(Bonn, Germany) - The following is an assessment from CI’s Climate Policy Director, Rebecca Chacko, who joined fellow Conservation International (CI) staff from 10 countries in participating in the continuing international climate change talks of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany the past two weeks. Chacko works in CI’s Center for Conservation in Government.
“International climate talks drew to a close Friday night in Bonn, Germany. In the second week of the conference, the talks took a constructive tone — a welcome turn of events after negotiations remained at a virtual standstill for the first four days of the meeting.
“Many applauded the outcome of the U.N. climate negotiations in Cancun last year, myself included. But much work remains to be done to make the high-level commitments in Cancun a reality, and the Bonn meeting was a key opportunity to do so.
As a four-year veteran of this process, though, I have to say that during my first week in Bonn, the energy level in the conference halls has been the lowest I’ve witnessed. As the talks opened, negotiators seemed to lounge in the hallways where before they were racing down corridors. The throngs of “observers” in costume and engaging in song and dance have become scarce. But late last week, work got underway, and you could feel the mood change as negotiators put their noses to the grindstone.
So, let’s take a moment to turn back to our expectations and evaluate what they accomplished:
1) Ratchet up commitments and proposed actions to reduce emissions. Unfortunately no progress was made in increasing commitments in Bonn. In fact, the situation here remains very delicate, with big question marks looming about the possibility of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol (the first commitment period covering nearly 40 industrialized countries expires at the end of 2012) and the implications that may have for other commitments to reduce emissions.
2) Identify sources of climate finance, including innovative sources. Country representatives put forward a number of ideas regarding possible sources of finance. However, a lot of work remains to be done to come to agreement on and mobilize financial sources at the scale necessary to meet the global climate challenge.
3) Hammer out the details on how countries can reduce emissions from deforestation through a REDD+ framework. The decision coming out of Bonn provides a framework for further discussion but is empty of content. Countries and observers will provide written proposals, and expert meetings (financed by Norway and Australia) will enable development of critical details. A lot of work remains to be done and countries will need to engage quickly in order to make the necessary progress before COP17, the next major climate conference that will be held in Durban, South Africa.
4) Increase commitments to support and take climate adaptation action on the ground. Progress was made in the Nairobi Work Program to identify critical tasks including gathering information on ecosystem based approaches to adaptation, and creating a technical paper on water and climate impacts. Progress was also made on development of the elements of the National Adaptation Plans for the poorest developing countries. Significant technical discussions on the form and function of an adaptation committee also took place, but will require more negotiations for a decision in Durban that provides enough clarity to enable the committee to influence and enhance support of adaptation in the UNFCCC and link with the appropriate finance mechanisms. Discussions on loss and damage, or compensation for impacts that are too great to adapt to, were not productive as countries could not agree as to how to proceed.
Overall, not an excellent report card. But with diligent work over the coming months the UNFCCC negotiators may be able to pull a passing grade and put us all on the path towards a climate-stable world. To encourage these negotiators to push forward, we need observers who enter negotiations with a can-do approach toward engagement rather than disengagment, we need political will from all nations — and yes, we need public support voiced loudly and clearly at home for a strong international climate agreement.