Kenya in Climate Change Negotiations

What is Climate Change Negotiations?

Climate Change Negotiations is the process through which parties (countries), under the United Nations umbrella, agree on actions to collectively take to address climate change and its impacts. Since the climate change challenge is a global problem that is unconfined by national or continental boundaries, addressing climate change requires global collective action by all nations.

Why does Kenya engage in Climate Change Negotiations?

Kenya’s economy is dependent on climate sensitive natural resources, and is very vulnerable to climate change. Climate change impacts the lives and livelihoods of Kenyans, as well as Kenya’s development endeavours.

Kenya is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the treaty that guides climate change issues globally. The decisions taken under the UNFCCC are binding to Kenya, since Kenya signed the UNFCCC, its Kyoto Protocol and its Paris Agreement. Kenya ratified the UNFCCC on 30th August, 1994 subsequently it entered into force on 28th November, 1994. Kenya accented to The Kyoto Protocol on 25th February 2005, leading to its entry into force on 26th May 2005. Kenya ratified The Paris Agreement on 28th December, 2016; and it entered into force on January 27th 2017.

The UN climate change negotiations arrangements

UN climate change negotiations is done in two climate change conferences annually (mid and end year), each taking two weeks. Mid-year Conferences occur in mid-year (May/June), and is normally hosted at the UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn, Germany. During the mid-year conference, technical discussions are undertaken under Ad Hoc Working groups (currently the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement- APA), the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI).

The Conference of Parties (COP) occurs at the end year (November/December), and its hosting rotates among the continents. The COP is the supreme decision making organ under the UNFCCC. The Conference features policy and political discussions under the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP); the Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) and the Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA). During the COP, deliberations are preceded by technical discussions under the Ad Hoc Working groups and the Subsidiary Bodies (SBSTA and SBI).

Under the UN system, decisions are made on a collective agreement basis, respecting sovereignty of all parties to the agreements (hence all must agree).

How does Kenya engage in climate change negotiations?

Several weeks prior to the Climate Change Conferences, the UNFCCC Secretariat publishes the annotated agenda for the various work-streams of the conference. Based on these, the Climate Change Directorate convenes stakeholder consultative meetings depending on theme and details in the annotations of the agenda items to be discussed. This enables the crafting of a country position for each item (that resonates with relevant policies and country interests) regarding the actions required for each agenda item.

The Stakeholders consultative meetings then leads to Negotiation teams being formed. These teams depend on the issues in the agenda items to be discussed, resource availability and expertise required. The resultant teams are normally multidisciplinary and multi-institutional, and are then accredited by Kenya’s UNFCCC Focal Point (the authorised entity for all engagements between Kenya and the UNFCCC Secretariat) to attend the Conferences.

Under the UN system, decisions are made on a mutual agreement basis, respecting sovereignty of parties to the agreements. Kenya belongs to two negotiation blocks – the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN), that comprises of nearly all African states; and the Group of 77 and China (G77 and China), that comprises of 134 developing countries globally.

Prior to the Climate Change Conferences, these groups meet (chronologically the AGN, then the G77&China) to build consensus on issues regarding each agenda item. This is because decisions taken at the Conferences impact differently on parties. Kenya has to articulate her interests and influence favourable positions during the meetings of the AGN and G77&China meetings.

During the negotiation sessions, Kenya’s inputs on the floor should, under normal circumstances, concur with and support that of the AGN and the G77&China. As negotiations proceed, in the spirit of give and take, parties’ positions change. Kenya therefore continually engages other parties (both within the negotiating blocks and in the sessions) to keep the interests of Kenya alive till a final decision is reached.