When world leaders reconvened from May 8 to May 18 for the Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB 46), top of the agenda was implementing the Paris Agreement, but at the beginning all eyes were also on the US delegation. Would President Trump announce a withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and what impact would that have on the negotiation dynamics?
But despite the uncertainty around the future of the US participation, the attending parties proved themselves more than determined to continue their work and to keep the momentum of Paris alive. Overall progress was slow as most issues that had to be dealt with in Bonn were of a rather technical nature and quite complex. However, thanks to the firm determination of negotiators, the climate talks had a number of positive outcomes.
First of all, it is important to mention that there has been progress in outlining the so-called “Paris Rulebook” that is supposed to guide countries in implementing the commitments they have made in their national climate action plans. A first draft is due to be delivered at COP 23 in November of this year, and this goal appears to be within reach.
Countries also made progress in discussions concerning the Facilitative Dialogue that is supposed to take place in 2018. This process is especially important as it is meant to take stock of progress in terms of reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement and – as a result – identifying anchoring points and opportunities for stronger climate action. As we all know, the current national climate action plans that were submitted by the participating countries put us on a path to limit global warming by a maximum of 3-4 degrees, rather than the maximum of 2 degrees or even preferably 1.5 degrees of warming needed to avoid severe impacts. The Facilitative Dialogue has the potential to increase the ambition to mitigate climate change, and should therefore be taken seriously.
Further discussions on how to shape the Global Stocktake – an important review process under the Paris Agreement - were also happening in Bonn and will continue throughout COP 23. Many questions still need to be sorted out, e.g. what information should feed into this process, how it should operate and what its outcomes should be.
The "elephant in the room" was probably the discussions on climate finance. But those were productive as well, putting on the table questions about the accounting of finance, or how the adaptation fund - intended to support especially the most vulnerable communities and countries in tackling the impacts of climate change – could be moved under the umbrella of the Paris Agreement. In this field, however, it seems like the uncertainty on what to do if the US does not fulfill its financial commitments is biggest.
To sum up, the climate talks in Bonn have shown that the world is fully committed to implementing the Paris Agreement. Through their actions and the progress made, Parties have shown that they will not get distracted by shifting political circumstances in any country. It seems like the slogan “Now more than ever!” is the new guiding principle for more global climate action. The EU, the Climate Vulnerable Forum and other stakeholders have all emphasized their will to action and to maintaining the spirit created by the Paris Agreement. The UNFCCC should also consider how to give greater room for participation to non-state actors like cities, trade unions, and progressive and climate-sensitive businesses, as they could help raise ambition to tackle dangerous climate change effectively. ###
Manuela Mattheß is based in Berlin where she works on international energy and climate policy at the FES Department of Global Policy and Development.
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