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UN Climate Talks: Bungling It Up All Over Again?

Okay. So the UNFCCC/ADP (international group in charge of climate mitigation and adaptation) is meeting again this week in Bonn. As always, at the climate talks they’re trying to cobble together a treaty that will unite the world to forestall the grimmest of possible calamities for the human race. And as always, they goofed on Day 1 (of the remaining five before the official deadline of the big Paris meeting in December).

UNCCC banner, Bonn, October 2015 (

The overarching goal of the UN effort is to arrive at measures for 2020-2030 that will limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over levels experienced by the world’s Industrial Revolution levels. Beyond this date, world scientists have agreed that impacts will be disastrous, if not fatal, to world species, including the human race. (Survey the CleanTechnica coverage of climate efforts at this link.)

Representatives from about 190 countries have gathered in Paris for this undertaking. They will attempt “a short, concise and coherent Paris package on… negotiation at COP21. As far as possible it will include text with broad acceptance, as well as crystallized, clear options requiring final decision… at COP21.”

First, Laurence Tubiana, Special Representative for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, explained that the goal of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (Peru, France, the UN Climate Change Support Team, and the UNFCCC secretariat): to show that the global transformation to a low-carbon economy is happening, and that it can be accelerated after Paris. Ms. Tubiana said state and nonstate actors are all responding to the call for an action-oriented COP.

LPAA Focuses (lpaa-briefing-19-10-2015.pdf)

Companies have made 4,279 new commitments presented on the NAZCA platform. The value of these companies is equivalent to the combined GDPs of Japan, Germany, and France.

Global Compact of over 22 Mayors (@CompactOfMayors)More than 1,700 subnational groups have also made individual commitments on NAZCA. They include the Compact of Mayors, New York Declaration on Forests, the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, the Compact of States and Regions, and the Covenant of Mayors. Finally, civil society and faith-based organizations have also created a large number of initiatives. For more details, link here.

The bright side did not dominate, however. The world’s G77 countries (the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations), which now include China and India, again expressed their longstanding displeasure with the latest draft agreement from the Secretariat. They flat out rejected it as just another effort to minimize the concerns of less developed and developing countries about the paucity of contributions from the rich—who, after all, created most of the climate fix we currently enjoy. The US emitted the largest share in the past, although China now occupies first place.

Unfair deal of climate pledges (@ecowatch)

Ed King of (@ClimateHome) has summarized the five broad areas of contention pretty well:

  • Finance: No measurable predictability or adequacy
  • Loss and damage: Draft just notes the problem
  • Long-term goal: No mention of decarbonization
  • Mitigation cycles: When will these happen?
  • Responsibility: How binding will the national commitments be?

EU climate chief Miguel Arias Canete tweeted:

“This … text cannot be it. We must improve it. Next session in Bonn [this week] will be crucial. The EU and many others will work hard to improve it.”

David Waskow, International Climate Director at the World Resources Institute, and colleagues largely agreed with these assessments on where the conference stood on Monday morning at the start of the talks and what negotiators should be considering.

ADP Contact Group (IISD Reporting Services)A few accomplishments of the most recent draft do stand out. This draft was only about a quarter of the size of the preceding one, and leaps and bounds better than everything accomplished earlier since COP20 in Lima last December. And at least it mentioned the historic tensions, especially financing and loss and damage, which earlier versions had skirted almost entirely. Some pundits—including us—lauded its comprehensiveness, despite the varying depths of coverage. In these respects it clearly shone as a stepping-stone on the road to and through Paris.

But it wasn’t good enough for the African bloc, which brought up the subject on Friday for the G77 at the climate talks.

Real progress on the issues came outside the Bonn meeting with a clear call for carbon pricing by leaders from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Germany, France, Chile, Mexico, Ethiopia, and the Philippines (the Carbon Pricing Panel). They advocate financial emissions measures as “a low-carbon, productive, competitive future without the dangerous levels of carbon pollution driving warming.” The development marks the first time an alliance of heads of state, city and state leaders, and heads of leading companies has joined forces to support levying a price on carbon.

Advocated by top officials of the UNFCCC, this alternative has historically received enthusiastic support from many member nations and nongovernmental groups, in addition to huge numbers of individuals and some important business collectives, California’s CalPERS, ENGIE of France, India’s Mahindra Group, and Netherlands-based Royal DSM among them.

“It marks a turning point from the debate on the economic systems needed for low carbon growth to the implementation of policies and pricing mechanisms to deliver jobs, clean growth, and prosperity,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed:

“Low-carbon technologies are an element in the fight against worldwide climate change. With a price for carbon and a global carbon market, we promote investment in these climate-friendly technologies.”

Participating groups in carbon pricing include about 40 nations and 23 cities, states, and regions. The European Union is continuing to refine its mutual emissions trading, and China will launch its own national market next year.

Positive signs from non-meeting sources on Day 1:

  • 122 INDCs representing 150 Parties1 had been communicated to the UNFCCC secretariat as of October 19.
  • Lunchtime climate pledge events on Parties’ INDCs have begun today with presentations of new climate pledges from Iceland, Brazil, Israel, and Granada. They conclude on Friday with statements by Colombia, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, and Thailand
  • Preparations have begun for the next meeting of the Green Climate Fund Board.
  • President Obama announced new commitments from 81 US companies joining the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. The companies have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over $5 trillion.
  • France began an unprecedented diplomatic drive for a major climate change deal, including all of its ambassadors, embassies, and consulates around the globe.
  • In Milan, US Secretary of State John Kerry noted the years-long drought in Syria and broader global challenges of hunger and overpopulation.
  • The six-monthly National Surveys on Energy and the Environment found that at least 70% of Americans now believe that global warming during the last 40 years is real and supported by solid evidence.
  • The same poll shows the lowest recent percentage of Americans who doubt climate change.
  • A majority of Republicans support the evidence behind global warming for the first time since 2008, before the ill-fated Copenhagen conference.
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Written By

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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