Climate Negotiations in Bonn: The Countdown to 2018 Starts

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Bonn, site of international climate talks May 8-18. Photo by Thomas Luebke/flickr

Following the lightning-fast entry into force of the Paris Agreement last year, climate negotiators gather in Bonn next week to continue the process of turning the vision of Paris into a reality. We’re well on the way: 190 countries have submitted climate action commitments, known as NDCs; over 140 countries have formally joined the Agreement; and climate is an inescapable issue diplomatically, featuring in forums like the G7 and G20. The determination of such a wide range of countries to tackle climate change and move towards a zero-carbon, climate-resilient future provides the foundation to implement the Agreement.

To set implementation in motion, negotiators have the next 18 months to develop and adopt the “rules of the game“ and hold the first stocktaking exercise on countries’ NDCs to ensure they are ambitious enough to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) or to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above  pre-industrial levels. The Bonn meeting starts the countdown to 2018, when these procedures must be in place.

Three key issues to watch at Bonn are:

  1. Progress on the design of the Paris rulebook to enable adoption of the Agreement by 2018
  2. Consultations on the design of the stocktaking exercise, the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue
  3. Peer review and learning platforms that facilitates progress on countries’ implementation

Progress on the Paris Rulebook

What negotiators call the Paris rulebook will be the user manual for decision-makers around the world, to ensure implementation is effective, fair and equitable.

This is a challenging task for negotiators, who must deal with technical complexity given the interconnections among various elements of the Agreement. They will have to navigate delicate politics on some issues – for example, how to create a framework for more robust transparency that applies to all countries, while also acknowledging countries’ different capabilities and national circumstances.

And because many developing countries lack the necessary support, tools, technical expertise and organizational and institutional capacity to effectively contribute to the design of the rulebook, support for capacity-building is crucial. Multilateral climate funds play a key role in building capacity and helping to drive the economic and societal transformation necessary to address climate change. In Bonn, negotiators will discuss how to make funds more effective and coherent, including the role that the Adaptation Fund can play in the overall finance architecture.

The goal of this month’s session is to move toward a negotiating text for the rulebook by the next high-level international climate meeting in November, also in Bonn.

Working Toward the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue

We already know that current NDCs are not ambitious enough to ward off the most serious effects of a changing climate. But there are many opportunities countries can take that tackle climate change while offering development and economic benefits. Enhancing climate action and revising NDCs by 2020 are therefore crucial to improve our chances of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In Paris in 2015, countries agreed to create a facilitative dialogue in 2018 to provide global context on the urgent need for action, compare progress toward the Paris goals, and highlight opportunities for climate action with widespread benefits. Next year is the first stocktaking moment under the Paris Agreement and an important precursor to future reviews that will take place every five years starting in 2023. The 2018 dialogue is intended to inform the steps that countries will take in submitting NDCs by 2020 and will establish one of the core components for enhancing ambition over time.

Next year’s process should not be about ‘naming and shaming’ but rather about showcasing the many opportunities for action around the world that can provide significant development and economic benefits. The facilitative dialogue can highlight actions by the private sector, subnational governments and civil society that help to link the climate change agenda with broader economic and sustainable development objectives.  This can make 2018 a springboard for action as moves toward a critical turning point in 2020.

This month, it is vital for Morocco and Fiji – the co-presidencies of the Conference of Parties to the UN climate process — to use their mandate to consult with countries on how the facilitative dialogue should work, but also continue to engage with wider stakeholders on these issues.

Progress on Countries’ Implementation

At this Bonn session, certain countries – including the United States, India, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Morocco, Russia, Thailand, France and Chile — will complete the verification cycle for their climate action plans.  This is a significant moment for the developing countries involved, since most of them are doing this for the first time.

The three-day process is an important way to share progress and lessons learned and to help clarifying underlying approaches and assumptions for national reporting. It also provides an opportunity to recognize countries’ efforts and to identify the gaps and barriers that countries face in fulfilling their international requirements. This exercise will also provide valuable insight for the design of the enhanced transparency framework under the Paris Agreement.

The negotiations in Bonn may not all be smooth sailing. The task ahead is technically and politically complex, and the new U.S. administration’s stance on climate policies may also introduce some challenges into the climate talks. At the time this was written, President Donald Trump had yet to decide whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement. Staying in the Agreement is in U.S. economic interest, especially because of global clean energy markets, and in U.S. strategic and diplomatic interest. The G7 summit – the first of Trump’s administration — comes just days after the Bonn climate meeting, so the new president won’t have to wait long to see any impact from a U.S. decision on the Paris Agreement. The climate issue has become increasingly central to both the G7 and G20.

The transformation set out in the Paris Agreement is already underway. Many countries, including China and India, are rapidly scaling up renewable energy while coal investments flatten. The task of implementing the Paris Agreement is great, but the commitment and determination of countries around the world is greater.

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