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Climate Change Delegates caucus in the corridors, Bonn climate conference, October 2015 (iisd.ca)

Published on October 26th, 2015 | by Sandy Dechert


UN’s Bonn Climate Talks End Up Better Than They Started

October 26th, 2015 by  

Friday marked the end of the week-long October international climate meeting (11th part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) in Bonn, a runup to the first global climate change agreement in 18 years this December. As at previous meetings, a struggle between goals of the rich and poor countries dominated the discussion.

Stocktaking session at Bonn climate conference, October 2015 (iisd.ca)

Stocktaking session at Bonn climate talks, October 2015 (iisd.ca)

Specifically, as we reported earlier in this series, less developed nations called out the more developed group for tardiness and double-counting in the financing measures adopted to help them transition to low-carbon energy and raise defenses against the sea level rise and big storms that have begun to result from climate change.

Activist t-shirt seen at Bonn climate conference, October 2015 (iisd.ca)The poorer countries still believe strongly that those who are better off should assume the financial burden of cleaning up the greenhouse gases they mostly created in the past. But developed nations have begun to demand that India, Brazil, South Africa, and others on the way up contribute to funding efforts in the Green Climate Fund and elsewhere, as China did last month with a $3 billion pledge for less developed countries.

The European Union has called the less developed countries’ argument “outdated rhetoric,” stating that the world has changed significantly over 20 years of climate talks and that nations now in the middle financial levels should also bear part of the costs. Said Elina Bardram, head of the European delegation: “We live in an entirely different world. The donor base can be broader.”

Wealthy nations also came to count the loans and overseas development assistance they render as part of the climate finance deal (as reported by a recent OECD study) in a move developing countries regard as specious double-dipping.

Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa, representing the G77 + China + India at the Bonn climate conference, October 2015 (iisd.ca)Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa, who represented more than 130 developing nations (the G77 + China + India), voiced their financial concerns. Alix Mazounie of the Climate Action Network summarized the false starts of Monday and Tuesday:

“The crisis we had yesterday was actually very important to refocus the attention of all parties on what this agreement needs to deliver to those most in need, especially on financial issues.”

Having recovered equanimity, the talks progressed with some needed revisions. The open-ended contact group met Friday morning to consider how to proceed, and the spin-off groups for each part of the agreement reconvened. Friday afternoon, each of the spin-off groups released its reports, and the ADP contact group produced a comprehensive text.

Transparency spin-off meeting, Bonn climate conference, October 2015 (iisd.ca)

Transparency spin-off meeting, Bonn climate conference, October 2015 (iisd.ca)

However, progress was uneven. The Bonn climate talks group agreed well enough on mitigation and transparency to allow examination of the details, while more fundamental differences remained in the areas of adaptation and finance.

Some observers felt that a handful of countries could totally reject the new text. That would have meant retreating to an earlier draft in Paris. Fortunately, said Cuba’s chief negotiator Pedro Luis Pedrosa:

“People really started listening to each other…. Now I have the impression that people, every delegation, is very much aware that now we don’t have more time. Either we get it right, or we don’t get it (an agreement).”

Finally, the open-ended contact group convened in the evening to hear comments on the text and proposals for the way forward. These included a vote on whether to turn the draft into the official negotiation text for the next and final 2015 meeting of COP21, which starts at the end of November. The result, from the UN press office:

“The draft text of the agreement enjoys full ownership by the governments of the world and represents a balanced text that will constitute the starting point for the final round of negotiations.”

Conference heads at Bonn climate conference, October 2015 (iisd.ca)

In closing the meeting, the negotiating body eventually agreed on two protocols leading up to the final Paris talks: (1) the Secretariat of the UNFCCC would prepare a technical paper proposing streamlining and consolidation options, and (2) the text, with several omissions rectified, would be forwarded to Paris as is. After the brief closing plenary, ADP 2-11 ended just before 8 pm.

The brighter side of the meeting concerned major planning efforts by the individual nations making up the group. An unexpectedly high number of countries (over three-quarters of the world) were able to introduce national climate plans (INDCs), most of them very comprehensive in scope. Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US labeled this progress highly encouraging.

Adaptation and loss & damage spin-off meeting, Bonn climate conference, October 2015 (iisd.ca)

Adaptation and loss & damage spin-off meeting, Bonn climate conference, October 2015 (iisd.ca)

The Paris agreement must feature “solutions to address the loss and damage caused by mounting climate impacts, affecting people and places from Manila to California. We know that finance is left to the last moments of negotiations and used as a bargaining chip,” said Tasneem Essop, head of WWF’s delegation to the talks. “But governments need to know that this last moment is now. They now only have just six weeks to figure that out.”

Delegates caucus in the corridors, Bonn climate conference, October 2015 (iisd.ca)Essop concluded that a successful treaty must include more clarity “about the scale, the predictability, and additionality of the financial support needed.” See the advance unedited version of the ADP’s draft agreement and draft decision on workstreams 1 and 2 at this link.

Environment and state officials at the ministerial level will meet in early November in Paris to hammer out remaining high-level political issues. Climate change will also come up when the G20 Heads of State meet in Turkey in mid-month and when the Heads of State of the Commonwealth gather in Malta later on. Official UN negotiations will culminate in Paris at the official climate change summit (COP21). 


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About the Author

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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