Climate vulnerable states call for ‘concrete action’ at UN talks

Intense pressure on ministers at UN talks in Bonn, who meet for final opportunity to create draft text for ‘critical’ climate treaty

Pic: UNFCCC

Pic: UNFCCC

By Sophie Yeo

Progress at UN climate talks starting today in Bonn are “critical” to the progress on an international deal to stop global warming, according to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries.

During eleven days of negotiations ministers and negotiators will discuss a new climate change treaty, which will likely determine how the world reduces greenhouse gas emissions before and after 2020.

Nepali diplomat Prakash Mathema, who chairs the Least Developed Countries negotiating group, said that these discussions — the latest in a long series of conferences and meetings — are one of the final opportunities to draw up the draft text that will form the basis of discussion at the UN’s next major climate conference in Lima this December.

“Governments must make substantial progress in their talks in the period leading up to this date … We cannot be delayed by procedural discussions. We must put our heads together and start writing a new agreement,” he said.

But despite the importance of the meeting in the climate agenda, only 43 ministers from a possible 196 have committed to attend, with notable absences including the UK, Russia, Australia, Brazil, India and South Africa.

Draft text

At the last round of talks in March, countries agreed to move into ‘contact groups’, which means that conversations can start to revolve around concrete suggestions for a text, rather than abstract discussions over its shape and content.

Since then, the co-chairs of the discussions have circulated a ‘multiple choice’ style document of all the suggestions put forward by parties so far. While this is likely to form a useful basis to this week’s discussions, the diversity of opinion it contains demonstrates just how much work remains to be done.

Many ideological differences still need to be smoothed out, particularly between the world’s two largest emitters: the US and China.

Signs of progress this week from both these countries—Obama’s new standards for coal-fired power plants and rumours of a Chinese cap on emissions—have been hailed as positive momentum for the talks.

Other developments in the climate change scene since the last round of discussions took place include important developments on the Green Climate Fund, which could see developed countries pledge large amounts of money by November.

It is still unclear whether precise financial pledges should form part of countries’ contributions towards a 2015 climate deal. That is likely to be a source of contention this week as nations wrangle over what information they will be obliged to include in their contributions, which must be submitted by March.

A forthcoming review of the current 2C target—the limit of global warming agreed upon by all governments—to assess whether it could be revised to 1.5C is also a likely topic of contention.

Analysis by the Climate Action Tracker, released today in Bonn, shows that all governments will need to increase their ambitions on climate change in order to stay below 2C, with the energy and industry sectors becoming zero carbon as early as 2045.

“One of the major challenges for Ministers at the UNFCCC meetings in Bonn is to take concrete steps to arrest and reverse this adverse trend in decarbonisation,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, one of the groups involved in the research.

Science

The Least Developed Countries bloc and the Small Island States stand to lose most from the impacts of climate change. The latest round of talks will take place on the back of the latest report from the UN’s climate science panel, the IPCC.

This spelled out the impacts of climate change, and how the world can both adapt and mitigate.

“In light of the latest science and the worsening climate impacts unfolding before our eyes – including sea level rise, intensifying droughts and floods, as well as threats to our public health and food and water resources – it is apparent that immediate action immediate action is absolutely critical to Island Nations,” said Ambassador Marlene Moses, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

“Indeed, the latest IPCC Report also identifies numerous proven policy and technology solutions for rapidly and cost effectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions, many of which bring significant economic and public health benefits.”

Alongside high level ministerial meetings, these technical options to combat climate change will also be discussed, including workshops on finance, land use and deforestation.

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