable that Parties have adopted such a weak, unbalanced, and loophole-riddled outcome.