Co-Chairs Kishan Kumarsingh and Artur Runge-Metzger on day 3 of the Bonn Climate Talks \ see more photos: IISD RS
CORRECTION: Our previous email had an error in describing the World Bank's policy on coal. This has now been corrected.
This week’s climate talks have passed the halfway mark. While progress is hard to measure - with many conversations happening behind closed doors and old divides between developed and developing countries in the spotlight - negotiators are (slowly) moving into the ‘nitty gritty’ of designing a new global treaty. The talks have focused heavily on the sharing of ideas and best practices, and a formal ‘contact group’ that could speed-up the drafting process is now expected to be formed by the end of the week.
Much of that nitty gritty discussion is focused on ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs). These are essentially the pledges that governments have promised to put forward ahead of a new treaty being agreed at the 2015 climate talks in Paris – with initial pledges expected in the first quarter of next year. The most immediate question that still needs answering is how these ‘contributions’ collectively ensure the world stays below 2ºC (or even 1.5ºC). What is the point of a pledge if no one knows what it means? While country after country called for “quantifiable, comparable and verifiable” pledges, none have yet come up with a concrete way of ensuring this. In an attempt to do just that, the World Resources Institute (WRI) outline what information countries should provide - a checklist for governments – to measure their 2015 pledges Including: a base year, the target period, and the sectors and greenhouse gases covered among other issues.
Even if countries could agree to WRI’s proposal, however, divisions over what a ‘country contribution’ should actually entail remain. Many of the developing countries are calling for contributions to go much further than just emissions reductions. In a bid to ensure no element of a new agreement - including mitigation, adaptation, finance or technology sharing - is sidelined, large blocs of countries, like the Africa Group, are drawing a red line, calling for everything to be included. Others, most vocally the United States, insist that pledges should be limited to mitigation alone.
Another focus of this week’s negotiations is closing the short-term ambition gap - particularly through renewable energy generation. Over three days of workshops on the potential for renewable energy, experts from global institutions and countries showed that closing this gap is feasible, economically possible and in many countries is already happening. But many of our partners are concerned that far too little of the discussion is focused on how the “UNFCCC can spur cooperative action and overcome the barriers” to implementing these ideas. In its latest ECO article, CAN International called for more time to be allocated to the topic at the next meeting in June and for concrete, “detailed strategies” to deliver on renewable’s potential.
This year’s talks mark 20 years of the UNFCCC, and many in Bonn are reflecting on the achievements to date. But while within the conference centre there is a sense of deja vu - with decades old divides persisting and negotiators repeating the same old lines that match. Outside of the conference centre, climate change is taking on new dimensions as it creeps up the public consciousness. Just today, activists around the world took to twitter to make a proposed coal power plant in Kosovo into a test of the World Bank’s promise (and their new policy) to stop funding new coal plants, except in “rare circumstances”. In Italy, the police today seized control of a coal power plant, shutting it down after a judge ruled in favour of concerned citizens who argued that it was responsible for 442 premature deaths. With large protests against fossil fuel projects, like those planned in Australia, the US, and Poland this weekend, becoming ever more frequent, it is time for the negotiators to move beyond their tired excuses and start delivering the level of action that the rest of the world demands.