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Plans for COP23 said to be on track, but…

Organisers of the 23rd Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have said that preparations for the two-week event scheduled to hold in Bonn, Germany from November 6 this year are well underway and on track to deliver the infrastructure and arrangements needed for a successful meeting that can play its role in advancing the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

COP23-Bonn-UNFCCC

UNFCCC, Germany and Fiji officials unveil COP23 plans and programmes during a session in Bonn on Thursday, May 18, 2017

Officials of the UNFCCC disclosed on Thursday, May 18, 2017 that delegates would, during the global gathering, be able work in state-of-the-art conference facilities, and benefit from an array of services, exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events, which the citizens of Bonn can also enjoy.

The UNFCCC secretariat, as host of the Conference, stated that it is working with the Government of Germany, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the City of Bonn and the incoming Fijian COP23 Presidency to ensure a dynamic and successful Conference.

Speaking on the last day of the May UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, which is in preparation of COP23, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, said: “I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the incoming Fijian Presidency for its leadership, Germany for its excellent support, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia for its backing and the City of Bonn for its efforts to make the conference a success.”

“We are extremely honoured to be hosting COP23 and are determined to ensure strong and positive outcomes that will advance climate action across the globe. We are also determined to make the conference environmentally-friendly and a place where the atmosphere of positivity permeates throughout the negotiations and the many events planned,” she added.

The Chief Negotiator for the COP23 Presidency, Ambassador Nazhat Shemeem Khan, expressed Fiji’s gratitude for the support and encouragement it has received in the process so far, including from the UNFCCC, the German Government and the current Presidency of the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech (COP22), held in November last year.

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“Following our consultations at the May UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, it is clear that the desire to keep up the momentum on the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement is widespread. Working with our partners, we want to harness this collective enthusiasm to strive for ambitious goals at COP23 and beyond,” she said.

“We are particularly encouraged to see that the concept of ‘talanoa’ – meaning storytelling and dialogue – has already begun to take root in the negotiations and consultations. We truly believe that this inclusive, respectful and participatory approach will lead to decision making that moves the global climate agenda forward,” she added.

Talanoa is a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue that builds empathy and leads to decision making for the collective good. The name of one of the two main conference zones on the Rhine reflects Fijian culture.

A “Bula Zone” will be composed of the World Conference Centre Bonn, UN Campus and an extended area behind the Deutsche Welle building in Bonn. The word Bula originates from the Fijian culture and means hello as well as a blessing of health and happiness.

The “Bonn Zone”, which will be located in Bonn’s park area known as the “Rheinaue”, will accommodate climate action events including some high-level events, side events and exhibits organised by both UNFCCC and the Government of Germany. It will also include some media activities as well as events in the delegation pavilions.

There are however concerns being raised by observer groups that they (observers) will not be visible in the Bula Zone (formerly known as Blue Zone) anymore as there will be no more side events and exhibitions in the Bula Zone.

The question whether the constituency offices and the rooms for the constituencies’ meetings will be located in the Bula Zone or in the Bonn Zone (formerly know as Green Zone) has also been a ground for apprehension.

The civil society players are also in doubt if access to meetings in the Bonn Zone will be restricted, as well as if constituencies’ morning meetings will take place there.

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A source said: “Important for us is also that all side events will be thematically clustered with all side events on a specific topic taking place on one day only. What the thematic clusters are has not yet been decided. But it would be unfortunate for us if all gender events take place at the same time.”

The groups are basing their concerns on the premise that, while the Bula Zone encompasses the plenary halls, meeting rooms, delegations’ offices, media centre and press conference rooms, the Bonn Zone, where all side events will take place, will host the exhibition area and delegation pavillions.

“This means, parts of the former Blue Zone will be moved to the Bonn Zone/Green Zone,” said the source, adding that people with a badge for the Bula Zone will also have access to the Bonn Zone. There is a seperate registration process for the Bonn Zone and people with a badge only for the Bonn Zone won’t have access to the Bula Zone. Both zones are 1.4 km apart, which is approximately nine minutes per shuttle bus or 15 mins walk.”

Nonetheless, Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary at the German Federal Environment Ministry, said his country is honoured to be hosting or supporting three global conferences which focus on climate change – the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, the G20 Summit and COP23.

“As President of the G20, we are pushing to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement and focus particularly on the vulnerability of small island developing States. It is our great pleasure to support Fiji, the first ever small island developing state to hold the COP presidency, in its efforts by serving as technical host of COP23. We are pleased to have this opportunity to present the new and innovative concept for a global conference – one conference, two zones.  With this concept we are highlighting the importance of climate action by having multiple non-state actors complement the formal negotiations.”

Bonn has already attracted a total of around 20 UN entities which link to the issue of sustainability. And it already has experience in hosting major meetings, although not yet one of this size.

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Bonn’s Mayor Ashok Sridharan said: “Bonn was the venue of UN Climate Change Conferences in 1999 and 2001, and Bonn is proud to be the venue of another COP.  This time, however, the challenge is far bigger: the expected number of participants will be higher than anything Bonn has seen to date. For us, this is a fantastic opportunity: for two weeks, Bonn’s name will be in the news across the globe. And we must not forget the positive economic effects of such a conference. At the same time, it is a challenge: we will do everything to warmly welcome the delegates from all over the world here in Germany’s United Nations City.”

“Moreover, the conference will also be a fine opportunity to demonstrate that the City of Bonn takes the issues of sustainability and climate protection seriously. We intend to reach out to our local citizens and raise awareness for the topics of the conference. And we will involve the local public wherever this is possible. After all, our citizens will have to deal with some restrictions during this time. Our Federal President has recently referred to Bonn as the world capital of sustainability. I am very confident that our city will live up to this reputation,” he added.

The City of Bonn and the entire region are undertaking a number of measures to boost sustainability. For example, in addition to an already well-functioning and integrated public transportation system, the municipality will make available additional trams and buses to accommodate access to the COP. Deutsche Bahn (German railway), with funding from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, is building a “UN Campus” train stop close to the conference venue.

In order to achieve the overall goal of climate neutrality, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated in connection with the conference will be reduced to the extent possible.

Unavoidable emissions – as those associated with travel, which is responsible for the lion’s share of the overall footprint – will be offset, including through the UN’s Climate Neutral Now Initiative.

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