United Nations climate change talks edged slightly closer to completing the Paris Agreement Work Programme, including guidelines on how to put the agreement into practice, despite rich countries persistently blocking progress on key issues like finance.
Without advances in the talks over the commitment of future financial support from rich countries to developing nations, who are already facing devastating climate impacts, it became difficult for other areas of the negotiations to progress.
Harjeet Singh of ActionAid International explained: “The issue of finance underpins so many different parts of climate negotiations, because poor countries simply can’t cover the triple costs of loss and damage, adaptation and mitigation on their own.”
“But with developed countries refusing to move on finance, lots of pieces are still unfinished. This is holding up the whole package, which is supposed to be finalised at the end of this year. Issues are piling up, and it’s a dangerous strategy to leave everything to the last minute,” he added.
Speaking to a growing trust deficit in the talks, Christian Aid’s Mohamed Adow said “the radio silence on money has sown fears among poor countries that their wealthier counterparts are not serious about honouring their promises.”
“This funding is not just a bargaining chip, it is essential for delivering the national plans that make up the Paris Agreement.”
The meeting also saw the Fijian COP23 Presidency launch a process, dubbed the “Talanoa Dialogue,” to assess and – crucially – improve those national plans. Even if fully implemented, the nationally determined contributions would still result in a global average temperature rise of around 3℃.
However, civil society expressed some dissatisfaction with the dialogue, which adopted a storytelling approach and explicitly discouraged singling any one country or group of countries out for putting forward inadequate plans.
“The time for stories has long since passed,” said Meena Raman of Third World Network. “We live in a world with over 1℃ warming and the devastation is already severe. We cannot allow for that warming to go beyond 1.5℃ and we need a political process to prevent that.”
“The story of climate violence is full of villains who for decades have grown rich off their polluting activities. They bear a historical responsibility – and they owe the rest of the world a debt.”
Raman continued, “Going forward, Fiji must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue fulfils its mandate by leading to an improvement in the climate mitigation and finance plans put forward by countries. Developed countries have broken their commitment to revise their pre-2020 pollution cuts – they must not do the same with their post-2020 efforts.”
With countries slow to reduce their emissions, more attention is turning to the area of “loss and damage” which refers to the impacts of today’s climate change. An expert dialogue was held in Bonn and saw many vulnerable nations and campaign groups make the case for greater attention to finance to deal with these impacts“There has been a strong call for the badly needed finance for loss and damage this session, but little movement to deliver it,” said Rachel Kennerley of Friends of the Earth England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
“The longer it takes to provide dedicated financial support for loss and damage, and the slower emissions cuts, the greater impacts of climate change will be and the bigger the bill in the end.”
Another emerging major issue in the talks was the role of non-governmental observers and particularly those who may have a conflict of interest. Developing countries led by Ecuador and Cuba put forward draft recommendations which would go some way towards inhibiting polluting industries from weakening climate policy. However, the U.S. led other developed countries in opposition. The issue may be revisited next year.
Jesse Bragg of Corporate Accountability expressed both frustration and determination on the part of campaigners, saying: “Once again, the United States and its pro-fossil fuel allies are on the wrong side of history, putting Big Polluters before people and the planet. But today’s results prove that no amount of obstruction from the U.S. and its Big Polluter allies will ultimately prevent this movement from advancing.”
“And while Global North obstructionism mired these talks in delays, obstruction and censorship, Global South leaders prevailed in securing a clear path forward for the conflict of interest movement, ensuring the issue will be front and centre next year.”
At the conclusion of the session, Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, Mr. Gebru Jember Endalew, said: “The LDC Group came to Bonn ready to shift gears and make concrete progress on the numerous issues that need to be addressed this year to translate the Paris Agreement from concepts to actions. The Group hoped that the negotiations would advance further at this meeting, and we are disappointed that many vital topics are still at conceptual stages. The Group is concerned by the lack of urgency we are seeing to move the negotiations forward. It is time to look at the bigger picture, see the severe impacts that climate change is having across the world, and rise to the challenge.
“Finance is key to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the face of climate change, poor and vulnerable countries are forced to address loss and damage and adapt to a changing climate, all while striving to lift their people out of poverty without repeating the mistakes of an economy built on fossil fuels. This is not possible without predictable and sustainable support.
“Countries have failed to deliver on pre-2020 commitments and global temperatures are dangerously close to 1.5 degrees. Countries need to shoulder their fair share of the effort to increase ambition and support in line with their responsibilities for this climate crisis and their capabilities to respond.”
On the Talanoa Dialogue, Mr. Endalew said, “The LDC group valued the opportunity to engage with governments and civil society to share our stories through the Talanoa Dialogue. To be meaningful, this Dialogue must deliver concrete outcomes that drive an increase in ambition and support to put us on track to achieving the 1.5 degree temperature goal set in Paris, guided by equity and science.
“A robust, balanced and comprehensive package of guidelines to implement the Paris Agreement must be delivered at COP24. The LDCs will arrive in Bangkok prepared to engage in concrete, textual negotiations, and expect other countries to do the same. Steady progress needs to be made throughout 2018 on all issues so that poor and vulnerable countries can engage effectively. A last-minute rush at COP24 risks leaving developing countries behind.”
Talks resume from September 3-8, 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand, where negotiators will pick up “informal notes” forwarded by this session. They will attempt to turn these notes and various inputs from countries into the basis for a negotiating text ahead of COP24 in Katowice, Poland.