September 4, 2015
With 2015 tipped to be the hottest year on record “by a mile”, negotiators gathering in Bonn this week had a timely reminder of what’s at stake as unprecedented hurricanes and record-breaking heat cast their shadow over the talks. A deadly storm in Dominica reportedly set development back 20 years, Cape Verde braced itself for its first night ever spent under a hurricane warning, and – in what was another never-before-recorded event – the Pacific Ocean played host to three major hurricanes at the same time. Yet this urgency didn’t fully translate into the UN talks, as progress on refining the negotiating text remained slow. Positive momentum from high-level meetings outside of the UN process in recent weeks, however, is starting to get reflected in the talks, resulting in promising signals from a range of parties. Negotiators showed willingness to find compromise on contentious issues, revealing potential shifts in positions and an increase in flexibility. But a lot of work remains for governments to catch up with the rest of society on the transition away from risky fossil fuels towards a future powered by 100 per cent renewables. The spotlight is now on Ministers and Heads of States to use another series of high-level meetings over the coming six weeks to secure the political breakthroughs that negotiators with limited mandates find hard to reach.
- Outside the negotiating halls public support for a fossil fuel free world is growing, leaving governments trailing behind. From workers and faith communities, to businesses and investors, the calls for strong climate action are getting louder and clearer. As renewables become cheaper than fossil fuels across markets, the transition from dirty to clean energy is picking up speed, which is also reflected in promising investment shifts. This week alone has seen the US state legislature of California pull its money out of fossil fuels, while food giant General Mills announced a plan for deep emission cuts. Most governments are still playing catch up, resulting in slow progress at the UN climate talks, when in fact they should be accelerating the transition that can deliver a stable climate and a host of benefits for people.
- A durable climate agreement – due in Paris this December – is within reach, but requires capturing positive noises made by parties in Bonn in a refined negotiating text. While delegates grappled with the current text designed to guide negotiations during the past week, observers saw positive signals that momentum from high-level meetings outside of the formal process made its mark. They believe that a vast majority of parties are working towards a successful agreement in Paris, as governments showed new willingness to discuss potential roadblocks. Bonn saw encouraging consultations on a scheme dealing with loss and damage from unavoidable climate impacts, a new adaptation goal for the world, enhanced climate action before the Paris agreement takes effect in 2020, and finance to sufficiently fund such action. They are now expected to craft further compromises, in order to enable robust discussions based on a refined text when the UN talks resume in October.
- Ministers can use a series of high-level meetings over the next six weeks to offer political clout and inject the additional finance and ambition that would give the negotiations a critical boost. A ministerial meeting this weekend will address adaptation and loss and damage, a high-level lunch hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon later this month will engage Heads of States, and the need to secure a package of financial support for the Paris agreement will be discussed in Lima in October. At the domestic level, many countries – including India and Brazil – are expected to share their national climate plans and add to the growing momentum for a shift from dirty fuels to clean renewables. Plans presented so far take us closer – but not all the way – to keeping global warming below the internationally agreed 2DegC threshold – highlighting the need for a Paris agreement that has enough bite to review, renew and scale up country plans regularly, coupling enhanced action in the near term with a long term goal for a fossil fuel free world.
The latest round of UN climate talks wrapped up in Bonn today with calls on governments to “roll up their sleeves” and pick up the pace of work ahead of the next round of talks to be held in October. Kicking off against a backdrop of storms and warnings of record breaking heat, negotiators were offered a timely reminder of what’s at stake as they begun the latest round of negotiations. A storm in Dominica, this week, is said to have set development back 20 years, while Seychelles Ambassador Ronny Jumeau drew negotiators attention to the island nation of Cape Verde, off the coast of West Africa, whose residents braced for their first night ever spent under a hurricane warning. Until this week, no hurricane has ever been recorded further East in the tropical Atlantic. Meanwhile, the Pacific Ocean is playing host to three major hurricanes at the same time; another never-before-recorded meteorological event likely spurred by record-warm ocean temperatures. 2015 is literally uncharted territory, with climate scientists predicting this year will be the hottest on record “by a mile.”
The week’s negotiations produced mixed results, and while some of the progress made at high-level meetings in recent months appeared to have trickled down to the negotiating halls, some issues remain sticking points for delegations in Bonn. Getting to grips with the new text on the table dominated the week’s discussions, but countries did signal a new preparedness to openly discuss potential roadblock issues. On Loss & Damage – aimed at helping vulnerable countries deal with irreversible climate impacts – efforts to block or slow progress by the US, Australia and EU are softening, with the group of countries putting forward a new proposal raising hopes that the issue will be given weight in the 2015 agreement. LDCs and AOSIS also merged their proposals on Loss & Damage, which were put forward as a new submission by the G77, further advancing conversations.
