Climate Negotiations in Bonn: 5 Important Items to Follow

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Conexion Coral, Bonn, Germany

Last week concluded the forty-eighth sessions as part of the latest climate change negotiations in Bonn. Discussions identified small advances working towards to implementation of the Paris Agreement, but concern of not progressing at the speed required. Here is a summary of some important points to follow in an intense second part of the year for climate action.

On Monday, April 30, a new climate negotiation meeting began with a clear objective: to move forward with the so-called "rulebook" of the Paris Agreement. That is, after reaching consensus on a common document to address climate change, it is now necessary to establish the implementation rules and work program for each country to meet their goals.

During these two weeks, the parties met in Bonn ahead of the next COP24 to be held in Katowice, Poland, next December. "I am satisfied that some progress was made at these negotiations. But many voices are underlining the urgency of advancing more rapidly on finalizing the operational guidelines of the Paris Agreement”. These were some of the final words of Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change when concluding the negotiations.   To continue working on the climate action agenda, some outstanding issues which were identified at this intersessional meeting.

 

  1. ONE MORE INTERSESSIONAL BEFORE COP24

What began as a rumor at the start of the week (and even a few months ago among some negotiators) was finally confirmed this week: there will be a second round of negotiations before COP24. What will be considered as the second part of SB48 (under the name of SB 48.2) will be held from September 3rd to 8th in Bangkok, Thailand (with three pre-sessional day from August 31 to September 2). However it has been thought that the UNFCCC's official announcement of this decision reduced the urgency of meeting the goals in Bonn, leaving the possibility of "continuing the work in Bangkok".

According to Espinosa, “strong progress should be made by the Parties in the next intersessional to have a good outcome in Katowice”. The UNFCCC Executive Secretary underlined that “there are some issues that are technically complicated and, in some cases, there are still very different views”.

Civil society organizations expressed their concern about the lack of progress made in these negotiations and the expectations that are being set for the next meeting in Thai territory. Paula Caballero, Global Director of the Climate Program at World Resources Institute said: “Climate negotiators kept up a good pace this week but will be leaving Bonn with a lot more ground to cover to get to the finish line in Poland this December. At the next negotiation session in Bangkok delegates will need to maintain that same focused approach to turn the corner on the politics and policy”. 

 

UNFCCC - Opening session of the forty-eighth session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 48) and the forty-eighth session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) - May 2018

In this regard, Mark Lutes, Head of Delegation of WWF expressed: ““We have seen steady, if uneven, progress in the negotiations. Pieces are falling in place for the full implementation of the Paris Agreement. This is evident both with the rules and closing the emissions gap. But finance is key to getting a good outcome in Katowice. Li Shuo, Senior Global Policy advisor of Greenpeace underlined: “The box needs to be unlocked, it needs to happen in 2018 and the key to that is trust. Trust has to be built at a ministerial level through exchanges on important issues such as differentiation and finance. In the months before Bangkok, ministers must engage to start a dynamic process that leads to a robust rulebook and much greater ambition”.

Espinosa from the UNFCCC was convinced: “We have to be clear that we have a lot of work to do in the coming months. The main issue is to find the right balance between each position”. What would we expect to realize in COP24? It seems that most commentary following the Bonn negotiations this spring point to a much clearer picture of the work program needed to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. The meeting in Poland must take into account the different views and inputs by governments whilst clarifying crucial points such as financing. But the question still stands "What expectations are there that the same countries that failed to do what they should have here in Bonn, really make it happen in Bangkok?".

 

  1. LITTLE PROGRESS

Each meeting is a possibility to move forward with the implementation of the Agreement. But if there is one point upon which both the representatives of the UNFCCC and the civil society organizations agree, it is that progress made during these two weeks has been relatively little.

In an interview for Conexión Coral, Espinosa stressed the importance of the follow-up work that will be done over the next years in the theme of agriculture and forests, in particular the progress made on the “Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture” is crucial to address food security in many developing countries. The advances made to date include the adoption of a roadmap for the next two and a half years that will have an impact on more than 1 billion of the world’s farming community.

She also stressed the importance of the adoption of the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), an initiative that supports the Paris Agreement, related to training and awareness on climate change. The goal is that the Parties appoint national focal points and develop national strategies for promoting ACE. The draft will be adopted at COP24.

