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Understanding UN climate Law: Featuring David Tong

October 19, 2015

Common in Durban but Differentiated in Paris_David Tong

David Tong is a lawyer, charity director and long time climate activist. He coordinates Fast For The Climate and New Zealand CAN and is on the board of Greenpeace New Zealand. Most importantly, he knows A LOT about the UN climate negotiations and the different responsibilities for rich and poor countries. In fact, he wrote his Masters in Law on it, got First Class Honours, and has been giving lectures at the University of Aukland, New Zealand, on just that.

David Tong, lawyer and one of two founding co-chairs of the Aotearoa New Zealand Human Rights Lawyers Association and chairs P3 Foundation, New Zealand’s youth movement against extreme poverty. He was also a New Zealand Youth Delegate to the 2011 Durban talks.

David Tong, lawyer and one of two founding co-chairs of the Aotearoa New Zealand Human Rights Lawyers Association and chairs P3 Foundation, New Zealand’s youth movement against extreme poverty. He was also a New Zealand Youth Delegate to the 2011 Durban talks.

This special Webinar was conducted just hours before the next round of Bonn Climate negotiations, moderated by Chris Wright. David shared his expertise through a guest lecture just for the Climate Tracker family. He also shared his opinion on the Co-Chair’s drafts, tools and latest update to the negotiating document.

Chris Wright_Understanding UN climate law featuring David Tong

Chris Wright, Adopt a Negotiator

I asked a few questions. Here are David’s answers in point form (to the best of my ability in typing them out!):

1. What are the options for ‘housing’ or ‘anchoring’ the INDCs? Will they be legally binding?

  • There are a lot of options on the table for binding-ness.
  • New Zealand proposed that all states have a binding obligation to submit and report on their target but as for achieving targets won’t be binding. This perhaps reflects the Umbrella Group’s position.
  • Common reporting elements is important.
  • Binding INDCs locked into the text is ideal, but there is strong opposition from the US so it will have to be negotiated further.

2. Are there lessons that can be learnt from Kyoto Protocol’s compliance system (Article 18)? Or do you envisage more of the Biennial Report/International Assessment and Review & Biennial Update Report/International Consultation & Analysis multilateral consultation type compliance procedure?

*See answer for Qn. 3*

Other questions by participants include:

3. Talking about “legally binding”, how would an international enforcement would be made? Would the agreement with “legal force” have some mechanism or structure for this?

  • KP had accountability and enforcement mechanisms with penalties. Countries would be subject to enforcement processes.
  • We don’t have a world court (similar to the International Court of Justice) to enforce countries’ non-compliance with the climate change treaties.
  • It is a system where you agree with the treaty but can walk away at any time e.g. Canada.
  • However, there are diplomatic and economic advantages to remaining in the treaty.
  • The compliance regime was agreed in 2001, in Marrakesh, as an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. It is important to keep in mind that the compliance regime to the Paris Agreement will be agreed at a later date.

4. What do you think will strictly ensure sustainability and accountability of governments re INDCs (in the context of elections in the Philippines)?

  • One way is the Kyoto Protocol’s style legally binding regime.
  • The other way – which is also the proposal made by New Zealand (where David is from) – is to have a regime that operates mainly on moral pressure. If you break your promise, it’s embarrassing.
  • A stronger process is needed but it is important not to underestimate the power of pressure and diplomacy.
  • Most INDCs need a longer-term plan.

On the Paris Agreement, David said that it is likely that we are going to see more than one agreement. The INDCs could be attached as an Annex to the Agreement. There will also be Decisions, linked to the Agreement containing the more permanent parts of the Agreement. In his forecast for Paris, David noted that we might see one of the two pledge and review models (‘Pledge and Review’ or ‘Pledge and Chat’). He underscored the importance of strengthening the stocktaking process with some form of meaningful review and for the Agreement to have finance and loss and damage elements.

If you missed the webinar, don’t worry! It’s available right here:

See David‘s slides here: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidTong8/university-of-auckland-guest-lecture

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