Movement on each piece of the negotiations travelled at a different speed, and some important pieces moved in the wrong direction altogether. As campaigners filled the halls with buzz supporting a strong role for human rights in the Paris Agreement, Saudi Arabia moved to strip the language out. A number of issues NGOs worked hard to advance in recent months – gender, a just transition, and indigenous rights – have lost ground in the draft negotiating text. Negotiations on finance saw new, promising proposals, including submissions by parties on how to scale up support for developing countries, and what the institutional framework for climate finance might look like in the Paris deal. On the mitigation front, an impressive contribution by Saint Lucia added weight to our push for countries to increase their climate action plans every five years – especially essential given the weak pledges currently on the table. Conversations around how to differentiate between country’s mitigation obligations – one of the most difficult issues to grapple with – continued as well.
As negotiators leave Bonn, focus will now shift to Minister and Heads of State to inject the process with more of their presence, especially following a series of high level meetings scheduled for the next six weeks, and to provide further clarity on crunch issues ahead of the next round of UN talks in October, again in Bonn. They will be expected to further craft compromises on key outstanding issues, which can be translated into formal submissions to the negotiations between now and the start of the next session. This will help the co-chairs of the negotiations as they produce a well-organised and concise new tool that can drive negotiations in October and provide a strong basis for faster progress ahead of the December deadline.
The French COP21 Presidency’s Ministerial meeting on 5-6 September will address adaptation and Loss & Damage. Just a few weeks later, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will gather Heads of State in New York to push for progress on climate action. Observers insist that these deliberations need to be reflected inside the negotiations if we are to build an agreement which moves beyond current national commitments which scientists say would see the climate spin out of control, devastating vulnerable communities and impacting human rights. Those countries which have yet to do so, such as Brazil and India, will be expected to put forward their climate pledges – or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. To date, nearly 60 countries, representing around 60 per cent of global emissions, have submitted their pledges – including some of the world’s biggest emitters such as Canada, the EU, the US, China and many of the world’s most vulnerable nations, most recently the Marshall Islands and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This week Indonesia and Algeria became the latest countries to put forward their pledges, with Indonesia’s submission quickly criticised by local NGOs as unachievable if the country remains hooked on dirty coal. They stressed that it is “critical that Indonesia moves away from coal, and embrace what could potentially be abundant sources of clean and renewable energy”.
Civil society in Chile released a report this week to show how the government could increase the level of ambition in the Chilean plan in line with a 100 per cent renewables future. This would result in a host of benefits, and could prevent 1,500 deaths, create 11,000 more jobs and save $5.3 billion in fossil fuel imports. Pre-empting their government’s INDC, Brazilian groups set out their vision for what an ambitious target could look like, and urged President Dilma to live up to her recent pledge – alongside German Chancellor Merkel – to decarbonise the country’s economy.
With new analysis showing that pledges currently on the table will leave government’s overshooting their aim of holding warming below the internationally agreed 2DegC threshold, civil society groups are urging governments to consider what more they can do to scale up the collective effort before their plans come into effect, and agree to regularly review and increase them thereafter, and make sure their policy choices are consistent with their national action plans – as maintaining fossil fuel subsidies and investing more in major fossil fuel projects now while resenting pledges to move away from dirty energy in a few years time doesn’t make sense.
In doing so, these governments could ensure that they end up on the right side of history, getting on board with the fast growing transition from risky fossil fuels towards a future powered by 100% renewable energy. In the latest sign that fossil fuels are no longer an attractive investment, this week has seen the US state legislature of California pull its money out of fossil fuels, while food giant General Mills announced a plan for deep emission cuts. New announcement like this on a daily basis are adding weight to the global call from citizens, businesses, investors, health professionals, faith leaders, scientists and many others for governments to do the right thing and speed up the ongoing transition rather than watching from the sidelines or standing in the way, together with the vested interests that keep ignoring the writing on the wall and pretend we can continue with business as usual.
When they meet back in Bonn in October, governments are expected to match real world momentum with swift negotiations towards a Paris agreement that puts the world on a pathway towards a safe climate future. Key to this success will be building an architecture with enough bite to review, renew and scale up commitments regularly, and including a growing package of support for developing nations to roll out renewable energy and to protect people and prepare them to deal with worsening extreme weather and rising seas, while ensuring there’s a concrete way to address loss and damage caused by climate impacts hitting across the globe.
