Photoblog: The Bonn climate talks in routine mode

This photoblog is the third piece of a series providing short reports from the Bonn climate talks. Read the previous photoblog here.

The whole paradox (some might say hypocrisy) of the discussions today at the climate talks can be described in this one image: while the conference centre hosting the UN climate negotiations is powered by solar panels, tons of coal are being carried along the Rhine to be burned upstream in one of the country’s many power plant, exemplifying the increase of reliance on the fossil fuel for the generation of energy across Europe.

For most negotiators and civil society representatives, the day starts as usual with delegations/coalitions meetings to plan for the rest of the day and divide tasks. NGOs have been allocated a meeting room on the 21st floor of the UN tower – a building hosting other UN institutions based in Bonn (for instance the secretariat of the UN Convention on Combating Desertification – a sister Convention to the UNFCCC).

The official program began with a workshop organized under the workstream 2 of the negotiations, which focus on the need to raise the level of ambition of short-term mitigation policies. At the UNFCCC, workshops involve less formal setting with a few panelists invited to provide expert input, followed by a Q & A and a general discussion.

The workshop discussed “low-emission development opportunities”. Presentations by Low Emission Development Strategies. (LEDS) Global Partnership and by the International Renewable Energy Agency set the stage to further discussions. The latter focused on the agency’s 2012 report on the costs of renewable energy.

After the two presentations and comments by a handful of selected panelists, delegates engaged in an open discussion to discuss opportunities for low-emission development. Unfortunately, most of the interventions showcased countries ongoing initiatives rather than to address the question of what additional activities could be put in place in the coming years.

The format of this particular round of negotiations is unusual as only one session takes place at any time (usually up to six meetings are organized in parallel). Also, no side events are organized during the lunch break and in the late afternoon. At larger UNFCCC conferences, side events offer great opportunities for organizations to share their perspective on particular subject and to facilitate discussions among stakeholders and negotiators. This time, the colorful canteen of the World Conference Centre is the main stage for informal discussions.

The second roundtable came back to the topic of the workshop organized yesterday, giving an opportunity for parties to discuss their vision on the structure of the future 2015 climate agreement (negotiations “workstream 1”). Christiana Figueres – the UNFCCC Executive Secretary – highlighted yesterday that we have already spent one third of the time allocated to the negotiation of this new agreement and that negotiations needed to discuss more concrete proposals.

Unfortunately, negotiators spent most of the time allocated to this discussion to the reiteration of the positions that they had submitted in written fifty days ago and made available on the webpage of the convention, thus providing very little added value (you can find our analysis of this submission here). This roundtable will be continued during the coming days with sessions dedicated to particular themes: adaptation, means of implementation and mitigation. For the week to be productive, negotiators will need to be more sincere during the coming days in their efforts to understand each others’ positions, respond more directly to those so as to seek opportunities to find common grounds rather than to emphasize their differences.