Monthly Forecast: December 2016
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

December features the UN Biodiversity Conference, which will convene three Conferences of the Parties (COP) concurrently in Cancun, Mexico: the 13th meeting of the COP to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 13), the eighth meeting of the COP serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP/MOP 8), and the COP/MOP 2 to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS).

UN Member States will close their 2016 work on two key tracks – the SDG global indicators, and negotiations on the 2016 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR).

Finally, the sustainable development community will continue to focus on follow up and next steps from the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) new offsetting mechanism for carbon emissions from the international aviation sector, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol that phases out the powerful greenhouse gas (GHG) hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and the outcomes from the Marrakech Climate Change Conference,

As the curtain falls on 2016 and what has been dubbed “the year of implementation,” biodiversity takes center stage. For two weeks in December, Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will gather with an array of stakeholders for a “triple” Conference of the Parties (COP) and many related events in Cancun, Mexico. Also this month, discussions will continue on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) global indicators and the 2016 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR). In the climate arena, the international policy community will be processing the outcomes of key meetings that concluded in October and November, including the Marrakech Climate Change Conference.

Natural Resources

December features the UN Biodiversity Conference, which will convene three Conferences of the Parties (COP) concurrently in Cancun, Mexico. They include the 13th meeting of the COP to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 13), the eighth meeting of the COP serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP/MOP 8), and the COP/MOP 2 to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS).

CBD COP 13 will open with a High-level segment, hosted by the Mexican Government and organized by the CBD, during which ministers are expected to consider the Cancun Declaration. In the Declaration, governments commit to mainstreaming biodiversity across all sectors and to take an array of actions that support achievement of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Targets, as well as other internationally agreed, biodiversity-related goals. The Conference, overall, will focus on a theme of mainstreaming biodiversity in the agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism sectors. It being the first CBD COP since the new development and climate agendas were adopted, it will also highlight biodiversity’s relevance to achievement of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In addition to reviewing progress on achievement of the Strategic Plan and the Aichi Targets, the COP will consider a range of other issues including: biodiversity and climate change; protected areas; ecosystem restoration; forest biodiversity; and biodiversity and human health. Other substantive items relate to: traditional knowledge, including guidelines for the repatriation of traditional knowledge; marine and coastal biodiversity, including ecologically or biologically significant marine areas, and a specific work plan on biodiversity and acidification in cold-water areas; invasive alien species; climate-related geoengineering; synthetic biology; implications of the assessment on pollinators of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES); and sustainable wildlife management.

At the same time, the Cartagena Protocol COP/MOP 8 will consider the report of, and elect new members to, the Compliance Committee; review the Framework and Action Plan for Capacity-Building; provide guidance on the operation and activities of the Biosafety Clearing-House; and consider the need to establish a subsidiary body for scientific and technical advice under the Protocol. The Nagoya Protocol COP/MOP 2 will review progress towards Aichi target 16 on the Nagoya Protocol, and address: compliance, including the report of the Compliance Committee; the need for and modalities of a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism; the ABS Clearing-House and information sharing; capacity building and awareness raising; and cooperation, administrative, financial and budgetary matters.

The emphasis on mainstreaming biodiversity will echo in a number of events organized in conjunction with the Biodiversity Conference. These include the Civil Society and Youth Alliances for Mainstreaming Biodiversity to Well-being Forum, during which participants will generate a statement outlining the contribution of youth and civil society to the CBD COP theme of ‘Biodiversity Mainstreaming for Well-being.’ The Science for Biodiversity Forum will also convene prior to the COP to discuss ‘Contributions from Science to Policy.’ The Forum will support technical and scientific cooperation, the sharing of best practices and capacity building for mainstreaming.

Also leading up to the COP, the Business and Biodiversity Forum will discuss finance, natural capital accounting, supply chains and partnerships, among other topics. In parallel, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) will organize the IV BioTrade Congress, which will address how trade can be used to mainstream biodiversity into various sectors, and provide case studies demonstrating how sustainable use and trade in biodiversity can generate opportunities for conservation and prosperity.

At the margins of the COP, the 5th Global Biodiversity Summit of Cities and Subnational Governments will convene from 9-11 December. It will focus on strengthening city and state level actions to mainstream biodiversity solutions into the new global developmental framework. The meeting will also consider the New Urban Agenda emerging from the Habitat III Conference, in addition to the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement. The Summit will convene under the theme ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity where Nature Matters Most,’ and explore partnerships and resources for biodiversity action.

At the same time, at the ‘Summit Muuchtanbal on Indigenous Experience: Traditional Knowledge and Biological and Cultural Diversity,’ participants will exchange information and experiences on the contributions of traditional knowledge and customary sustainable use of biodiversity across the agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism sectors. The Summit is meant to raise awareness and promote the importance of the collective contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities to the conservation and sustainable use and management of biodiversity.

