Delegates to the UN climate treaty are gathering on Monday (May 16) in Bonn, Germany for the first time since adopting the Paris Agreement during a landmark political moment in the French capital last December.
The political momentum which delivered the agreement in Paris also catalysed the signatures of 177 countries at an Earth Day signing ceremony in New York this year. Attention is now turning to preparing for implementation as countries meet for the first time as the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) to prepare draft decisions on all the issues in the Paris Agreement which need to be fleshed out further. The APA will present this draft legislation before the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement once the treaty enters into force – which happens once 55 countries covering 55% of global emissions or more have ratified the Agreement. This is expected to occur sooner than 2020.
In addition to questions of policy and ratification, observers can expect some procedural jostling for position in Bonn as countries elect the co-chairs for the APA and begin work on its agenda. As the opportunity arises to breathe life into the elements of the Agreement, address any gaps, and flesh out the rule book, what will be the key substantive issues?
Critical steps to deliver the Paris Agreement
Turning the promise of Paris into a reality include:
- Bridging the “mitigation gap” between climate pledges and the Paris temperature goal
- Addressing barriers to implementation, including lack of financial, technological, and technical capacity
Equipping communities to plan for and deal with the adverse impacts of climate change
- Developing strategies and policy mechanisms to ensure adaptation action on the ground
- Creating the framework necessary for countries to address economic and non-economic loss and damage arising from climate change
Reactions from the global civil society have trailed the development:
Martin Vilela, Coordinator, Bolivian Platform on Climate Change: “Faced with a planetary emergency the likes of which we can barely comprehend, we should look more soberly on the Paris Agreement. Its goal of a 1.5-degree limit to warming seems to have been a hollow one-governments all over the world have gone back to fossil fuel extraction and in some cases have doubled down-propping up a deadly industry while the renewable revolution is on the cusp of breaking. It will take strong people’s movements to deliver radical emissions cuts as much as intergovernmental processes.”
Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator, Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development: “Before the ink was dry on the Paris Agreement we were reminded that there is no “safe level” of warming for most of the world. In the Philippines, farming communities suffered a terrible drought brought on by El Nino. When they asked for food, they were met with bullets. Climate change is destroying communities-we need to deal with that reality. Losses and damages will continue to build up with every typhoon and drought, but who will cover the costs? How will we achieve food security for our people? In Bonn, governments better keep in mind the deadly new reality brought on by their lack of action over the years”
Azeb Girmai, Climate Lead, LDC Watch: “The Paris Agreement needs to go beyond mere recognition of the huge need for adaptation support and come up with a concrete plan to identify the source and amount of support immediately. Communities on the frontline of impacts from the adverse effects of climate change in Africa still have nothing to celebrate as no new or additional finance has been secured in the new agreement to urgently build their adaptive capacity alongside their on-going development efforts.”
Meena Raman, Coordinator of Climate Programme, Third World Network: “A success of Paris was that the nationally determined contributions covered all types of climate action-from reducing emissions to preparing and supporting communities for the impacts of climate change. Developed countries mustn’t roll back that progress by picking and choosing some parts of the roadmap for the way forward.
Asad Rehman, Head of International Climate, Friends of the Earth (EWNI): “Post-Paris, climate scientists, political leaders, and civil society groups all agree that the world needs a rapid energy transformation. One example at a regional level is the African Renewable Energy Initiative, which has already seen $10 billion dollars pledged to it. A critical objective going forward is to take this initiative global with renewable energy for the whole world. Looking forward to Marrakech, the Moroccan Presidency has an opportunity to continue to advance Africa’s leadership by making COP22 deliver a real world renewable energy outcome for the people.”
Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, Associate Research Director, Corporate Accountability International.
“We know we cannot rely on the Paris Agreement alone to catalyse the rapid action our world requires. In fact, without more ambitious action now, we will be on a path that far exceeds the temperature threshold that would prevent the worst effects of climate change. To ensure governments can take action far beyond the Paris Agreement, we must first ensure that those that wish to undermine progress-polluting industries like Big Oil, Coal, and Gas-are out of the room.”
