Summary of the Current status/situation
The end is near in Bonn, and while the negotiator from Russia was hoping we finish by 6pm local time, and NGOs were dreaming of heading to the beer-garden, other negotiators do not seem to mind taking their debates into the evening.
All in all, this meeting saw negotiators from all camps busy defending their interpretations of the Durban agreement, while testing each other’s boundaries and flexibilities. Given the additional layers of plans countries signed up for under the Durban platform, such debates were expected and some clarifications have to be seen as important and positive. However, negotiators used a lot of precious time for that, while only getting little urgent work done.
Leaving Bonn, we feel good about the fact that countries actually listened to us and talked, a lot, about increasing ambition levels for emissions reductions in the near term (before 2020). But what about all the other tasks where they didn’t make much headway: finalizing work for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, concluding the work of the negotiating track on Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA), and so much more. They will definitely need an additional session in the fall, do loads of work between sessions and involve ministers, and perhaps even royals from the Arab region before COP18 begins, to raise the important issues at Heads of States level, where the power is and where the decisions are made.
In Bonn, both the LCA and KP sessions were suspended rather than concluded. No draft decisions or conclusions will be taken forward to the next session, just chunks of text and many open questions.
On Kyoto, all open issues –whether and how many pollution permits (the so called AAUs) will be carried into the second commitment period of the Kyoto, how long the second commitment period will be (5 or 8 years), and the weakness or lack of targets for developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol – have been thoroughly discussed. But they have not been advanced far enough to be a draft decision for agreement at COP18. Kyoto negotiators will most definitely need the fall session before the Doha to decide on these issues so that a second commitment period can start as planned in January 2013.
While the LCA was planned for completion by COP15 in 2009, and although it has been extended numerous times, many negotiators are honestly hoping to finish the track this year. That would essentially mean agreeing to clear decisions and finding permanent new homes for all the issues currently discussed under the LCA: namely a peak year and long term global goal, rules to account for, review and increase the level of ambition on emissions reductions, an adaptation framework and plans, short term and long term finance, technology transfer and capacity building.
But we are far from that, very far. After negotiators gave their statements in the huge plenary hall on Thursday around midnight, the LCA chair said that negotiators need to start thinking about the agreed outcome for Doha. Yes, that’s right, he said “start”. They are leaving Bonn with chunks of text and loads of issues to finalize. The views of countries on the level of progress and what remains to be done vary quite a lot. While all LCA elements are crucial, a couple of elements were repeatedly mentioned by many negotiators. Developing countries, for example, want deeper discussions on means of implementation to make sure financial and technology support is secured. Another issue that was raised is a concern that emissions reductions expectations from developed countries under the LCA end up being comparable to Kyoto developed countries (in terms of rules and the level of ambition). A point mostly emphasized and repeated by developing countries: increasing ambition levels for emissions reductions before 2020 should be done under the UNFCCC convention and in line with the Bali Action Plan, where developing countries take voluntary action and developed countries take on binding commitments – different from the ADP rules for the post-2015 agreement where this firewall between developed and developing countries will no longer apply.
Finally, governments agreed in Durban that they will start the work of the Durban Platform in the first half of 2012, i.e. in Bonn. Now we do not think the following counts as starting work, but as the evening began and after long hours and days of debate, negotiators agreed on which candidates for ADP Chair will chair for this year and until 2015 as well as on the agenda of the ADP’s work. The chairs will be from India and Norway for the next year (until mid 2013) and for the year and a half afterwards, until the end of 2014, Trinidad and Tobago will co-chair the platform together with a co-chair from a developed country. As we write, negotiators are presenting their closing statements in hope that work will advance in a fall session, they are sharing their expectations for the coming session as well as disappointment that the whole session was dedicated to only this much work. The Chair from India had promised though to take those statements into consideration hopefully at a fall session.
What is happening in the negotiations
While not much is happening in the negotiations, some scary stuff is happening outside in the real world. Most worryingly, global emissions are rising, and they are rising big time. On Thursday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that carbon emissions reached a record high of 31.6 gigatons in 2011, a 3.2% increase from the year before. The response to that in terms of new or increased targets agreed in Bonn? Well, it added up to emission reductions in the order of roughly 0.0 grams CO2 equivalent, just like in Durban where the world also failed to agree new or stronger targets.