 

Air pollution over Poznan City, Poland, December 2016 (CC)

 

  1. THE SPEED OF NEGOTIATIONS VS. THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

Only if we consider what happened during this first half of 2018, the effects of climate change are felt around the world. Droughts and floods, extremely hot summers and winters with fatal snowfalls in winter. Independently of debates on the causality of climate change, its impacts are clear and do not discriminate territorial, political or social class boundaries.

The may be questions surrounding whether the negotiations lead to positive change at the speed that the planet requires. That is the question that caused the greatest concern during this meeting in Bonn, "Climate change will not wait", expressed Sven Harmeling, Global Lead on Climate Change Advocacy of CARE International Climate Change & Resilience Platform, adding "Despite some technical progress in Bonn, climate change impacts will not wait for slow-paced government negotiations. Without stronger political leadership, it will be an uphill battle to achieve the major milestones envisaged for COP24 in Katowice, Poland, particularly on the Paris Rulebook. The heat is on for developed countries to increase finance for vulnerable people in developing countries to minimize and address loss and damage”.

 

  1. THE AMBITION OF THE TALANOA DIALOGUE

UNFCCC - Talanoa Dialogue - Opening, May 2018 (CC)

Despite the little progress made during these two weeks, the importance of the Talanoa Dialogue has been underlined in terms of the impact it could have to increase the ambition of climate policies and the implementation of the Paris Agreement itself. In an event held on 6th May, discussion turned to the differences and multiple experiences of how climate change is being experienced around the world and how we could work together to move forward.

“As a Fijian, it was wonderful to see the Talanoa Dialogue off to a positive start. The important task, however, is to now translate these stories into a meaningful way that ramps up ambition for turning around the climate impacts”, expressed Krishneil Narayan, Climate Change Consultant from Fiji and the Pacific Islands Region, adding: “With the addition of another round of talks scheduled for Bangkok in September, countries and all involved in the climate talks, including the non-state actors must focus to ensure that we are able to deliver a strong and effective Paris Rulebook at COP24 in December”.

In the closing of the Talanoa Dialogue held on Wednesday, most of the Parties thanked the Fijian Presidency for convening the meeting and expressed their interest that the words should be translated into concrete actions to boost the ambition of global climate action. Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and President of COP23 assured: “We must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue leads to more ambition in our climate action plans”. According to the COP23 Chief Negotiator, Luke Daunivalu, a report will be released on the main conclusion of this first experience: “This is not the end of the process, but the beginning”. During COP24 a second part of the Dialogue will be held with a more political phase. 

 

  1. WHAT’S NEXT?

In addition to the next intersessional in Thailand, the second part of 2018 will feature a very intense agenda on events that could (or should) impact on global climate action. Just to name a few: the G7 Leaders' Summit in June in Canada, the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in the same month in Germany, the Ministerial on Climate Action in Belgium and the second meeting of the G20 Climate Sustainability Working Group in Argentina a few days before the SB48.

But there is a particular interest in what will happen in September in San Francisco with the Global Climate Action Summit. Donald Trump's decision to take the United States out of the Paris Agreement awakened a strong response from local governments and companies that will gather in this event to maintain climate action, contribute to the objectives of the Agreement and increase the ambition of the policies implemented. During these days in Bonn, five topics that will guide the debate at the San Francisco event were confirmed: clean energies and transportation, land stewardship, investments for a clean and resilient economy, sustainable cities and communities, and clean jobs for an inclusive economic growth.

Climate Week NYC and the United Nations General Assembly during the same month in New York will contribute to maintaining the ‘momentum’ of global action with a view to what should happen at COP24. In fact, this week, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, announced a Climate Summit for September 2019 that will seek to review the commitments of the Agreement.

According to Harjeet Singh of Action Aid International “at COP24, we are going to decide how the Paris Agreement comes to life, so the role of the Polish presidency will be very important". In this regard, the delegations expressed their discomfort during these weeks regarding the difficulties with logistics in Katowice and civil organizations raised concerns on the lack of assurances given to promote freedom of expression. In fact, experts from the United Nations issued a statement urging Poland to ensure free and full participation in climate talks.