Climate Change

Bonn climate talks end amidst uncertainty over US engagement with Paris Agreement

Finance, adaptation and budget were issues which divided countries. Agriculture was the most neglected topic at the event

By Vijeta Rattani
Last Updated: Friday 19 May 2017

Members of civil society hold a demonstration to raise awareness about the health implications of climate change
Credit: IISD Reporting Services

Climate talks concluded at the inter-session in Bonn held from 8-18 May within three negotiating bodies—the Ad-hoc Working Group on Paris Agreement (APA), the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). The objective was to create a rule book by 2018 for implementation of the provisions of the Paris Agreement.

Progress under different work streams

Within the APA, on matters relating to guidance on mitigation, adaptation communications, global stocktake and transparency framework, Parties are requested to give focused submissions on elements and broad guidelines as given in the informal notes on different topics.

The informal notes summarise the discussions on various elements within the APA with reflections from APA co-chairs Sara Bashaah (Saudi Arabia) and Jo Tyndall (New Zealand), with the understanding to take the work forward.

India’s intervention on equity in global stock take linking it with human development index, carbon budget and proposal of a different work stream on equity form part of the informal note on stocktaking. The APA also agreed to conduct roundtables on elements of Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), adaptation communication, transparency framework and global stocktake, ahead of COP in Bonn after a divide between developed and developing countries over the same.

The informal note released on adaptation communications summarises the proposals of the G-77 and China and the European Union (EU), with the latter’s focus on monitoring and evaluation during the discussions as against the need for support for adaptation as communicated by developing countries.

On the issue of adaptation fund, which is meant to help developing countries deal with climate impacts, the discussions were mainly limited to technical dimensions with regard to its serving the Paris Agreement. A draft decision on the third review of the adaptation fund is postponed to COP in Bonn later this year.

SBSTA requested its chair Carlos Fuller to continue working with the APA on issues of linkages such as transparency of support and accounting modalities.

Earlier, during the discussions, developed countries refused to discuss support elements of transparency framework under the APA, as it has linkages within SBSTA item on modalities and argued that there should be one forum to discuss accounting modalities within the body.

Agriculture sidelined

On the issue of agriculture, there was absolutely no progress even at the level of discussions. A draft decision on the review of the Standing Committee of Finance was postponed to COP in November, 2017. Even against calls of civil society groups to keep the process transparent, the SBI excluded observers from pre-sessions and negotiations under it.

During the in-session meeting on “facilitative sharing of views” on developing countries, India’s renewable policy gained particular attention and the Parties were eager to know how India is going ahead with its renewable agenda.

The issue of budget

In the draft conclusion by the SBI, a core programme budget of €56,889,092 for 2018–2019 was proposed. Developing countries, during the discussions on budget, called it extremely “mitigation centric”, as the funds for finance technology and adaptation were disproportionate compared to allocation of mitigation in the budget.

Only € 8.1 million is put out to support finance, technology and capacity building programme and € 14 million for adaptation programme while close to € 40 million is allocated to support mitigation activities.

The budget also has component of review for secretariat work programme which the European Union calls the “elegant way to move forward”. The budget does not factor in the losses in case of Trump’s exit from the Paris Agreement.

How different actors played out

The small delegation of seven people headed by Trigg Talley, the deputy special envoy on climate change at the US Department of State, seemed unsure about the future decisions on engagement with the Paris Agreement that could come through by the Trump administration.

In these circumstances, the US essentially played it safe in the negotiations, without revealing much and kept a low profile. The decision on the Paris Agreement is likely to come later in the month. The US delegation though were not opposed to the presence of corporates in the negotiations even as developing countries expressed deep resentment against the development. 

A few Parties expressed support of the US in the Paris Agreement even with a weaker revised NDC, although a few civil society groups held demonstrations on “No Backsliding” by the US. On a welcome note, the Parties, including the EU, China and India expressed their commitment to climate change and gave a go ahead in implementing their climate commitments with or without the US.

The issue of leadership was a serious one at the inter-session with no Party appearing to take lead. However, the EU confirmed that it is collaborating with China and Canada to forge a collective leadership on climate change, though nothing has been decided till now.

The expanded EU is now a weaker actor post the Kyoto regime. Also, with its domestic politics and financial crises, perhaps the best it can do is to work on a collective leadership, bringing other actors on board.

For developed countries, global stocktake, transparency framework (only for action and not of support) and facilitative dialogue (FD) of 2018 seem to be most important issues.

India made active interventions on these issues, but with no strategy on critical elements namely agriculture, adaptation and loss and damage. It has tried to link FD 2018 with pre-2020 actions, a stand that has not gained much traction with other countries.

It may be added here that developed countries have shown eagerness for FD 2018 which basically is about raising ambition. They have shown no signs of submitting a more ambitious NDC or raising support.

The final day at Bonn inter-session also saw Fiji's incoming COP 23 President Frank Bainimarma addressing delegates about the country's vision for a presidency that is "transparent and inclusive of all, advances the Paris Agreement and accelerates climate action for all vulnerable societies".

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