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Climate Change Talks in Bonn close with little optimism

arton2792In the lead up to the next round of climate change negotiations (COP-16), to be held in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010, a new series of “Bonn Climate Change Talks” were held from 2- 6 August in Bonn, Germany.

In her opening speech, Christiana Figueres, the new Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), had called on governments to show the same political determination as Christopher Columbus had done when he set sail for uncharted waters in order to change the map of the world. She said: “Like Columbus, citizens, societies and businesses everywhere today need the incentives and the resources to set off confidently into uncharted waters. It is the prime task of governments to set the sails ever higher, to help humanity capture the powerful winds of change that are waiting to be released.”

However, during the “Bonn Climate Change Talks” the political determination to set the sails higher was missing. Both delegates and civil society seemed to be particularly worried about the lack of ambition as well as the indecisiveness in the negotiation process. Some even noted that negotiations were moving backwards instead of moving forward, particularly because many countries had reinserted established positions or came up with new proposals to include in the negotiation text.

At the end of the “Talks,” Christina Figueres, therefore, called on governments to radically narrow down the choices on the table in October in Tianjin, China, which she stressed has to be the place where countries will make their collective stance known, both technically and politically.

Read also: U.N. climate deal retreats as Bonn talks end

Is trust again under negotiation?

Although it seemed that trust was slowly reinstalling itself within the climate change process after the controversial climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, the recent announcement that the United States’ Senate put its “climate bill” on hold did bring some renewed distrust. According to Oxfam, the fact that the US changed its “climate bill” into an “energy-only-bill,” and consequently withdraws from a cap on US emissions, has let down developing countries that had looked to President Barack Obama’s administration to seize leadership in climate negotiations. (See quote by Kelly Dent in US inaction on climate troubles global talks – by Arthur Max (Associated Press)).

The NGO newsletter, ECO, warned that “Instead of bridging the gap between the pledges in Copenhagen and what is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change, countries are backtracking from commitments already made. With some par¬ties tending to ease away from Kyoto because of minimal progress by the US, we are very close to seeing the generally acknowledged 2° C global goal, let alone 1.5°C, go out the window because Parties are hiding behind the lack of ambition by others, and the trend is starting to look like a race to the bottom.”

Following an earlier session of the “Bonn Climate Change Talks” in June, various civil society organizations had already questioned the role of the United States and had proposed that leadership should come from elsewhere, e.g. from Europe. “Under this approach, the world would not move forward without the US. It would simply recognize that the US remains unwilling or unable to ratify the Kyoto Protocol but should participate on a comparable basis as other developed countries through a commitment under the Convention (e.g. in the form of a decision or unilateral declaration).” Read: What role for the US? A question for the rest of the world

In response to its domestic climate politics, a US climate negotiator had also emphasized that “success in Cancun does not hinge on US legislation.”

For more information on the US Senate’s decisison, read: Senate Aims To Pass Energy Bill Before Recess

11th session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA)

During the Bonn Talks, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention continued discussions on a shared vision; as well as on mitigation, adaptation, technology, finance and capacity building. The negotiations were based on a second iteration of the draft negotiating text that had been discussed at the AWG-LCA’s tenth session on 1-11 June 2010. Following criticism on the previous draft text, the Chair of the AWG-LCA, Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe (Zimbabwe) released the second iteration on 9 July, including several amendments, such as the incorporation of proposals by developing countries that had not been considered or had been deleted from the previous draft text. According to Third World Network (TWN), this new draft showed “an improvement particularly in the sections relating to the shared vision and mitigation of developed country Parties.” To read their analysis of the improved sections in the 9 July text, click here.

In the AWG-LCA, countries in particular could not agree on global emissions cuts. Developing countries referred to the historical responsibility for developed countries to cut emissions, and to free up the space for the development of developing countries. However, proposals for global reductions varied largely, with developing countries suggesting the most ambitious cuts; and calling upon Annex I Parties to agree on limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C or less. In their response, developed countries noted that this was not in accordance with the (read: non-binding) Copenhagen Accord, which proposes a maximum temperature increase of 2°C.

