What Recent Climate Talks in Bonn Mean for 2015 in Paris

On June 15th, the UNFCCC mid-year talks in Bonn ended on a positive note, with governments asking that the “elements of a draft treaty be made available by July in advance of the next meetings in Bonn in October”. During the two weeks of negotiations, raising ambitions in areas of urbanization and land use were the two main areas of focus. Groups such as ICLEI and C40 demonstrated how cities’ ambitious climate measures have already had a positive impact on urban well-being.  Two days of ministerial meetings (first of its kind at the climate talks) had Environmental Ministers from various countries repeating the need for “a long-term vision of a carbon neutral world in the second half of the century”. Christiana Figueres even stated that the meetings this June will become historic in the way that “governments showed new and higher levels of cooperation and positivity”.

But what does this all mean for the looming 2015 talks in Paris where an international agreement is supposed to be reached? Fortunately, this month’s talks may have breathed new life into the gridlocked negotiations. Going into the negotiations, governments that were previously very hesitant of cooperation (i.e the US and China) have signaled strong climate action intentions and have announced plans to reduce emissions and scale up renewable energy. Brazil also became the first developing country to submit data on forestry sector emissions, a move that signals the country’s intentions to make deforestation and land change information more transparent and one that will motivate other developing nations to do the same.

At the negotiations, countries discussed the full cycle of contributions to the 2015 universal climate agreement (or in UNFCCC terms, their “intended nationally determined contributions” or INDCs), focusing on the definition and scope of the INDCs, including the timeline, information required for submission, and assessment and review of contributions. This is significant in that it prepares for a decision to be made later this year in Lima at COP20 (in regard to how these contributions will be communicated) while also providing countries information on contribution expectations. In general, countries pushed for the appropriate measures to clarify and ensure that all countries present effective contributions to the 2015 agreement in March of next year, yet countries of the Like-Minded Group, as well as Russia, Brazil and Australia that have suggested that there is no need foran assessment of contributions, may prove problematic in Lima this year.  A framework that measures, reports and verifies mitigation actions by both developed and developing countries were further strengthened at this month’s talks, which will provide technical assistance for countries in achieving what their contributions set out to achieve.

Since technical aid is so important in helping countries reach emission reduction ambitions, the Technology Mechanism of the COP that has just been made fully operational is an essential step in giving countries confidence to achieve the ambitions they commit to (which can also motivate them to raise ambitions). The Technology Mechanism, which consists of the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), will engage various stakeholders from the public and private sector and observer organizations to mobilize technical expertise and stimulate technology cooperation, transfer and development.

Regardless of the cooperation and momentum at this month’s climate talks, there is still no promise for an ambitious and effective agreement in 2015. Leaders must offer more to poorer developing countries in both mitigating and adapting to climate change. As Figueres has also acknowledged, although Norway and China recently ratified the Doha Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol, 133 countries still need to do so in order to build trust and ensure that the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol enters into force. And for optimum impact in slowing climate change, it is advised that countries’ contributions are assessed before COP21 in Paris, and that all countries commit to submitting their so-called contributions to the Paris agreement by March 2015. These talks are, after all, all about saving the world from climate change, right?

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