Hear from Coltrane Morley-Williams, Programme and Networks Officer, about discussions on response measures at COP28.

The Forum On The Impact Of The Implementation Of Response Measures (shortened to simply, “Response Measures”) is the technical term for climate action, policies, and programmes within the UNFCCC which aim to minimise the negative impacts of climate action and maximise the co-benefits to increase ambition and achieve the sustainable development goals.

Since its establishment, the Forum’s negotiations have been political and process-heavy, dominated by fossil-fuel-producing countries aiming to limit the negative impacts of mitigation actions – notably reduced fossil fuel production and profits – on their economies.

COP28. Credit: UN Climate Change.

COP28 Negotiations

At COP28, before formal negotiations began, the Forum on Response Measures hosted two dialogues focusing on ‘Understanding the effects of response measures to support the Just Transition and Economic Diversification’ and ‘Engaging the private sector to facilitate decent work and quality jobs in low GHG emission sectors.’

The dialogues were productive and engaging, highlighting the potential of this forum as a platform for actors to exchange experiences, case studies and best practices on the impacts of response measures. Diverse international perspectives were presented, including case studies from the Maldives and Slovakia, and a presentation of Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives on Just Transitions. There were also notable inputs from non-party observers who have historically had limited engagement in this forum.

Nonetheless, once negotiations started, the political, process-heavy, and divided nature returned. Negotiations concentrated on a review of the functions, work programme and modalities of the forum. Following the pattern of previous sessions, the G77+China, led by Saudi Arabia with strong support from Ghana on behalf of the African Group, focused on the need to further analyse the negative impacts of response measures (e.g. mitigation actions as well as unilateral measures with cross-border impacts) while other countries (largely the EU and the US) called for balance and the foregrounding of positive impacts and co-benefits such as those relating to health and jobs.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell at COP28. Credit: UN Climate Change.

The draft text at the end of Week 1 of COP28 referenced the need to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to identify, quantify, address and report on the impact of response measures. It also included additional areas of work put forward by developed countries, such as addressing the co-benefits of climate action and analysis of the impacts of a lack of climate action.

Negotiations throughout the second week of COP28 could not come to a consensus. The result was a final text stripped of new elements put forward by both sides and resembling, in many respects, the original functions, work programme and modalities agreed upon after the initial review of the forum at COP21 in 2015.

The Forum on Response Measures embodies many of the most frustrating elements of the COP negotiation process: it is highly political, divided across developing and developed country lines and Parties have a limited appetite for compromise and mutual understanding. International governance systems, including the UN climate system, must navigate these tensions to better enable the realisation of positive co-benefits, most notably through the unlocking of fair and equitable climate finance flows.

Limited progress within the Response Measures negotiations places greater importance on the role of the JTWP as a forum to facilitate productive discussions on synergies, co-benefits, trade-offs and differences in values.

Lessons learnt from the response measures workstream include the need to: maintain strong non-party stakeholder engagement, reflect the needs and priorities of the global majority, address the need for means of implementation and ground discussions in a strong evidence base incorporating the body of existing work from outside the UNFCCC. These elements are addressed partially in the decision text on the JTWP from COP28, however, further work is needed to maximise the potential of the JTWP.

Climate Strategies has been a leader on the topic of Just Transitions for over 10 years. Our work includes efforts to strengthen the knowledge base in Global South countries as part of our South-to-South initiative. Through this initiative, and other climate policy projects we are engaged in, we will continue to adopt a science diplomacy approach to support ambitious Just Transitions within international climate negotiations that translate and facilitate implementation at the national and local levels.