A ten-day meeting to hone the draft text of the Paris 2015 universal climate agreement has begun in Bonn, Germany. Presidents of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Lima COP20 (Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the deft and diplomatic Environment Minister of Peru) and the upcoming Paris COP21 meetings (Laurent Fabius, who is also Foreign Minister of France) opened the UNFCCC talks on June 1.
The UN Bonn climate meeting comes after the major business and climate summit just held in Paris, and it overlaps with the meeting of the G-7 in Germany. The synergy will benefit the world climate effort. The Paris summit allowed 25 worldwide business networks—representing over 6.5 million companies from more than 130 countries—to compare notes on climate action. Formerly disparate factions coalesced in Paris to support a strong climate change agreement in December and to make new commitments that will help the world transition to a low-emission, climate-resilient economy as soon as possible. Far long-term goals, though yet unspoken by many in the business world, may include deep decarbonization and eventually carbon-free power.
The G-7 countries will meet for their annual summit Sunday and Monday, June 7-8, at Schloss Elmau in Upper Bavaria. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will host the meeting, has said that she would like to use the G-7 summit to push ahead with two UN projects: first, the worldwide climate agreement, and second, an agenda for sustainable development.
Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action
The UNFCCC runs this Bonn climate session mainly to host the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. The ADP takes its name from the UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011, which ended with 195 countries pledging to negotiate a new international treaty by 2015. ADP’s members hold direct responsibility for attaining a workable instrument in Paris for the years following 2020.
At ADP’s last session in Geneva (February), countries produced an official negotiating text from the virtually unanimous draft they had compiled in Lima last December. Unfortunately, after four iterations, its length grew instead of shortening. The upside of the February changes is that the new draft bypassed international political gaming and contained all major concerns of all nations. By spelling out the concerns of developing countries about industrialized nations, and vice versa, it allows for direct comparison of issues and also works to defuse national and bloc hot buttons.
The Geneva update to the Lima text covers all aspects of the upcoming agreement: mitigation of climate change; adaptation to it; financing; technology; enhancement; capacity-building on the individual, institutional, and systemic levels; and transparency of action and support. It is now serving as a basis for the Bonn ADP discussions.
Regular twice-yearly UNFCCC subcommittee meetings
As well as hosting the vital ADP planning, this June session also serves as one of the two annual meetings of both permanent subcommittees of the UNFCCC: the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation. These two groups make decisions on the technical, scientific, and implementation aspects of the international Convention. They also provide many of the elements the ADP will use to craft the Bonn climate conclusions and future versions of the Paris draft agreement.
Multilateral assessments of submitted climate plans (INDCs)
Yesterday, the important multilateral assessment began. During this process, member nations that have submitted climate action plans (representing 31% of total emissions, so far—a good start, considering it includes two of the largest emitters, the European Union and the United States) formally present them to the group.
The UN calls these country-specific plans “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” to the overall world effort to contain climate change. Through the INDC, each government can communicate internationally how it will cut emissions after 2020. According to these guidelines recently prepared by the UN Development Programme and the World Resources Institute, each INDC should include the following:
- Internationally communicated pre-2020 climate actions,
- National objectives and priorities,
- Current emissions profile of the country,
- Projected future emissions,
- Assessment of mitigation potential, and
- Resource mobilization strategies.
The Bonn INDC presentations take 30-60 minutes each and come with prepared slides. You can access the speeches and download the slides here (filter by keyword “second”).
On Tuesday, delegates began profiling the climate action plans received so far from the member nations. In that session, delegates heard from Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Canada. The next up for examination were from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, and Japan. Final reports are coming from Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and United Kingdom.
Country plans will continue through Friday, June 5. Through this process, everyone present will have a chance to assess how the developed countries are implementing actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to examine the approaches taken by some developing nations as well. The still-developing group has a later deadline. Some of the less developed countries are amassing and sifting through large quantities of data for the first time. We’ll have a report on the action plans after all have been reviewed and documented.
Technical Expert Meetings
A series of Technical Expert Meetings constitutes the fourth purpose of the Bonn climate conclave. Groups of specialists work together to identify ways to scale up climate action beore the 2020 agreement comes into place. They are now holding discussions on scaling up renewable energy supply and energy efficiency in urban areas. Having already taken action on climate and formed international municipal links, cities have proven to be even stronger advocates for mitigation and adaptation so far than many states.
Other conference activities
Examining whether 2 degrees Celsius is still an appropriate climate target. Another session Tuesday assessed the adequacy of the current international goal of keeping the rise in average worldwide temperatures this century to 2 degrees Celsius or below, compared to Earth’s preindustrial climate. Some say we must keep temps below 1.5 degrees; others feel we can go over 2 degrees without doing irreversible harm. A comprehensive dialogue has been held on the adequacy of the goal and on progress toward it.
Discussion of Article 6 of the UNFCCC. Governments and other stakeholders have also shared experiences and ideas about Article 6 of the UNFCCC. A key element in worldwide understanding of climate change, Article 6 covers climate change education, training, public awareness, access to information, and international cooperation.
Said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC:
“It is not only about studying climate change, but also about understanding it. It is critical to include it in curricula, but it needs to be embedded in the DNA…. [This] is not just another course; it is about how everything else we study or do is affected by climate change. It is about understanding the transformation, to be able to act on it.”
In the keynote address, George Marshall, founder of the Climate Outreach Information Network and author of Don’t Even Think About It: Why our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, spoke about how to promote challenging truths to unwilling audiences. “Defining climate change is about how to equip people for life in a changing world.” He advocated rewiring understandably resistant brains to register not only the rational, intellectual side of the climate situation—which creates anxiety and uncertainty—but to engage the full range of emotions, inspiring a successful return to core values.
Breakout sessions examined five topics related to climate change education and came up with courses of action for each:
- Formulating policies, strategies, and long-term approaches for climate change education and related sustainable development,
- Fostering societal transformation and behavior change outside the formal education process,
- Using information and communication technologies for promoting climate change education,
- Strengthening the implementation, monitoring and reporting of climate change education, and
- Scaling up climate change education through international cooperation.
The second day focused on training and international cooperation relating to training. Breakouts featured five themes:
- Training and skills development for green jobs and low emission development,
- Fostering climate-resilient development through skills development and training on adaptation to unavoidable cliate changes,
- Empowering strategic groups for mobilizing climate action,
- Training the trainers and professional learning, and
- Scaling up climate change education through international cooperation.
Climate Action Fair. Also, the UNFCCC secretariat is holding a Climate Action Fair at the Bonn climate talks through Saturday. It showcases climate actions already taking place. It also illustrates the discussions in the Technical Expert Meetings on renewable energy supply and energy efficiency in urban areas. As part of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, it is designed to demonstrate “the wealth of climate action among cities, regions, companies, and investors,” including all international cooperative initiatives, which are starting to add up.