Turning the promise of Paris into a reality
Bridging the “mitigation gap” between climate pledges and the Paris temperature goal?
A 2014 “structured expert dialogue” by the UNFCCC warned that 2 degrees is not a safe “guardrail” for temperature warming. With many scientists and campaigners pointing out that-given the impacts seen at 1 degree of warming-no amount of warming is “safe,” Paris was celebrated for setting a goal of limiting warming to well below 2 degrees, and asking countries to pursue efforts toward a stricter limitation of 1.5 degrees’ temperature increase. However, the Agreement offers no prescription for how to achieve this.
When the emissions reductions of current pledges are added up, they amount to 3.5 degrees of warming. In spite of this, countries are reluctant to immediately improve their pledges in order to bridge the gap-the EU, for example, has already ruled out any revisions to its NDC, which covers the period 2020-2025. Given this, many observers are beginning to fear that the so called “mitigation gap” will be addressed by relying on unproven and possibly harmful “negative emissions” technologies such as “BECCS” (bio energy with carbon-capture and storage) which they say will have serious implications for food security.
In Bonn, a “Technical Expert Meeting” (TEM) on renewable energy will reconvene, and one on mitigation will commence as countries seek to find ways to address the gap.
Addressing barriers to implementation, including lack of financial, technological, and technical capacity
A further challenge to making the promises of Paris a reality is the projected cost of the NDCs. With only around half of developing countries having costed their pledges, the price tag is already in excess of $4 trillion. The commitment contained in the Paris Agreement to mobilise $100 billion per year, starting in 2020, falls significantly short of what’s needed-resulting in a “finance gap” alongside the “mitigation gap.”
In Bonn, discussion around climate finance will focus on sources-how much should be public money, and what can be counted as climate finance as opposed to, say, development finance.
Equipping communities to plan for and deal with the adverse impacts of climate change
Developing strategies and policy mechanisms to ensure adaptation action on the ground
Despite being cemented as a key pillar of the Paris Agreement, adaptation remains a neglected area of work with many of the provisions being vague. An important part of the adaptation discussion remains unresolved: who will pay? The Agreement does not specify who will be responsible for providing “continuous and enhanced international support” for adaptation, whereas the Convention has been clear that developed countries bore the responsibility. Additionally, the Agreement merely requests countries to “consider” using public and grant based finance in regards to adaptation.
While most of the adaptation related implementation actions are housed in various related bodies- like the Adaptation Committee and Least Developed Country Expert Group (LEG)-and therefore won’t be taken up directly in Bonn, the session will launch an adaptation Technical Expert Meeting. As they begin to develop the rule book of the Paris Agreement, key questions will arise around transparency of adaptation support; how adaptation efforts and needs as well as losses and damages are communicated in NDCs; how global adaptation needs as well as losses and damages are communicated via the global stocktake; and what adaptation efforts can be supported in the pre-2020 period before the Agreement enters into force.
Creating the framework necessary for countries to address economic and non-economic loss and damage arising from climate change
Similarly, the hot-topic of loss and damage-which was high-profile and divisive in 2015-remains a critically important issues for governments and citizens, particularly in the developing world where impacts of climate change are disproportionally felt. The Paris Agreement included, for the first time, loss and damage as a stand-alone article and anchored the existing Warsaw International Mechanism as the institutional arrangement to work on the issue. The opportunity for international cooperation on the issue has never been greater: the Paris Agreement encouraged the further understanding and support of resilience building in communities and ecosystems. Countries have also been asked to set up a task force to “develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change.”
In Bonn, countries will begin discussing how to strengthen the loss and damage mechanism, as well as what lessons can be learnt in regard to non-economic losses. They will also take up the issue of impacts from slow-onset events as well as the difficult question of who will foot the bill for carrying out further work to bring in loss and damage as a competent of international climate policy.