Will Bonn be as banal as Bangkok?

Mid-year climate negotiations kick-off in UNFCCC headquarters but there is too much on the plate to resolve

By Uthra

Climate change negotiators from all over the world will convene at Bonn over the next fortnight to resolve key deadlocks that led to the stalemate at Bangkok earlier this year after the initial euphoria over Cancun Agreements died down.

The negotiators will try to achieve a ‘shared framework’ which will focus on issues like the future of the Kyoto protocol, operational modalities of REDD, technology transfer and other key elements of the global climate change negotiations.

SBSTA – The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice counsels the Conference of the Parties on matters of climate, the environment, technology, and method. It meets twice a year.

SBI - Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) helps review how the Convention is being applied, for example by analyzing the national communications submitted by member countries. It also deals with financial and administrative matters. The SBI meets twice each year.

AWG-LCA(Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action) was launched by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2012, in order to reach an agreed outcome and adopt a decision at its fifteenth session. 

AWG-KP –(Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol) - To discuss future commitments for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol, the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol established a working group in December 2005 called the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol

The negotiations will be carried out primarilyin four UNFCCC groups – SBSTAand SBI, as well as under the tracks of AWG-LCA and AWG-KP alongside multiple intersessional working groups.

In April at Bangkok nations locked horns over the agenda itself. The principle of equity was at the centre stage yet again in absence of any binding commitments and failure to show progress on implementation even on Cancun pledges. Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, Cristina Figueres’observation of the Bangkok proceedings merely highlighted divisions that exist between governments which,according to her,needed to be “resolved in the course of the year in order to come to a strong outcome at Durban.”

Current status of negotiations

  • At Bangkok, parties struggled to arrive at a consensus on the meetings’ agenda as two proposals were submitted: one by the AWG-LCA’s chairperson (from the US) and the other by China and G-77. The latter were determined to include some outstanding elements of the Bali Action Plan in its proposal to ensure that the equity principle was not killed. The developed countries preferred to retain the focus on the Cancun decisions.

  • Another central disagreement revolved around the future of the Kyoto Protocol.EU and other European nations voiced the need to discuss the rules first - which would then determine the design of the protocol - before committing to one. Meanwhile, many from the southern bloc such as Brazil saw no point in focussing on the technical issues when the very existence of the framework was uncertain. US along with Japan and Russia stood firmly opposed to any treaty of a legally binding nature.

  • The agenda eventually adopted aims for a ‘balanced outcome’ which will include provisions from both Kyoto and Cancun. This poses the challenge of striking a balance between the “bottom-up” approach of the pledge and review method adopted at Cancun versus the two pronged approach embedded in the Bali Action Plan. Such pledges already falls (the most ambitious even) fall significantly short of the GHG emissions threshold set by IPCC in order to avoid “dangerous climate change.” Furthermore, it dilutes the need for a successive period to the Kyoto protocol.

Agenda for Bonn:
The negotiations will focus on a plethora of issues – both of a technical and political nature.

Under SBSTA  the following issues will be heavily debated – REDD, technology transfer and vulnerability and adaptation to climate change. A workshop that addressed practical issues of technology transfer between countries earlier in Bangkok primarily oversaw the design of the new climate technology center and network (CTCN). Other issues such as who should be included in it and what measures are needed for the effective participation of relevant institutions will continue to be debated at Bonn.

In order to further clarify the technical complexities that are ensconced in the REDD mechanism,forestry experts and facilitators will be expected to create a work program that will outline the steps needed to identify the ‘drivers’ of land-use change and forestry activities and the associated methodological issues related to estimating emissions for the same. Experiences garnered through this experience will be appropriately reported for insight and further reference.

Towards addressing vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, SBSTA will continue to conduct a review of the Nairobi Work Program which overlooks such activities that was initiated at its 33rd session.

Alongside the SBSTA session, the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA  sessions will be required to follow through on developments made at Bangkok which includes addressing the assumptions underlying the emissions pledges made by both developed and developing countries since a basket of activities have been considered. Debates over the future of the Kyoto Protocol will be expected to continue despite a rather unpromising future that it faces at the moment. 

Figures released from the latest IEA report show that last year we emitted a record 30.6 gigatonnes, the highest yet. According to the chief economist at IEA, Faith Birol, this means the IPCC goal of staying within a 2 degrees Celsius rise becomes just a utopian dream. With governments fighting long proxy battles like the one at Bangkok and the scientific numbers expecting us to write a different story, many are sceptical of what Bonn can accomplish.

US will not commit to more than 17% in reducing its GHG emissions from a 2005 baseline (which translates to 3% below 1990 baseline) and opposes a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol

EU stated that the Cancun agreements must be implemented; pending issues will need to be addressed on the way to Durban. The important areas that need attention in Bonn are market mechanisms, hydro fluorocarbons, bunker fuels, agriculture and legal options.

India emphasized that a second commitment period is necessary and pointed out that if some Annex-I countries are not committing, then political issues need to take precedence over technical issues.

CAN International, for ENGOs, said developed countries must accept a second commitment period; developed country pledges are below levels identified in the Cancun Agreement; and clarity is needed on further conditions necessary to make legitimate emissions reduction submissions.

The International Emissions Trading Association, for Business and Industry non-governmental organizations (NGOs) affirmed that the business community prefers no gap between commitment periods, particularly for the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation.