Parties post ′modest progress′ on climate talks | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 04.09.2015
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Parties post 'modest progress' on climate talks

Negotiations toward a new global climate change treaty wrapped up in Bonn with participants praising modest progress made. The slow pace, however, continues to be criticized - and many tricky topics remain.

At the World Conference Center in Bonn, Germany, week-long negotiations are wrapping up. After this session, there are only five more days of official negotiations until the COP21 summit in Paris this December.

Although no major breakthroughs were reported, steady progress was apparently made in the five days of talks between delegations from the nearly 200 countries negotiating a climate change treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

"We started Monday with this 'tool': two baskets plus a parking lot," said Jasper Inventor of Greenpeace on Friday (04.09.2015).

Inventor was referring to how text was broken down into three sections: the core agreement, the COP21 decision, and an "unallocated" grouping of additional instruments or lists.

This allowed for crucial discussion on goals and process, parties explained. "We've achieved an enormous amount of clarity in this session," said Dan Reifsnyder, a co-chair of the talks from the United States.

"Parties have been able to crystallize their positions and better understand each other," said Ahmed Djoghlaf of Algeria, another co-chair. He added that trust built among the parties "is a tremendous achievement that you cannot quantify."

People queuing for free Ben & Jerry's ice cream at the Bonn Climate Change Conference September 2015 (Photo: Sonya Diehn)

Many parties came together at the Bonn Climate Change Conference - especially for free Ben & Jerry's ice cream

"We will arrive in Paris on time," Djoghlaf said at a press conference on Friday, echoing the assertion of many participants and observers.

The question remains whether the agreement reached will be strong enough to prevent a 2-degree-Celsius (4 degree Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures, a target scientists agree is necessary to prevent dangerous climate change.

Touchy subjects

One goal was to move items from the third category, "unallocated," into the agreement or decision text.

Sticky issues include loss and damage, or the worst impacts of climate change, which go beyond adaptation and mitigation and largely affect the nations most vulnerable to the effects of global warming.

"We've seen a constructive spirit on loss and damage," said Julie-Anne Richards of the Climate Justice Program. Several "bridging proposals," or attempts to harmonize language on the topic and make it palatable to all parties, were made.

A proposal by the G77 would see this text in the agreement, while another by developed nations including the US and EU would extend a mechanism from the Warsaw talks and place it within the decision text.

Überflutung Feld Klimawandel Kühe Frau Indien Assam

Countries most vulnerable to climate change want "loss and damage" to be included in the new agreement

Another important element is a "ratchet up" mechanism, being pushed especially by non-governmental organizations.

This would include a commitment for nations to review climate goals every five or 10 years, capturing technological developments and addressing the "gap" between currently submitted climate pledges and what would be required to prevent the 2-degree warming.

"We do foresee an ambition mechanism on a five-year cycle starting in 2020, and we do believe all parties should commit to this as well," said Elina Bardram of the EU delegation at the end of the conference.

Pace criticized

Criticism of the negotiations was also voiced, specifically regarding the slow pace of the talks and lack of ambitious goals.

Eiffel Tower model covered in ivy in front of COP21 Paris pavilion at the Bonn Climate Change Conference September 2015 (Photo: Sonya Diehn)

The pressure is on for a tough agreement to come out of Paris

"We'd like to have seen faster progress," said Sarah Blau of Luxembourg, with the EU delegation.

The United Nations Climate Secretariat struck back against criticism: Such negotiations need their own time, Christiana Figueres of the UNFCC said. "The proof is in the pudding - and the pudding is going to be coming out of the oven in Paris," she stated.

Parties and NGOs pointed out that intensive bilateral consultation will continue in the coming months, including over the Internet.

Reifsnyder suggested that negotiations could progress very quickly resulting from the groundwork done this week in Bonn.

Negotiations will continue with a plenary session at the UN conference at the end of September, then another five-day session in October.

"Our snail's pace will bring us to Paris on time," Djoghlaf said.

The gap

And of course, the elephant in the room: Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted to date are not enough to prevent the 2-degree temperature rise.

In addition, even if the INDCs become NDCs, the treaty is unlikely to have penalties if countries don't implement them. Whether action is actually taken will come down to the ethical integrity and goodwill of subsequent national administrations.

That's why the review mechanism is so crucial, NGOs point out. "We can make a step with transparency and accountability here," Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute told DW.

The INDCs, though they presently fall short of the 2-degree target, allow "countries to put deep decarbonization into place," Morgan pointed out.

For many countries, the INDCs represent the very first comprehensive plan to tackle climate change, Badram added.

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