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Punching above our weight: Singapore Minister Balakrishnan to Co-facilitate Informal Working Group as Paris Agreement talks near end

December 6, 2015

Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (second from left) with the Paris Committee (Source: UNFCCC)

On Friday 5 Dec, the ADP met briefing in the plenary at 11am (Paris time) with a new draft text (FCCC/ADP/2015/L.6) for Parties to agree to forward on by 1pm to the COP21 Presidency. Some Parties highlighted to the ADP Co-Chairs that they would like to forward views to be added to Annex II for the document, which contains views from Parties from the ADP Open-ended Contact Group (around 70+ interventions were made during this meeting on Thursday, 4 December from 3-7pm).


His Excellency Laurent Fabius, COP21 President (Source: Melissa Low)

At the COP Plenary which convened at 6pm on 5 December, COP21 President H.E. Laurent Fabius received the text (FCCC/ADP/2015/L.6/Rev.1/Add.1) from the ADP Co-Chairs following a briefing to the COP on the work that has been undertaken over the last year.


Handing over the Draft Paris Outcome (Source: Melissa Low)

Upon receiving the text (called the Draft Paris Outcome), the COP21 President shared with the COP that the final negotiated text would have to be ready by Thursday, 10 December 2015 in order to ensure that there would be legal clarity and coherence once translated into the six UN languages. The COP21 President presented the approach for next week, noting that the process beginning next week will be open, transparent and inclusive. An Open-ended Single Committee Group (“Comité de Paris” or “Paris Committee”) will be open to observers and proceedings will be transmitted around the COP venue, unless the Committee decides otherwise. The Committee will determine when the text can be transmitted to a review body to finalize the text.

A Committee and a set of facilitators will address cross-cutting issues (resolving of which will be absolutely critical to the adoption of the Paris Agreement) in four informal working groups:

  1. Support (Means of Implementation, finance etc.)
    • H.E. Franck Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Gabon; and
    • H.E. Mr. Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety of Germany.
  2. Differentiation
    • H.E. Ms. Izabella Teixeira, Minister of the Environment Brazil; and
    • H.E., Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Singapore.
  3. Ambition, including Long-term Goals and Periodic Review
    • H.E. Mr. James Fletcher, Minister, Ministry of Public Service, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology of St. Lucia; and
    • H.E. Ms. Tine Sundtoft, Minister, Ministry of Climate and Environment, Norway.
  4. Acceleration of Pre-2020 Ambition, Workstream 2 excluding pre-2020 finance
    • H.E. Mr. Pa Jarju Ousman, Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Water, Forestry and Wildlife of Gambia; and
    • H.E. Ms. Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Department of Energy and Climate Change of the United Kingdom.

The facilitators have the following guidance from the Presidency on how to conduct informal consultations:

  • To bridge differences with a focus on issues that require resolution to enable a timely and successful conclusion of the Paris Outcome; and
  • To facilitate discussion between all Parties to help find solutions.

Facilitators will be given flexibility to address the issues pertinent to getting to a Paris Agreement by 6pm on Friday, 11 December 2015. Given that there will be parallel sessions over the next few days, the COP21 President will convene meetings of the Paris Committee/Comité de Paris starting Monday, 7 December 2015 from 7-9pm in order to take stock and progressively work towards a common solution. Facilitators will present to the Comité de Paris on their progress made during their informal consultation sessions. This means that Minister Balakrishnan or his co-facilitator H.E. Ms. Izabella Teixeira, Minister of the Environment Brazil, will deliver this progress to the entire COP.

On Monday night, facilitators are expected to present their assessment of the possible concepts for solutions emerging from their consultations. By Tuesday night, facilitators are asked to present their conclusions, based on consultations with Parties (bilateral and multilateral), on how best to frame the emerging solutions in the form of initial drafting guidance. To ensure procedural fairness, the COP Presidency has stated that this drafting process will be done in full consideration of the overarching principles of transparency, openness and inclusiveness.

It is important that the Paris Committee/Comité de Paris is the main forum ensuring these principles be upheld.

In addition, the COP Presidency has made the following announcements:

  • First informal consultations on adaptation will be initiated this week by H.E. Mr. René Orellana, Minister of Environment for Bolivia; H.E. Ms. Asa Romson, Minister for the Climate and the Environment for Sweden;
  • H.E. Mr. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of State for Environment and President of COP20 will be in charge of the Preamble of the draft Paris Outcome. He will also conduct a mission in conjunction with civil society representatives on behalf of the COP21 President, H.E. Mr. Laurent Fabius.

Dr Balakrishnan also co-chaired a meeting on differentiation earlier this year in July. See post here.

Singapore’s Ministers have always tried to play a supportive role in these negotiations. In Paris, we expect Minister Balakrishnan to work with countries with similar interests to lobby for support for issues that are important for Singapore, but more importantly, to also act as a bridge between developed and developing countries.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has played key roles in the climate change negotiations, e.g. in Warsaw in 2013, he co-chaired a ministerial dialogue on enhanced mitigation action; and in 2014 in Lima, he co-chaired another ministerial group on drafting the COP 20 decisions. So it is not surprising that he will be playing such an important role in Paris in the coming week. Indeed, Singapore now has a Foreign Minister well placed to champion environmental issues like climate change, and at such an important time.

Further, 11 representatives will be appointed for legal language. This group will comprise of two representatives from each regional group and one from Small Island Developing States (SIDS). There will be two Co-Chairs overseeing this legal language team. The purpose of this team is to ensure that the text is clear from a legal perspective as well as linguistically. It is to ensure coherence and that provisions and Articles are consistent between the various language versions (six UN languages).

The COP21 President shared some personal views on this effort that Parties have and are about to undertake. He said that this agreement is simply something we cannot postpone. He said that like many others, he sees exceptional momentum in Paris. He intends to muster the service of this entire life towards achieving success by the end of this coming week.

Following several statements made by Parties in response to the adoption of the draft Paris Outcome by the COP21 President, announcements were made that the COP will waste no time in getting down to business. Negotiations will resume on Sunday, 6 December, a day when the COP venue is normally shut and no negotiations take place. We are told that the meetings will take place as follows:

  • Support (Means of Implementation) – 4-5.30pm, La Loire Plenary
  • Ambition and Long-term Goal, 4-5.30pm, Le Rhin
  • Differentiation – 5.30-7pm, La Loire Plenary
  • Pre-2020 Ambition (Workstream 2), 5.30-7pm, Le Rhin

No rest for the weary!

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