- UN climate talks inch forward as countries agree path to Paris (RTCC)
- US, EU considering loss and damage options for Paris deal (RTCC)
- Could Bonn talks deliver a breakthrough on loss and damage? (BusinessGreen)
- Rich countries to unveil climate finance package at World Bank summit (RTCC)
- Negotiators mull options for long-term goals in climate deal (Bloomberg)
- There is no ‘magic wand’ to solve climate change warns UN climate chief, as Bonn talks stall (BusinessGreen)
- Compensation poses sticking point ahead of climate change talks (Financial Times)
- UN climate talks: Hints of compromise on key issue (BBC)
From the week of talks
- Pressure grows for fossil fuel divestment as climate talks enter final straight (BusinessGreen)
- Countries divided on priorities for UN climate deal (RTCC)
- UN chief to speed climate talks with New York leaders meet (RTCC)
- Ex-BP chief to advise oil giants on climate strategy (RTCC)
- $250 billion opportunity to invest in renewables: Piyush Goyal (Mint)
- U.N. climate talks begin divided, but with hope for Paris accord (Reuters)
- General Mills sets ambitious goal for greenhouse gas cuts (AP)
- Obama, major corporations focusing on climate change (Houston Chronicle)
- Indonesia looks to increase emissions cut pledge ahead of Paris meet (Reuters)
- Fossil fuels losing cost advantage over solar, wind, IEA says (Bloomberg)
- Storm-hit Dominica evokes poor-rich rift as climate talks resume (Bloomberg)
- Video: Climate Justice and Human Rights (CIDSE)
- See more from the Climate Justice video series here
- Video: People and Planet First: Naomi Klein (CIDSE)
- See more from the People and Planet First video series here.
- Photo: Fossil Free protest (Dropbox)
- Photo: UN climate chief Christiana Figueres (Flickr)
- Photo: UN climate talks (Flickr)
Tools & Resources
- Report: How close are INDCs to 2 and 1.5°C pathways? (Climate Action Tracker)
- Press Release: Who’s getting ready for zero (Track 0)
- Report: Who’s getting ready for zero? (Track 0/Centre for Alternative Technology)
- Report: Why a low carbon future doesn’t have to cost the earth (CitiGroup)
- Report: Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: 2015 Edition (IEA)
- Press Release: ARRCC: World’s leaders have a moral duty to stop digging (Holdfast Communications)
- Press Release: Industry comes off the fence and calls for global climate deal (CDP)
- Press Release: Brazil can limit emissions to 1 billion tons – and profit (Observatorio do Clima)
- Report: Assessing the missed benefits of countries’ national contributions (New Climate Institute)
- Briefing: Assessing the achieved and missed benefits of Chile’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) (New Climate Institute)
- Press Release: Algeria Submits its Climate Action Plan Ahead of 2015 Paris Agreement (UNFCCC)
- Press Release: Cardinal Tagle Launches Season of Creation During Pope’s Day of Prayer (Global Catholic Climate Movement)
- Press Release: Environmental leaders challenge institutions to divest from fossil fuels ahead of Paris Summit (350.org)
- Statement: Words matter in the Paris climate agreement (We Mean Business)
What people are saying
- Press Release: UN climate negotiators need to roll up their sleeves to deliver a new global climate deal in Paris (WWF)
- Press Release: 350.org Statement on Bonn Climate Talks (350.org)
- Press Release: At the close of September UN talks, observers leave with call for urgent compromise (CAN International)
- Press Release: Sluggish progress on UN climate talks as Bonn meeting concludes (ACT Alliance)
- Press Release: ActionAid reaction to closing day of UNFCCC climate talks ahead of Paris summit (ActionAid)
- Press Release: Governments ‘green light’ for draft agreement for negotiation in October in advance of Paris (UNFCCC)
- Press Release: The Elders urge world leaders to take bold and decisive action on climate in 2015 (Elders)
Blogs and analysis
- The Debrief: What’s happening in Bonn right now? (Politico)
- Paris climate agreement can’t leave behind the most vulnerable (RTCC)
- Loss and damage provisions: Don’t leave Paris without them (ECO)
- Four governments present climate plans in Bonn (UNFCCC)
- Here’s how India can increase the chances of a successful climate deal in Paris (Grist)
- “Negotiators are still playing catch up with a world that is rapidly turning away from fossil fuels. Many countries’ pledges to cut emissions and increase finance are grossly inadequate with what science and justice demand. Negotiators must mind the gap, and fix it, before Paris. While negotiations dawdled in Bonn this week, the transition away from fossil fuels accelerated: California voted to divest its pension funds and Newcastle, the world’s largest coal port, dumped its own coal stocks. Countries should follow their lead and commit to keep fossils fuels in the ground and finance the transition to an 100% renewable energy future.” – 350.org Strategy and Communications Director, Jamie Henn
- “There is consensus that we really, really need to get cracking. Negotiators will have to come to the next session ready to roll up their sleeves and tackle the key issues. We have seen a little progress in simplifying some of the options which should make negotiation and compromise on these issues easier at the next session.” – Tasneem Essop, WWF’s Head of Delegation to the UN climate negotiations
