Climate negotations and human rights – Updates from Bangkok

On the 9th of September, the second intermediate session of the UN’s Climate Negotiations for 2018 was concluded in Bangkok, Indonesia. Right now, the negotiators are concentrating on writing the “Paris Agreement working programme”, a document which aims at establishing the modalities and the timeframes with which the Parties – the adhering countries – will have to work towards the fulfilment of the objectives mentioned in the Agreement. The slowness in finding some common guidelines on various topics, among which Climatic Finance, of the first intermediate session, made an extra summoning of the three subsidiary boards instituted within the frame of the UNFCCC necessary (the Subsidiary Board for Implementation – SBI, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice – SBSTA and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement). The objective is that of remaining faithful to the task assigned in 2016, which was to adopt the key decisions of the “Work programme” by the end of COP24, which will be held in December this year at Katowice, in Poland.

Given its extraordinary nature, the session was conducted with a different format, with a limited number of items on the agenda for each body, without compulsory events and with a more limited number of participants. These measures, which were taken in order to guarantee the efficiency of the tasks, have had some negative repercussions on civil society, represented by some groups of interest during the negotiations, also known as Consistencies. The absence of side-events and the lack of intervention during the plenary meetings limited the opportunities for these groups to promote the integration of the principles connected to human rights within the guidelines of the “Work Programme”. The reduced size of the event managed nonetheless to create a larger interaction between the governmental delegates and civil society, giving Human Rights defenders the chance to reach a larger number of Parties. These conversations have confirmed that many delegates have a limited understanding of the role that Human Rights play in the field of climate action and that information work remains a critical point on which there is still a lot of work to be done. The potential role that human rights hold within the guidelines – which will be destined to be the point of reference for the implementation of the Paris Agreement – is considered by civil society as fundamental, which views in it a tool to make future action amongst the Parties - in climatic and environmental fields – efficient and ambitious.

The political divisions regarding the consequences of the future Nationally Determined Contributions (NDS), namely the actions that every Party adhering to the Paris Agreement will take to reduce their emissions, have brought this topic to a standstill (3rd point of the APA). The great political discrepancy that surrounds this negotiating track has prevented any sort of constructive dialogue so far amongst the Parties in relation to the possibility of integrating human rights references to this aspect of the directions towards its realization.

The work relating to the communications of adaptation (4th point of the APA) have seen further progress in Bangkok, producing on this point a new version of the text of the negotiation. Although in the document Human Rights are not specifically mentioned, the informal note refers to participation, to gender and to indigenous and traditional knowledge in the context of planning and monitoring in the field of adaptation.
Despite the intricacies relating to the framework on transparency (5th point of the APA), the negotiators were able to produce a first textual draft which, once in Katowice, will represent the basis from which to start. There are few references to the social dimensions for climate action. The Parties have been encouraged to monitor and share the negative social impacts in the field of mitigation (section C). To monitor and share the modalities with which participation, gender and indigenous, traditional or local knowledge will be integrated into the context of planning and monitoring in the field of adaptation (section D). To monitor and share how the barriers created by gender discrimination in financing programs and technological transferral in developing countries will be taken into consideration (section E).

Another item in the Bangkok agenda was that of Global Stocktake (6th point of the APA), the 5-year revision mechanism on the effectiveness of the actions taken, by the Parties, towards the reduction of altering gas emissions. The negotiators have produced a concise textual draft, which suggests the inclusion of information relating to the “efforts in the eradication of poverty, the reinforcement of food safety, promoting the creation of jobs and a higher level of social justice in developing countries and for refugees and climatic evacuees”. If this version of the text were maintained in Katowice it would considerably simplify the consideration of aspects regarding human rights within the revision mechanism, encouraging the Parties to integrate social aspects in the action against climate change. As regards the implementing rules of the Global Stocktake, some Parties opposed themselves to the possibility that civil society could take on an “observational” role within the mechanism, suggesting instead that such participation could only happen through a parallel channel. This proposal risks compromising the ability of independent actors contributing to an objective evaluation of the results of the undertaken actions and to coerce for the revision of the augmentation of the commitments taken by the Parties, currently insufficient for the maintenance of the average global temperature below 2 degrees.

An encouraging note has been received from the work on the international cooperation mechanisms forecasted by Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. The Parties have integrated various references to social matters and the text that has been produced so far continues to include references to human rights, to public attendance and compensation processes. On this particular point, the necessity for transparency has been highlighted, prompting to the creation of a claiming process, which is “based upon rights, independent, accessible, fair, transparent, lawful and efficient”.

The majority of participants to the session has agreed that the session has been productive, with lots of technical work done on all the items in the agenda. However, the fundamental political matters at the base of the discussions (such as the supply and predictability of climate financing and the balance among mitigation, adjustment and loss and damage) were left unresolved. These issues weakened the progress made on some of the key points on the agenda and it is proof that success at Katowice shall depend as much on political decisions as on the quality of the technical work produced by the negotiators.


Chiara Soletti


Published for Italian Climate Network on Gli Stati Generali.

Reference - “Promoting Human Rights in Climate Action Negotiations Update 3/2018: Bangkok climate talk”, Centre for International Environmental Law.