This will be the first formal negotiations to take up the ‘draft negotiating text’ that has been prepared as a part of the final outcome of December’s Paris Climate Summit.
The negotiations begin in the shadow of news that although the uptake of renewable energy continues apace across the world, the 12,000 year old Larson B Icesheet in Antarctica is on track to completely collapse by the end of the decade.
The December Paris Climate Summit is the deadline which was agreed in 2011, under what is known as the ‘Durban Platform’, for the delivery of two objectives:
Increasing the level of climate action, including the strength of targets and the provision of climate finance, in the pre-2020 period; and Developing a new agreement ‘with legal force’ to apply to all countries from 2020 onward.
To deliver greater pre-2020 action the negotiations are currently focused on ‘technical expert meetings’ where ideas about policy approaches are shared. The Bonn session will focus on “renewable energy supply.”
There has been a push by many developing countries to also include discussion of targets and finance levels specifically in the pre-2020 discussions. This will occur simultaneously to the “multilateral review” of countries’ current 2020 pollution targets.
One of the objectives of the Bonn session is to further streamline the ‘draft negotiating text’ and to produce a version with clearer cut ‘options’ for governments to choose between.
In the lead up to Bonn several governments, particularly from rich industrialised countries, have announced their proposed ‘contributions’ (INDCs) to the Paris agreement for the post-2020 period. Almost all of these proposals have been ruled insufficient by science and it is unclear what impact such dangerous proposals will have on trust in the talks.
There will also be ongoing technical negotiations on issues such as forestry and land-use accounting, carbon markets, and financial reporting.
Key emerging questions for the Bonn talks will be:
How will governments address the lack of pre-2020 climate action?
Will the G7 meeting give guidance on the issue of climate finance?
How comprehensive will the Paris Agreement be?
Reactions from global civil society
“Storms are happening now, droughts are happening now, we demand action now. People are not going to settle for the very weak proposals we are seeing for 2025 and 2030. With current 2020 pollution targets, combined with the frighteningly weak 2025 proposals, it looks like the Paris Agreement will be historic for locking us in to as much as 4C of warming. Governments must know that scientifically, legally, and morally the test for Paris is action in the pre-2020 period. From the Philippines the simple test of these talks are: will pollution targets get stronger and will finance and technology be transferred to those who need it.” Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development Movement on Debt and Development, said from Manila, in the Philippines.
“The leaders of the richest countries in the world are meeting simultaneously in Germany at the G7 and they must have climate on their agenda. We cannot wish away the climate crisis, it will take real effort and real commitment. That means a real commitment to stop funding dirty energy and to start funding the energy systems that people in Ethiopia and across Africa need. If there is no commitment on finance for renewable energy access, or to prepare our crops for warmer temperatures then there will be no deal worth the name.” Azeb Germai, focal point on climate at LDC-Watch, said from Addis Ababa Ethiopia.
“We know that climate change is not only about pollution caps going forward but also the historical emissions that got us into this mess in the first place. It’s been agreed under the UN Convention that those historical emissions create a responsibility on developed countries to transfer finance and technology. Many developing country governments will want to see the Paris Agreement deliver on those responsibilities rather than avoiding them. The options are there in the draft-text at the moment but they need to be cemented into the central agreement to have force and to give the world a fighting chance of addressing the climate crisis.” Meena Raman, negotiations expert at Third World Network, based in Penang, Malaysia said.
“The UN has been talking about renewable energy for two years now – it’s time to act. The evidence is absolutely clear, the renewable energy transformation can lessen our climate impact, end energy poverty as well as creating millions of clean jobs. All around the world people are already setting up publicly controlled renewable energy systems to power their communities. Climate scientists, citizens groups, global insurance companies, as well as the World Energy Council are all urging the UN to get behind this transformation. In Paris, people expect concrete outcomes on the ground and in their communities. Another talkshop is not going to cut it. We need real progress not more kow-towing to dirty energy lobbyists.” Asad Rehman, Head of International Climate at Friends of the Earth EWNI in London, UK, said.