- “The clock is ticking, and country negotiators cannot just sit and wait until October. They need to find compromises on the key outstanding issues between now and the start of the next session. We need a better mutual understanding than they currently have—ready to build a Paris agreement together that can deliver the action needed for a climate safe future.” – Jasper Inventor, Greenpeace
- “It’s getting very clear that we will get a deal in Paris. The question now is what kind of a deal we are going to get—whether that deal will be a good deal. Right now, the country commitments won’t keep us under 2°C, much less 1.5°C. A good deal will to create a framework for countries to continually increase their ambition, protect the most vulnerable, and prevent catastrophic climate change. This means the deal needs to provide support for poor countries to adapt and develop on a low-carbon path.” – Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid
- “Failure to tackle climate change will only cause further damage to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. Climate change is a global injustice. Ahead of the Paris climate deal, countries have a historic opportunity to set the world on a zero-emission and poverty-free course. Now is the time for ministers to step up the pace to ensure that the poorest people are not left alone to bare the catastrophic consequences of climate change.” – Sven Harmeling, CARE International’s climate change advocacy coordinator
- “The sense of urgency required in view of the few months remaining before Paris in December, was simply not there. We cannot afford to delay the process, because the consequences would be unbearable for the efforts towards climate action. Therefore we keep calling on governments to step up and use the next – and final – session of negotiations in October meaningfully.” – Mattias Söderberg, chair of the ACT Alliance advisory group on climate change advocacy
- “There are still no clear text options from which a deal in Paris can be negotiated. Critical time has been lost for meaningful discussion. It is crucial that negotiators act fast and pay attention to developing countries to ensure the world is not tricked into another smoke and mirrors agreement. Rich nations cannot continue ‘business as usual’ while the poorest suffer climate change’s most devastating effects.” –ActionAid’s Climate Policy Manager, Harjeet Singh
- “It’s been good to see the increasing understanding amongst nations regarding the importance of adaptation and loss and damage. Against the background of recording breaking temperatures and extreme weather events helping the poor adapt and recover is vital to any global deal. But progress in Bonn has been painstakingly slow and to get a deal worth the effort then they must speed up the process between now and the next session in October. Making use of the ministerial meetings in Paris next week and in September will be critical in working out the crunch issues of the needed climate finance and adopting a system for increasing action beyond Paris. Now is the time for countries to reach out to each other in a spirit of compromise to resolve these issues and move towards a successful Paris agreement.” – Christian Aid’s Senior Climate Advisor, Mohamed Adow
- “2015 is the year in which the community of nations will conclude two of the most important international processes of our times […] You have a decisive role to play in charting the course of history. If action is not taken immediately to stop and reverse current climate trends, we shall face a world with average global temperatures several degrees higher than when we were children,” – The Elders
- “At this session, countries have crystalized their positions and have requested the Co-Chairs to produce a concise basis for negotiations with clear options for the next negotiating session in October. This means that we will arrive in Paris on time without too much turbulence– not before, not later,” – Mr Djoghlaf, Co-Chair of the ADP
- “What Parties are looking for now is a better basis from which to negotiate. This week, we achieved an enormous amount of clarity as to where we are going which makes this possible and allows us to speed up,” – Co-Chair Daniel Reifsnyder
- “At this session, countries have clarified all the different pieces of the puzzle. Now, all pieces of the puzzle will be assembled and this will enable the negotiations to pick up pace.” – Laurence Tubiana, Special Climate Envoy for the Government of France
- “I am very encouraged. This session has yet again proven that all countries are moving in the direction of progress and all agree that Paris is the final destination for the new universal agreement.” – Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary
- Fossil fuels on the backfoot as UN climate talks resume in Bonn
- Merkel’s visit to Brazil can be a milestone on the path to clean energy
- Negotiators told to ‘hit the accelerator’ as climate talks inch forward
- Climate cheers as G7 signals ‘game over’ for fossil fuels
- G7: Golden opportunity to signal end of dirty energy
- Special Alert: High noon in June as G7 and UNFCCC meet
- 200 days out from Paris climate talks, momentum grows for global deal
- RT @CFigueres #ADP2.10 closes. Next step: Co chairs to produce comprehensive draft agreement text & distribute 1st week October.
- RT @UNFCCC Gvts give ‘green light’ for draft agreement for @UN #climate negotiations in Oct http://bit.ly/1hHogE4 #COP21 #ADP2
- RT @climateWWF With just 5 negotiating days left before #COP21, climate talks are moving too slowly. http://bit.ly/1UwSlm9 #ADP2