Agriculture, Aviation, and Article 4.1.(c): a report-back from Sector Specific Approaches

by Trudi Zundel

Yesterday Parties met for the first time to talk about cooperative sectoral approaches and sector-specific actions under the Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action. Sectoral approaches are simply work programmes that are specific to different sectors, like agriculture, aviation, or waste managment, for example.

These sector-specific actions are supposed to “enhance the implementation of Article 4. 1(c) of the Convention,” which details the commitments of countries that are members of the UNFCCC. It basically says, in so many words, that countries need to develop and implement practices that “control, reduce, or prevent” greenhouse gas emissions from their sectors.

This is an important area of the negotiations (if you could find an area that wasn’t important). Here, countries are supposed to design programmes to deal with reducing emissions across the whole economy, although to date the only programmes being developed are under agriculture and bunker fuels. For context, this is where the negotiations on whether or not there will be a work programme on agriculture under mitigation.

For years countries have been trying to put together a framework for work programmes, but negotiations have only resulted in an ever-growing document that lays out the different versions that countries would like to see, in separate “options.” Now they are trying to combine those options into one text that can be negotiated, and the key disagreements are coming to a head.

There are three main parts to the framework currently: the general framework, which explains the principles and values that the specific programmes should comply by; an agricultural work programme, which is one of the main Durban priorities for South Africa and the African Union; and a work programme on bunker fuels, which would reduce emissions from air and marine transport–something that would seriously affect trade.

What does it matter what the framework looks like? Several developed countries are questioning the need for any general framework at all–the US, Australia, and New Zealand think that, since each sector is unique, no framework could be relevant to all of them and that it’s better to leave out a framework and only  include considerations that are relevant in each specific sector’s programme. However, the principles expressed in the general framework are important because they will determine how much developing countries have to do. The UNFCCC convention contains the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, which essentially means that developed countries have more commitments than developing countries because they have more resources and of historical responsibility (which are  two of the reasons why only developed countries are legally bound to reduce their emissions under the Kyoto Protocol). Developing countries are determined to have that aspect of the Convention expressed in the general framework, otherwise they may be bound to commitments they cannot uphold… leaving out the general framework seems like a ploy to sneak around the parts of the Convention that they don’t like, though: if developed countries aren’t willing to explicitly state common but differentiated responsibilities in the general framework, it’s unlikely that they’ll be excited to state it in specific sectoral programmes.

Developing countries want to have more than just common but differentiated responsibilities included– some of the options include paragraphs on ensuring that programmes don’t affect food security, contribute to reducing poverty, and don’t negatively affect trade.

A lot of countries said that they were committed to having an agricultural work programme come out of Durban. However, Argentina was also very clear that there would be no agricultural work programme without a general framework; developing countries in general, including Brazil, India, and China, are holding fast that there needs to be a general framework before agreeing to details on sectoral programmes.

What does all of this mean, going into the second week? A new draft of the LCA text, which still isn’t a draft negotiating document, came out this morning.

1. The new LCA text includes common but differentiated responsibilities in the general framework… The text hasn’t been negotiated yet, though, so who knows what will happen.

2. It’s likely that the LCA will request the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice to develop a work programme on agriculture as part of the Durban outcome–both developing and developed countries have said that that is one of their goals, and the request is included in the newest LCA note.  NGOs are fighting hard against this, as the work programme on agriculture is under an Article that deals with mitigation, will almost certainly result in soil carbon markets. The World Bank is throwing its entire weight behind developing it, and is chomping at the bit for the go-ahead from the UNFCCC that would legitimize it.

3. There might be some language about bunker fuels, but the text is still convoluted with different options. For that we’ll have to wait and see.

4. Either way, for better or for worse, it looks like sectoral approaches, which have been under consideration for so many years, will be reflected in the final Durban outcome.


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