“Governments are kidding themselves if they think they can walk away from the Bonn talks without getting more clarity on how adaptation and climate induced loss and damage issue will be treated. For the world’s most impoverished, marginalised, and vulnerable people the issue that matters most is whether they are prepared for climate change’s impacts when they hit, and whether they are compensated for their losses afterward. Loss and damage is a technical as well as a political issue – but it’s centrality in the climate deal cannot be ignored.” Harjeet Singh, International Manager for Climate Change and Resilience at ActionAid International, in New Delhi, India, said.
What outcome on pre-2020 action?
The Bonn Session includes only one afternoon to discuss the outcome on pre-2020 action, outside of the “technical expert meeting”, and this is likely to lead to an outcry from many countries including African and the Small Islands.
Despite the latest science confirming the urgent need to reduce climate pollution to avoid the most catastrophic of projected impacts, the pre-2020 ‘workstream’ has so far failed produce a clear outline of its final product.
This comes as the Bonn session will also see an interrogation of current 2020 pledges under the UN rules agreed in Cancun in 2010. The formal questions submitted by governments suggest that countries like Canada and Australia are off track to meet their essentially zero effort targets.
This follows on from a Ministerial meeting last June which was supposed to see the 2020 climate targets of developed countries revisited, but saw no movement, and the developed countries in Lima refusing to revisit their targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
In fact the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has not formally ‘entered into force’ because too few governments have made a proper legal commitment to it, despite promising to do so in 2012.
This lack of action by the countries with the biggest history of climate pollution and the most wealth available to tackle it, combined with broken promises on revisiting their targets and legally binding them under the Kyoto system, is severely undermining trust in the talks.
Several observers hope that a more focused and collaborative approach on renewable energy supply could build on proposals by the African Group of countries for a global support programme to scale up renewables.
A key idea to be discussed is the Globally Funded Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff, which would ensure decentralized community controlled energy access for the almost 2 billion people without electricity – but without replicating the dangerous existing model of energy generation and distribution.
2. Climate finance the key to climate action
The Group of 7 (G7) of the richest countries in the world will also be having a heads of state level meeting in Germany in the middle week of the climate talks.
It is expected that the Leaders will issue a statement that will address some of the issues on the table in Bonn, and their approach will be indicative of the chances of a credible outcome in Paris.
Of greatest consequence will be the approach they take to ‘climate finance’ – both ending the funding of dirty energy through subsides; and spurring renewable energy through finance and technology transfers to developing countries.
In the over-arching Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed in 1992, developed countries took on commitments to make such transfers, but little has been realized.
The IPCC, the UN’s science panel, has recognised that for the world to confront the climate crisis these transfers will be essential; they also reflect a form of justice as it is developed countries who have contributed the greatest share of climate pollution currently in the atmosphere.
Whether developed countries are required to make specific finance commitments or only commit to an aggregate ‘global goal’, like the $100 billion per year by 2020 made in Copenhagen, is a key dividing line, with rich nations hesitant to spell out the details of how they plan to deliver.
Similarly, whether developing countries can make ‘conditional’ proposals – where they outline the extra climate action they will take if they receive further finance and technology – will be a central issue. India appears to believe this should be a part of the agreement. Likewise, Mexico includes a conditional promise to go above and beyond their provisional contribution, if such finance and technology are made available.
3. Will the Paris Agreement deal with all the climate issues?
An ongoing divide in the talks has been whether issues beyond pollution controls are included in the central agreement. These issues include adapting to climate change’s impacts, dealing with losses from those impacts, and transferring finance and technology.
Current discussions have considered a central ‘legal’ agreement with a package of other ‘outcomes’ supporting this. These other outcomes would most likely be the annual ‘decisions’ issued by the UN conference.
Given the devastating impact of climate change on millions of people, such as the current heat waves in India, many observers are emphasising the need to address issues beyond pollution control with legal measures.
In UN conference language this means countries taking on targets for finance and technology transfers, addressing adaptation, and including ‘loss and damage’ in the final central agreement.
At the last conference in Lima countries concluded that all these issues should be covered by the legal agreement in Paris. The current draft text includes these issues, but none of the ‘contributions’ proposed by developed countries do.
Bonn is likely to see further specification of the types of commitments developing countries want to see on these issues and whether industrialised countries are prepared to engage.