Climate talks resume in Bonn as clock ticks on UN deal

Two weeks of tough negotiations expected as envoys prepare to radically cut huge text for Paris deal

(Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

(Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

By Ed King

Officials from nearly 200 countries meet in Bonn on Monday to try and thrash out the basis of a global climate change deal, due to be signed in Paris this December.

Governments are tasked with slashing a 90-page negotiating text down to size by the end of the summer, as the UN tries to avoid a repeat of the last time it tried and failed to secure agreement.

The current set of proposals runs to over 4000 lines, an includes a bewildering variety of proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions, promote green energy technologies and set a long term climate goal.

Laurence Tubiana, France’s chief climate diplomat and one of the key figures behind the country’s plans to host this year’s UN summit told RTCC she wanted to see progress by August.

“It’s a tense moment. Now it’s beginning to be serious. Countries have to find some compromise… as a French presidency we would like to accelerate the movement,” she said.

If there was no sign of countries agreeing a pathway later this year the French presidency of COP21 would – as is its responsibility – start work on its own proposals, Tubiana added.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres was a negotiator for Costa Rica in Copenhagen six years ago, when talks crashed amid bitter battles between developed and developing nations over responsibility for cutting emissions.

She told RTCC she was confident that world leaders were committed to this year’s deal and sensed the opportunities the green economy could offer.

“There’s growing momentum, excitement but the most important thing is that there is growing realisation that not only is this possible but it is also in everyone’s best interests. That is really the turning point on this,” she said.

This meeting in Bonn lasts two weeks, with further sessions planned in September and October, when France wants to see a final set of plans up for discussion.

Few countries seem able to agree on how binding this Paris deal could be. The EU wants a tough deal with legal teeth, while the US and China are pushing for a pact based on their domestic laws.

But given proposed emission reductions are unlikely to stave off what scientists say are dangerous levels of warming, some observers say what’s essential is a means of raising future ambition.

“A ratcheting mechanism must be a core part of the agreement so that national contributions can be steadily scaled up as needed in the coming years to avoid the worst of the climate crisis,” said Christian Aid climate advisor Mohamed Adow.

So far just under 40 countries have submitted their emission reduction plans to the UN, with the world’s leading emitter China expected to join the EU and US in revealing its goals this month.

According to a new study by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, 75% of annual emissions are now covered by a range of national targets.

Still, these are not deemed stringent enough to limit warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels, a ceiling countries agreed to avoid in 2009.

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