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

In December, UN Member States will close their 2016 work on two key tracks – the SDG global indicators, and negotiations on the 2016 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR). The work on indicators is being led by the UN Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators (IAEG-SDGs), mandated by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to develop a global indicator framework. The QCPR is negotiated every four years by the UN General Assembly, and the 2016 review is expected to guide the alignment of the UN Development System (UNDS) with the 2030 Agenda.

On SDG indicators, governments joined the IAEG-SDGs for a two-day plenary session during its fourth meeting, which convened in Geneva in mid-November. The status of the work on indicators is as follows, according to presentations and discussions at IAEG-SDGs 4:

· Placement of indicators into tiers, by level of development: The Group decided to change some of the indicators’ classifications, in most cases moving a Tier I indicator to Tier II due to lack of regular data production by countries. According to the new classification, Tier I contains 81 indicators, Tier II has 57, and Tier III consists of 88 indicators, and four indicators have subcomponents in different Tiers. Indicators can be further considered for reclassification once per year at the IAEG’s Northern Fall meeting.

· Work to advance Tier III indicators: The Group is working to establish “conceptual clarity” for the Tier III indicators, ensuring that all of the SDG indicators have a methodology for measurement. Each Tier III indicator has a work plan to achieve this, being led by the associated “custodial agency” within the UN system, with a few exceptions of indicators that do not yet have a custodian.

· Identifying custodial agencies for data collection: The role of the custodian agency is to receive data from national statistical systems on each indicator, make it internationally comparable, and prepare it for inclusion in the SDG Indicators Global Database, which the UN Secretariat uses to produce the yearly progress reports on the SDGs. IAEG members have expressed a preference for custodian agencies that have an established mechanism to collect data on the indicator, and links to a specific counterpart at the country level. The custodian should also provide capacity building and methodological support.

· Clarifying data flows from national to global level for annual reporting: To report into the SDG Indicators Global Database, national bodies can send data directly to the custodial agency for each indicator, or through a regional mechanism, which will then transmit them to the agencies. For non-official data to be submitted, such as from the private sector, NGOs or other non-statistical bodies, the data must be sent through the national statistical system first, according to UNSD.

· Refining agreed indicators: As a first stage in making requested “refinements” to the global indicators, the Group agreed to modify several existing indicators that governments discussed during UNSC 47 in March 2016. Based on an open consultation, followed by closed discussions among IAEG members, the Group plans to refine several indicators, including indicator 3.8.2 to measure household spending on health care, instead of health insurance coverage, and indicator 5.6.2 to measure access for men and women, not only women, to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education, and to specify that data will be disaggregated by sex. For further refinements, proposals can be made once per year, and are limited to corrections, clarifications, and other changes that do not substantively alter the meaning of the indicator.

· Reviewing overall indicator set: The IAEG also set plans for more comprehensive reviews of the indicator framework, which can address substantive changes. Through a consultation held in mid-2016, the Group identified 36 additional indicators to consider adding to the framework. These will be further considered in 2017, possibly including through an open consultation. As for further rounds of the comprehensive review, the Group intends to submit a review to the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) in 2020, which will begin in Northern Fall 2018, and another in 2025, which will begin in Northern Fall 2023.

· Data disaggregation: UNSD identified data disaggregation as the “number one priority” for data development for the 2030 Agenda, so that it can address all the groups and populations mentioned and therefore “leave no one behind.” The IAEG plans to: review each type of disaggregation separately, to create a consistent terminology across the indicator framework; begin with the Tier I indicators, since they have the best data coverage; and present a more detailed work plan ahead of the IAEG’s Northern Spring 2017 meeting.

The Group will submit a report to the UN Statistical Commission in early December 2016, in preparation for the 48th session of the UNSC. The IAEG’s next steps include further developing the work plans for Tier III indicators, “fast-tracking” the more advanced Tier III ones for reclassification; and harmonizing categories for data disaggregation.

Meanwhile, a multi-stakeholder Programme Committee of the HLG is working to set the scope and content of the first UN World Data Forum (WDF), which will take place in January 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa. The Forum is expected to produce ideas and solutions related to: innovation and synergies across different data ecosystems; leaving no one behind; data principles and governance on validating data, and quality of data; and the way forward, including the Global Action Plan and regional road maps. Pre-registration for this Forum closes on 2 December 2016.

On the QCPR, the Group of 77 and China tabled a draft resolution addressing: general guidelines for the QCPR; the contribution of the UNDS’ operational activities for development; their funding; ways of strengthening their intergovernmental governance; measures for improving UNDS’ functioning; and follow-up and monitoring. In a consultation process facilitated by the delegation of Switzerland, governments conducted a general discussion of the draft, in early November, the first paragraph-by-paragraph reading from 10-16 November, and the second paragraph-by-paragraph reading from 21-23 November.

