Climate Change

Talks progress slowly at Bonn, focus shifts to next COP at Marrakesh

Adaptation, finance, pre-2020 actions and loss and damage should remain the core agenda for the next Conference of Parties

By Vijeta Rattani
Published: Friday 27 May 2016

The agenda of the Bonn session was

Bonn climate talks started on a very positive note. The agenda of the Bonn session, as United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres highlighted at the opening plenary, was “to turn the vision of Paris into reality”. Paris Agreement has a structural framework but it needs to be build-on. Many rules, guidelines, procedures and technicalities under various items need to be formulated. The actual negotiations, in fact, had to start after COP 21 (Paris) for the implementation of the Agreement.

As negotiations proceeded under the three technical bodies—Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the first session of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Paris Agreement (APA)—one could see the mood gradually fading and discussions being held in the usual complacent tone.

It took a complete week for the APA to adopt its agenda. Although, one could argue that the revised agenda is more balanced, the slow pace of progress was evident to all. No key results were attained till the end of the conference and discussions for most issues have been postponed to the next climate session at Marrakesh.

Critical issues take a backseat

Discussions witnessed the usual divide between the developed and developing countries, severely this time, over the already consented principles of equity and Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR). Discussions over the issues of transparency among countries on emission reductions, adaptation and implementation, global stocktake to assess collective progress in checking global warming and compliance and implementation of the Paris Agreement took place at the event. Developing countries pushed for equity and differentiation while the developed countries including the US and the EU fought against it.

No forward-looking discussions on finance took place, no agreement on funding sources, rules of financial disbursements, enhanced commitments on finance after 2020 or adaptation finance. These topics have also been postponed for the next Conference of Parties (COP). The talks on REDD+ also hovered around the issue of finance, but no ground breaking development took place.

Adaptation talks saw a setback as the agenda of the session was mitigation centric, a topic that developing countries argued against. On the question of registries, while developed countries wanted registry for mitigation, developing countries pushed for adaptation registry as well. A consensus was achieved but more deliberations will be held in subsequent sessions. Similar response was meted out to loss and damage, a largely ignored element.

Finally, though a “Pre-2020 Package”—on efforts to be made till 2020—was part of the Bonn agenda, there was no substantive progress on meeting the existing obligations of the developed countries and upscaling their existing commitments.

What needs to be done in Marrakesh

Realistically, a rule book on implementation of the Paris Agreement needs to be devised. But some issues like establishing a transparency framework or a facilitative dialogue to assess collective progress of mitigation actions would come up in 2018; the global stocktake is scheduled to be held even late- in 2023. It will take a long time for rules and modalities to be laid out for these mechanisms. It is therefore essential to address some issues of immediate concern which should also form the core agenda of the COP 22 at Marrakesh. Four such issues are finance, adaptation, loss and damage and pre-2020 package.

Finance- According to the decision text of the Paris Agreement, a work programme needs to be set up at Marrakesh to operationalise US $100 billion by 2020. There has to be a conclusive decision on scaling up adaptation finance by fixing a new target. Parties also need to start negotiating on new finance post-2020.

Adaptation- Money in adaptation-related efforts by developing countries is crucial. Parties need greater clarity on “global goal on adaptation” as used in Paris Agreement. More guidance on communicating and submitting adaptation related work is needed.

Pre-2020- Only 31 countries have ratified the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which is meant for pre-2020 actions. Atleast 144 countries need to ratify it to enforce the amendment. This ratification needs to be quick and done along with the ratification of the Paris Agreement. Additionally, scaling commitments of developed countries for pre-2020 actions must form a crucial dialogue at Marrakesh.

Loss and damage- According to the mandate, there will be a review of the work programme of the loss and damage mechanism. However, there is little clarity on the work programme post-Marrakesh and what elements it would entail. This requires more deliberations. Moreover, the sources and finance for loss and damage need to be decided and agreed upon.

The momentum however must keep going till Marrakesh in the form of in-between workshops and meetings to lay the background for Marrakesh.

COP 22 has become the next focus for large-scale climate action. It has to be an “action and implementation COP” for producing tangible solutions to address climate change. COP 22 also needs to galvanize greater momentum and urgency to implement the Paris Agreement. Nevertheless, considering the slow pace of work that has happened till now, there is a huge amount of work that needs to be accomplished and therefore it would be quite a while before the “vision of Paris is turned into reality”.

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