As 10 days of international climate talks tied up yesterday in Bonn, Germany, Climate Action Network-International declared itself conditionally satisfied with progress on the exhaustively-negotiated rulebook that will enable countries to bring the principles behind the Paris agreement to life.
“Writing a brand new rulebook post-Paris began with a fair amount of head-scratching,” said Teresa Anderson, climate policy officer at ActionAid International. “But slowly, slowly, ideas are taking shape. Negotiators have begun to sketch an outline of the rulebook, and when they come back for the next round of negotiations they’ll be ready to do the colouring in.”
“At this juncture, we need an unwavering signal from all countries that climate action will not be relegated to a mere footnote on the global agenda,” CAN-I stressed. “The most vulnerable countries have reminded us that the goals of the Paris Agreement are non-negotiable.”
Which means “there can be no room for confusion or backsliding on the direction and speed of travel that governments promised to embark on in Paris. At the upcoming G7 and G20 summits, civil society calls for enhanced and sustained political commitment to act on climate change to ensure a successful outcome in COP23,” set to bring delegates back to Bonn November 6-17 with the Government of Fiji in the chair.
“Pacific islanders are determined to ensure that COP23 builds on the momentum from Paris and delivers the strongest possible outcomes for the vulnerable countries and for communities everywhere,” said Krishneil Narayan, coordinator of the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network. “The ‘Pacific COP’ will be a COP for the people, not the polluters. Ensuring our survival means implementing actions that achieve the 1.5ºC temperature limit by bringing an end to the fossil fuel era, addressing loss and damage, and fast-tracking the flow of climate finance into the Pacific for adaptation.”
“The negotiations have made moderate progress, but the spotlight will now be on the most powerful nations,” said Sven Harmeling, climate change advocacy coordinator at CARE International. “Climate change impacts are hitting vulnerable populations all over the world,” and “almost all countries here in Bonn have made clear: Backtracking from the Paris agreement is not an option, climate action must be ramped up!”
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy practice, said he was encouraged that negotiations in Bonn “were not around whether or not the Paris agreement was needed, but rather about the details of its implementation. This sends a strong signal that the climate negotiations are not being paralyzed by politics. Rather, negotiators engaged in the technical discussions that are required to make substantial progress by COP23 on the rules that will guide the implementation of the agreement.”
E3G Policy Advisor Camilla Born agreed that “from negotiation rooms in Bonn, to phone calls between Beijing and Paris, one message was clear—the Paris agreement is irreversible,” a reality that puts pressure on the U.S., the G7, and the G20 “to deliver the goals” set out in the landmark global deal.
In the course of the mid-year negotiating session, the European Union and 79 African, Caribbean, and Pacific developing nations affirmed their support for Paris and agreed on “strengthened cooperation to promote low-emission, climate-resilient development,” the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States reports. “As an example of this increased cooperation, the EU has announced support of €800 million for the Pacific region up to 2020, with around half earmarked for climate action. The EU will also provide €3 million to support Fiji’s COP23 Presidency.”
On a parallel track, at a meeting of the China-led Belt and Road Summit, 30 countries reiterated their commitment to implement greenhouse gas reductions under the Paris accord. “We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through taking urgent action on climate change and encouraging all parties which have ratified it to fully implement the Paris agreement,” the final summit communiqué stated.
In an op ed on Climate Home, independent consultant Julie-Anne Richards argues that COP 23 might be the meeting where loss and damage—the calculation of the compensation to which vulnerable countries are entitled for climate impacts to which they can’t realistically adapt—finally takes centre stage, with Fiji set to become the first Pacific nation to preside over the annual UN gathering.
“You can’t adapt to your island home disappearing under rising seas, or your fertile farmland being turned into desert, or your source of water from glacial melt disappearing as glaciers permanently melt away,” Richards writes. So “the slipperiness of loss and damage is entirely down to rich countries not wanting to understand because, ultimately, they don’t want to pay to deal with the impacts.”
But even so, “as the impacts get more and more severe, we need new ways to fund support for those at the sharp end.”
In contrast to the issues faced by the countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts, a dominant issue over the last two weeks was the undue influence private companies exert on UN climate negotiations. “Though companies are not permitted to participate directly in the climate talks, representatives from almost 300 industry groups are free to roam the negotiations in Bonn, Germany as ‘stakeholders’, and to lobby negotiators on behalf of corporations that may seek to slow action,” the New York Times reported, citing developing countries and civil society groups that have long objected to the practice.
“These corporations are so powerful,” said Ugandan delegate Chebet Maikut, whose country’s economy is less than one-tenth the size of ExxonMobil’s market capitalization.
The Times stated that business groups were winning the battle to retain influence over post-Paris negotiations. But civil society came out swinging in the week before the Bonn talks, with a new report by Corporate Accountability International accusing the 270 business/industry non-government organizations (BINGOs) accredited by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of “stalking the halls of the U.N. climate talks to undermine, weaken, and block progress.” By the end of the mid-year talks, The Guardian was reporting progress in the effort to force fossil lobbyists at the conference to declare conflicts of interest in the name of “openness and transparency”, over objections from the EU, the United States, and Australia.
“The result was pretty good—understanding that the world’s largest economic powers were adamantly opposed to anything to do with integrity or conflict of interest at all,” said Corporate Accountability International’s Jesse Bragg. But the head of the Australian delegation, environment ambassador Patrick Suckling, stood up for fossils’ right to help craft global climate policy.
“Some of the companies being alluded to as the polluters of policy, they will be, some of them, the providers of the biggest and best solutions,” he told The Guardian. “And you could look at some of the statements coming out of ExxonMobil and Shell recently to underline that point.”
(A couple of days into the conference, the UNFCCC posted a bizarre online warning that “certain admitted observer organizations are using commercial business model packages to solicit business. As an inducement to sell these packages, potential clients are assured participation at UNFCCC conferences, sessions and meetings through quotas of admitted observer organizations.” The notice stressed that those offers ran counter to climate secretariat policies.)
Earlier in the Bonn meeting, delegates shot down a secretariat proposal to withdraw direct funding for scientific research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a move that would have forced the IPCC to seek out individual country donors for its work. “Rarely so united at these talks, the majority of parties rejected the secretariat’s proposal,” ClimateHome reported. “Shifting the onus of the funding from the core budget of the UNFCCC, which is funded by compulsory contributions from member states, to individual country donors, would allow some to free-ride.”
And as the talks drew to a close, a reporter with the U.S. Cable News Network whimsically described Bonn’s World Conference Centre as a place “where Donald Trump doesn’t exist—or where people are trying very hard to believe that.” Notwithstanding what an American journalist might have expected (or the famously narcissistic former reality TV star would have considered his due), Trump wasn’t the centre of discussion—on the contrary, his name hardly came up at all.
“When someone important leaves the table—any table—there’s one of two things you can do,” Seychelles climate ambassador Ronald Jumeau told CNN. “Either you watch them going out the door and start beating your chest and pulling out your hair, saying, ‘What are we going to do?!'” Or you get to work.
“We’re not all going to rush out and leave the table unattended.”