Key issues in the most recent discussion included: whether the QCPR should focus on UNDS at UN Headquarters or country level; whether to refer to developing countries as recipients or “partners;” and whether to “mainstream” peace throughout the document in reflection of its importance for development, or to maintain a distinction between the two UN pillars. The next stage of discussions is expected to focus on sections of the draft resolution that currently have “many language proposals.”

Climate Change

Key climate change events from October and November will continue to reverberate through December and in the new year, as the sustainable development community focuses on follow up and next steps. The month of October saw a wave of momentum generated post-Paris by the actions of non-state actors, as well as other international processes, in particular the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) new offsetting mechanism for carbon emissions from the international aviation sector, and the adoption of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol that phases out the powerful greenhouse gas (GHG) hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These two developments are significant to achieve SDG 13 for a number of reasons. First, because the Paris Agreement on climate change does not include mention of the international aviation sector, which is estimated to contribute 1.3% of global anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. And second, because HFCs are currently the world’s fastest growing GHG, with their emissions increasing by up to 10% each year, and are also one of the most powerful, trapping thousands of times more heat in the Earth’s atmosphere than CO2.

The ICAO Assembly, which met between 27 September and 7 October 2016, in Montreal, Canada, agreed to the establishment of a Global Market Based Measure to offset international aviation CO2 emissions, the adoption of a CO2 standard for aircraft emissions, and made progress towards sustainable global air transport. ICAO member States, in cooperation with industry and civil society representatives, agreed on a Global Market Based Measure known as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA, which is the first adopted by an entire industry sector to curb CO2 emissions from international activity. Participation in CORSIA’s pilot phase (2021-2023) and first phase (2024-2026) is voluntary. The subsequent phase (2027-2035) would bring all States on board, though exemptions were agreed for least developed countries, small island developing States (SIDS), landlocked developing countries and States with minimal international aviation activity. Governments of countries whose civil aviation amounts to 80% of international flights have already indicated they will participate in the voluntary phases.

A few days later, from 10-14 October, the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MOP 28) met in Rwanda, and adopted the Kigali Amendment to phase down HFCs. By the Amendment, developed countries commit to begin to phase down HFCs by 2019. Developing countries were divided into two groups, with most freezing their HFC consumption levels in 2024, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, India, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan freezing their consumption in 2028. Parties also adopted several related decisions on phase-down schedules, exemptions for high-ambient temperature countries, and financial and technical support for developing countries. UNEP estimates that the Amendment could prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by the end of this century.

Coming on this wave of momentum, and after a historically rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the November Marrakech Climate Change Conference had to demonstrate to the world that the UNFCCC could contribute to significant climate action. Moreover, for those within the UNFCCC process, the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) was to carry out considerable technical work, namely to build a foundation for the accelerated completion of the modalities, procedures and guidelines that will make the Paris Agreement implementable.

While showing progress on an agenda focused on technical work is not an easy task, COP 22 rose to the challenge. The Earth Negotiations Bulletin reports that many participants noted that “the Conference had created a sense of urgency and accountability for the development of a rulebook that will make the Paris Agreement implementable from day one.” The two-week meeting, which took place in Marrakech, Morocco, from 5-19 November, concluded with decisions that set 2018 as the deadline for the rulebook, a year earlier than many envisaged in Paris in 2015.

Parties adopted 35 decisions, which, inter alia: provide guidance on the completion of the work programme under the Paris Agreement and decide that the Adaptation Fund should serve the Paris Agreement; advance the preparations for the entry into force of the Paris Agreement and CMA; adopt the terms of reference for the Paris Committee on Capacity- building; and approve the five-year workplan of the Warsaw International Mechanism to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change Executive Committee. Decisions were also adopted on, inter alia, linkages between the Technology Mechanism and the Financial Mechanism of the Convention; long-term finance; and the sixth review of the Financial Mechanism. Progress was also made under the Ad Hoc Working Group for the Paris Agreement (APA) during the first week of the Conference, with informal consultations held six to seven times on each of the substantive items, namely mitigation, adaptation, transparency, global stocktake, implementation and compliance, and further matters relating to implementation. The APA conclusions adopted at the end of its session include “homework” for each of these items, among other things, calls for submissions, workshops and a roundtable, which should enable progress to be made in a balanced manner.

SDG Knowledge Hub Content Editors: Lauren Anderson, Faye Leone, and Alice Bisiaux

We are pleased to bring you the December 2016 Monthly Forecast. Please contact us with any comments or suggestions on this column. For more information on key sustainable development events in December 2016, please consult our calendar of upcoming events: http://sdg.iisd.org/events/calendar/. For information after these events conclude, visit the SDG Knowledge Hub: sdg.iisd.org

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