According to the new IEA numbers, and despite improvements in energy efficiency, China accounted for the biggest contribution to the global increase in emissions: 720 million tons. US emissions fell by 1.7% due to a mild winter, and because of switching from coal to natural gas in power generation. Japan’s emissions rose 2.4% percent, and India overtook Russia to become the fourth largest CO2 emitter, behind China, the US and the EU. To everyone’s surprise here at the Maritim, however, the same countries agreed on the need for a work-stream to raise mitigation pledges in the short-term before 2020.
Nice one, essentially, and something the NGOs have been fighting for… But if they seriously want to walk the talk, these countries have to make more than just a first rhetorical step – and quickly! Growing emissions also means a growing a gap between where we are at and where we need to go. Before Durban, UNEP released a report about this gap, measuring its width in a frightening number of gigatonnes. It showed that we are still on a dangerous pathway to more than 2ºC of warming , even if countries meet the upper ranges of their emission reduction pledges.
Upper ranges? You wish…! The updated Climate Action Tracker by Climate Analytics and friends which was released here yesterday shows countries are at risk of failing to meet even the lower ranges of their pledges– because they are implementing key policies far too slowly, or not at all. So right now we’re headed for 3.5ºC of warming – or more! This is consistent with repeated warnings the IEA had issued over recent weeks before releasing the data about global emissions in 2011: window to keep warming below 2ºC closing, scenarios with 6ºC warming possible, delays in action now quadrupling the costs of future action, etc.
People in the IEA leadership – like Chief Economist Fatih Birol or Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven, now so worried about the threat ahead that they are issuing their warnings on a weekly basis – must be feeling like people running around a burning house while screaming “Fire!”, wondering if the stock-still bystanders they are screaming at are deaf (not hearing them), dumb (not getting it), blind (not seeing the fire), or all of the above. Probably governments will only seriously act when they really feel the heat. Seems like we’ve got some work to do! Stay tuned for updates from Bangkok or Doha.
Message for the day
The window for avoiding catastrophic climate change is closing fast. UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report shows that there is a significant gap between current mitigation pledges and what is needed. What’s more disturbing is that countries are not acting fast enough to implement even the lower range of those pledges. The overall lack of desire to take ambitious action was a real problem during this Bonn session.
After intense negotiations, countries agreed on the need for a work stream to raise mitigation pledges in the short-term before 2020. This is a crucial opportunity to close the gap in ambition, and we will be watching for governments to cement this work with strong decisions in Doha.
At a time when ambitious emission reductions are more urgent than ever, developed countries came to the climate negotiations in Bonn empty handed. The EU wants to frame itself as a leader, but is still holding on to its inadequate 20% target for emission cuts by 2020. Other countries are back tracking on their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. Canada has formally withdrawn, while Russia and Japan are not participating in a second commitment period, and Australia and New Zealand are yet to submit an emissions target. The US is demanding a lot while offering very little.
While the impacts of climate change continue to worsen for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, there is no concrete plan to deliver on the promise of raising substantial new and additional funding to support adaptation.
The conference in Doha will be a very tough one, and Qatar needs as fast as possible to start using all its political weight to pull countries together in order to achieve a successful outcome at COP18. Unfortunately, we are half way through the year, and we still don’t see serious leadership from Qatar. We need them to play the same leadership role they played in supporting the Arab revolutions in Syria and Libya.
What you can do today?
Eat a crème-cheese sandwich before you leave the Maritim for another year because it might be your last? Maybe there is no need to go that far, even saving the planet doesn’t justify everything. But apart from pushing the messages above, you could also tell anyone who wants to hear about Bonn that more Fossil of the Day awards were given to obstructive parties yesterday and today: http://www.climatenetwork.org/fossil-of-the-day
More NGO output from Bonn is here, a video of today’s closing presser: http://unfccc4.meta-fusion.com/kongresse/sb36/templ/ovw_onDemand.php?id_kongressmain=217
About the authorChristian Teriete
Christian is the Communications Director at the GCCA where he thinks a lot about reframing climate change communications to grow the climate movement and strengthen the mandate for political action.