UN climate envoys claim progress on 2015 deal despite Russia row

By John Parnell

Progress to establish a 2015 global climate treaty has been made at the UN talks in Bonn say negotiators, despite a row that shut down one track of the talks.

The two week meeting closed on Friday with negotiators rueing the lack of formal progress in the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), which was unable to start work due to an objection to the agenda raised by Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Despite this there was more constructive debate on a new global climate treaty, with a framework set to be revealed at the end of year Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting in Warsaw this coming November.

“This has been an important meeting because governments are moving faster now from the stage of exploring options to designing and implementing solutions,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary, UNFCCC. “Governments are demonstrating increasingly broad support for this energy transformation.”

UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres said it was important to clarify the rules of the talks to ensure the robustness of a new deal (Source: Flickr/UNFCCC)

Acknowledging the stalemate in the SBI over the talks’ rules of procedures, Figueres said some extra time could be designated to the SBI stream in Warsaw to help it make up time.

“I believe there is a clear focus after these two weeks that it is going to be necessary to have the rules in place in order to have an incentive based agreement that encourages a race to the top. At the same time there has to be transparency and accountability,” she told reporters in Bonn.


Conversations on the new agreement were praised by numerous negotiators and were described as mature, in-depth, constructive and positive.

Discussions so far have focused on a number of proposals including a US plan that would see country’s set their own targets and an EU sponsored “spectrum of commitments” that would allow rich and poor nations to participate in the deal to varying degrees.

The Climate Action Network of environmental NGOs has called for a commitment in Warsaw for nations to reveal their emission reduction pledges in 2014.

Ruth Davis, political director for Greenpeace UK, argued that this would help make the most of Ban Ki-moon’s meeting of world leaders to discuss climate change scheduled for September 2014.

“For that summit to be meaningful we need something on the table to discuss. Otherwise it will all just be warm words,” she said.

RTCC understands that there will be significant resistance to the pace of that timeline.

Critical 12 months

The EU is also calling for big decisions to be made in 2014 dubbing it “the year of ambition”.

“We need to set out a clear pathway for an ambitious legally binding agreement in 2015 and it needs substantial and tangible progress on raising pre 2020 mitigation ambition,” said EU negotiator Dave Walsh.

“If we can provide a successful conclusion to the Warsaw COP setting up a year of ambition in 2014 and building towards the Ban Ki-moon summit before Peru and eventually Paris in 2015, this is going to be one of three very important COPs,” added Walsh.

Lina Li, of the Greenovation Hub in Beijing told RTCC that the positive words now needed to translate into positive decisions.

“In Warsaw we need to hammer out detailed elements of the 2015 workstream and make some concrete decisions on pre-2020 ambition not to mention the finance discussions,” she said.

“We’ve had a positive run-up but it will take more effort and more willingness from all parties to get into a more focussed mode at COP19.”

Ironically, Russian climate change negotiator Oleg Shamanov, who was at the centre of the SBI row, agrees.

“The work [in Bonn] was constructive, but in no way with the speed required and with the needed realization of political importance of the issue…I am personally under the impression that not all countries are ready to actively move towards the new global agreement,” he said.

Two reports released during the talks highlighted the severity of the situation with both the International Energy Agency and Climate Action Tracker warning we are headed for 4°C of warming.

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