One of the major headlines was the launch of “Powering Past Coal Alliance”, led by the UK and Canada, with pledges by Mexico and New Zealand. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Unusually for a large UN climate conference, the recent Bonn talks didn’t finish with any late-night haggling. Progress, in the form of various commitments and pledges, is best described as slow and steady.
Ahead of the conference, we made five suggestions of things that should happen but probably wouldn’t. They were: ditch fossil fuels entirely, pledge more aggressive emissions cuts, a big increase in climate funds for developing countries, rapid agreement on rules for implementing the Paris Agreement and that “fantasy technologies” that take carbon out of the atmosphere would be exposed as wishful thinking.
We’ll look at how the conference did against our five proposed metrics, discuss “what next” for the UN’s climate process ahead of next year’s meeting, and then suggest five other things to keep a climate-related eye on.
1. Enough with the oil, coal and gas already
Well, there was fun news when the sole US event saw an executive from coal giant Peabody argue for “clean coal”. The audience sang a protest song and many then walked out.
The major headline was the launch of the “Powering Past Coal Alliance”, led by the UK and Canada, with pledges by Mexico, New Zealand, Denmark and Angola, among others – 20 countries in all. This alliance pledged to phase out all coal-fired electricity (except that with Carbon Capture and Storage), although without a clear target date. Sceptics rightly point out that these countries weren’t burning much coal anyway and will continue to burn other fossil fuels.
This last point stuck in the craw of Friends of the Earth UK, who pointed out that the UK is simultaneously giving the green light to fracking, a whole new fossil fuel industry which, despite the gas industry’s claims, is not compatible with climate commitments.
skeleton: a set of headings relating to how action on emissions is reported and monitored. Nations have also fleshed this out with suggested detailed texts, but these are often contradictory and will need to be resolved next year.
There will be the “Talanoa dialogue” – named after a traditional word used in Fiji and the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue – around how everyone is doing on their long-term commitments. Meanwhile, next September will see the launch of an IPCC report on what would need to be done to limit global warming to 1.5℃ (hint: change some laws – primarily laws of physics).
Five things to watch for in the coming year
But there is life beyond the official UNFCCC process. Here are five things to watch for:
a) Will US states and cities put their money where their mouths are? As part of “America’s Pledge”, 20 US states, more than 50 of its largest cities and more than 60 of its biggest businesses have committed to emissions-reduction goals. If this materialises, it could negate Trump’s “fossil fuels forever” strategy.
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