Special Spring Edition of PATPA's APR: Enhanced understanding on how to capture progress on Transparency in informal virtual meetings in the run up to Glasgow
The 2021 Special Spring Edition of the Annual Partnership Retreat (APR) of the Partnership on Transparency in the Paris Agreement (PATPA), took place virtually on May 20th, 2021, gathering 59 participants from 33 countries and 7 international organizations.
The Spring Edition of the APR was convened with the main purpose of acting as a bridge between the early May SBSTA Chair informal workshops on the Common Tabular Formats (CTF) and the June sessions of the Subsidiary Bodies (SBs). More specifically, the APR aimed at encouraging negotiators to informally but effectively capture progress from the SBSTA Chair workshop, the SBs and from the SBs onwards until the COP, and to discuss the most effective ways to do so.
Capturing progress is a key feature of the negotiations, so as to avoid them becoming repetitive and a “broken record” as a participant put it. This is typical of traditional negotiations, where Parties would capture progress through conclusion of the Subsidiary Bodies but is a challenging novelty in the informal virtual discussions being held since COP25, in December 2019 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Participants are aware that “we have been successful in Katowice in agreeing on the Modalities, Procedures and Guidelines,” as mentioned by a participant, and, as such “we should have made more progress,” because the CTFs “are not rocket science” as put by others.
Participants were keen to acknowledge that key challenges in achieving agreement on the CTF are related to linkages with other topics: one of the participants added that “the biggest hit of the broken records is the article 6 negotiations,” clearly pointing out to the linkages between the two issues.
These special circumstances call for special flexibility by all Parties to moving forward and ensuring the swift adoption of the CTF when negotiators finally meet again in person. Some argued that negotiators need to be specially prepared for these discussions, by studying “carefully the submission by other Parties.” Others stated that “being a good listener” is now more important than ever, as dialogue is harder in these virtual settings.
The Spring Edition participants were clear to say that there is no more time to delay the adoption of the CTF, as preparations are required (namely the development of any software) and developing countries need sufficient capacity building support to start using the tables. Some participants also asked for capacity building for negotiators, as the discussion of tables is a highly technical issue, requiring deep knowledge of GHG inventory issues, markets and carbon accounting as well as of finance and other flows of means of implementation. Other participants noted the importance of continuing the informal virtual negotiations as they have been key in advancing the understanding of each other’s positions since Madrid: “the more frequent Parties meet, the more they will own the process and the respective outcomes,” one participant argued.
There were several recommendations by participants to improve the effectiveness of these informal virtual discussions. Many are of the view that it is crucial to start discussing concrete tables as soon as possible and to “develop text with all options”. The preparation of a “compilation of all tables proposed by all Parties” could be the first step to an inclusive discussion where all views and opinions matter and must be captured.
Informal notes by the co-facilitators and the Chair of SBSTA are by no means an optimal solution substitution for SBSTA conclusions to capture progress but seem to be the best option at hand. Some argued that such informal notes by the co-facilitators were already used in the run up to Katowice, while others noted that these were of a quite different nature as they resulted from “in person, in-session dialogues”, which do not suffer from some limitations of the virtual sessions.
In order to enhance progress in the run-up to Glasgow, several participants plead that Parties intensify bilateral or trilateral discussions, as a means to overcome the potential lack of the so-called “informal-informal” discussions sponsored by the SBSTA Chair or the co-facilitators.
The Special Spring Edition of the APR played once again an important role in building trust among participants, as it provided a space for open sharing of ideas, concerns and proposals on how to progress and capture progress on the informal discussion on the CTF on the road towards their adoption at the COP in Glasgow.