Climate Change

Bonn fails to deliver need of hour as climate clock ticks away

The 50th United Nations Bonn Climate Change Conference didn’t include key findings on global warming

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Friday 28 June 2019
Bonn Climate Change Conference ended with UN call to fully deliver on Paris Agreement. Photo: UN Climate Change/Twitter
Bonn Climate Change Conference ended with UN call to fully deliver on Paris Agreement. Photo: UN Climate Change/Twitter Bonn Climate Change Conference ended with UN call to fully deliver on Paris Agreement. Photo: UN Climate Change/Twitter

The 50th United Nations Bonn Climate Change Conference ended in a deadlock when it failed to include the findings, especially the targets of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (SR1.5) prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018.

The urgent decision to take action against what the United Nations’ secretary general has called a climate emergency has now been delayed further. This has been the characteristic of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations for the past few years.

The major reason for this debacle was objections of few developed countries, especially Saudi Arabia, on the scientific uncertainties of the report.

“The risks and uncertainties associated with the methodological approaches used to develop the SR1.5 further raised concerns on scientific knowledge gaps identified in the SR1.5 that hamper the ability to inform decision making at national, regional and international levels,” said the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) of the UNFCCC in a previous version of the draft conclusion that was pushed mostly by oil producing countries.

Gebru Jember Endalew of Ethiopia, lead negotiator for the group of least developed countries, told the media that this previous version of the draft conclusion was “unacceptable” because it “questioned and revisited the science”.

Negotiators from other vulnerable groups of countries like the small island states, which will be the first to lose their existence when sea levels rise due to global warming, also voiced their concern over the apparent exclusion of SR1.5 from UNFCCC negotiations.

The SR1.5 was commissioned to specifically explore the scientific feasibility of the 1.5°C goal set in the Paris Agreement. The SR1.5 had stated that at the current rate of emissions the world is set to breach the global warming limit of 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052. It had also suggested much stiffer targets for countries so that the 1.5°C target could be achieved.

In fact, the global emissions of green house gases need to be cut by 45 per cent by 2030 and become net zero by 2050 to keep warming below 1.5°C as decided under the Paris Agreement. This is projected to lower the impacts on terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal ecosystems and retain more of their services to humans.

In the final draft conclusion brought out by the chair, the SBSTA expressed their appreciation and gratitude to the IPCC and the scientific community for responding to their invitation and that the document represents the best available science.

“The views expressed on how to strengthen scientific knowledge on global warming of 1.5°C were on the lines that work under this agenda sub-item has been completed,” The SBSTA noted. But no further conclusions were made nor any decisions taken.

This means that there is not enough agreement among the parties at the UNFCCC on the validity of the science of climate change to take a decision on the revised targets set by SR 1.5.  This is when the world’s temperatures have already warmed by up to 1.2°C since pre-industrial levels and the impact of this warming is visible in the form of extreme weather events, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice.

There is a record breaking heatwave in Europe which has left the continent scorched, including Germany where the climate talks are being held. Just before this an elongated heat wave period in India had swept through 23 states and Union territories.

Both these events are a result of climate change which validates the work being done by climate scientists. So, it would be imperative for the UNFCCC to take the science of climate change seriously and use it in its negotiation proceedings.

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