Also with regard to the mitigation efforts that need to be undertaken by developed as well as developing countries, positions varied largely. This became particularly apparent by the approximately 25 pages of text that were added to the text under negotiation. Issues under discussion included baseline and target years; market mechanisms to enhance cost effectiveness; low emission plans; measurement, reporting and verification (MRV); as well as nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs), and REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation).

For adaptation, discussions particularly focussed on the established of a new adaptation institution, which was not favoured by developed countries, who argued that existing institutions could provide the necessary technical support and advice for adaptation projects and that a new institution would only mean more bureaucracy. The same argument was put on the table by developed countries regarding the establishment of a new body to manage and coordinate the proposed fund on mitigation, adaptation, capacity building and technology. Although developing countries favoured the creation of such a body, developed countries preferred using existing institutions.

At the closing of the AWG-LCA, it was decided that all the new additions and proposals would be included into the negotiating text, and released prior to the next session in Tianjin, China.

More information on the AWG-LCA session is available online.

13th session of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP)

At its eleventh session, the AWG-KP agreed to focus its work on determining the total scale of emission reductions to be achieved by Annex I Parties as well as the scale of individual or joint contributions by Annex I Parties that should contribute to achieving the aggregate scale of emission reductions. The thirteenth session continued negotiations on this issue, as well as on the legal aspects of a possible gap between the first and subsequent commitment periods; on flexibility mechanisms; and on land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF).

Already ahead of the negotiations, a recent update of the “Climate Action Tracker,” a web-based assessment system developed by Ecofys, Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), had shown little ambition among developed countries to make a real effort in reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions. In a press release of 29 July, it notes that the industrial emissions reduction targets for 2020 of developed countries as a whole are estimated to be 11-19% below the 1990 level of greenhouse-gas emissions (excluding forestry and land use change emissions). If forestry and land use change emissions are taken into account, this scenario worsens to a reduction of only 6-14% below 1990 levels by 2020. The “Tracker” warned that without further action, the world is still headed for a global warming of 3.5°C by 2100 (2.9 to 4.4°C).

* On a more positive note, the Climate Action Tracker did find that several developing countries showed movement in the right direction with Bhutan, for example, pledging to stay carbon neutral, and Papua New Guinea pledging to significantly reduce its emissions.

This lack of ambition as highlighted in the Climate Action Tracker was also apparent in the AWG-KP, where countries disagreed on the approach to take to raise the aggregate level of ambition. Considering the lack ambition, some countries proposed a top down approach, while others favoured an iterative approach. Developing countries furthermore called for a single five-year commitment period with 1990 being the base year. Developed countries, on the other hand, favoured a single eight-year commitment period, but with flexible base years. In addition, both developing countries as well as civil society had voiced concern on loopholes in the Kyoto Protocol.

With regard to LULUCF, countries in particular discussed accounting mechanisms for emissions and removals from forest management. Concern was voiced, mainly by developing countries, regarding reference levels and double emissions accounting.

On the last day of the negotiations, the AWG-KP Chair, John Ashe, presented a draft proposal on the consideration of further commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol. The text contains draft decisions on amendments to the Kyoto Protocol; LULUCF; flexibility mechanisms; methodological issues; as well as on potential consequences. This proposal will be further discussed during the AWG-KP’s 14th session in Tianjin, China.

More information on the 13th session is available online.

New online registration system for IGOs and NGOs

The 14th session of the AWG-KP and the 12th session of the AWG-LCA will take place on 4 - 9 October 2010 at the Tianjin Meijiang Convention and Exhibition Center (MJCEC), Tianjin, China.

For this meeting the UNFCCC will use its new online registration system for IGOs and NGOs. This system allows admitted organizations to electronically nominate individuals to attend sessions organized by the UNFCCC secretariat.

The user manual of this new system is available online.

Other information resources

The NGO newsletter ECO
Third World Network’s News Updates and Briefing Papers
IISD Reporting Services: Earth Negotations Bulletin

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