Bonn morning brief: Manels and nightmares

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The main chamber at UN climate headquarters in Bonn (Photo: UNFCCC)


Bonn rolls on and Climate Home News’ coverage rolls with it.

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Too many manels?

Organisations have promised to be more considerate of gender balance when organising panels, after analysis by CHN’s Soila Apparicio showed male speakers outnumber women by two to one at the UN climate talks.

“We very much regret that all speakers and panelists [on our panel] were male,” said Kentaro Takahashi from the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. “We will commit to secure the gender balance when we organise a side event for the future session.”

We want to hear from organisations who are willing to commit to a policy of gender balance when hosting events. Let Soila know [email protected].

A mixed start

Megan Darby has been roaming the halls in Bonn this week. With four days down, she gauged the mood.

Jo Tyndall, New Zealand negotiator and co-chair of the Paris rulebook talks, said: “I think [the talks] are going well. Of course, nothing ever runs super smoothly in this process, but everyone has been very keen to get down to work – very seized by the fact it is only 6 months to go before we need to conclude this in Katowice.” She expected the last-hour issues to be the usual ones: finance and differentiation between rich and poor countries.

Franz Perrez, negotiator for Switzerland, expressed some frustration over how long it took to get to the substance of the debate. “There is no real progress, but what we are doing is starting to collect elements, preparing something that will allow us to make progress,” he said.

“Everything is difficult,” said China’s Chen Zhihua, “in particular those issues on means of implementation” – that’s code for money. “We see very little progress on this and of course we want to see more progress so we can have a balanced and comparable progress on all items.”

Don’t have nightmares

Poland’s top climate envoy has weighed into the debate about keeping polluters out of UN climate talks.

“The call for exclusion of anybody from the process… I don’t think that is very useful,” Tomasz Chruszczow told Climate Home News.

He doesn’t foresee Katowice repeating the 2013 Warsaw debacle, when the government proudly promoted a coal conference alongside the climate summit, though. “That was a nightmare,” he admitted.

Negotiations on whether to bring in a conflict of interest policy limped along on Thursday, with an hour-long session half taken up with procedural quibbles and another meeting scheduled for Friday. Typical.

For the full story, read here.

Asparagus tips

Where are you eating in Bonn? It’s May, which means asparagus fever has gripped the former West German capital. Have you found the best seasonal menu? Tweet us @climatehome.

Finance detente?

Climate Home News caught up with Seyni Nafo, co-chair of talks on predictability of climate finance, which last thing we heard were sparky. After 40 minutes of soothing procedural concerns on Thursday, Nafo said, they actually made good progress: “I feel good about this item.”

Everybody had a chance to speak and he realised part of the tension hinged on different interpretations of what “ex-ante” meant.

Once they clear that up, Nafo was confident developed countries will see Africa’s asks are not unreasonable or unrealistic. “It is not as threatening as it is presented,” he said. “We are all aware of some of the limitations and constraints [developed countries have].”

Inclusive Talanoa?

If you are taking part in Sunday’s talanoa sessions, stock up on snacks. If not, don’t even try to get in the building. The schedule is up and the only catering is a light lunch for “a limited number of participants”. You have been warned.

There will be seven parallel discussions, each with around 30 national delegates and a selection of five outside experts to give their verdicts on each of the three questions: where are we, where do we want to go and how do we get there? The non-government voices range from indigenous groups to Opec.

For background, read our 11 key themes from the written submissions.

Did you make the list? Send us the gossip: [email protected]

Cooking the books

Oxfam delivered one of its periodic reminders why it matters how you count climate finance – something being negotiated to eventually feed into the Paris Agreement rulebook.

If you take donor country numbers for 2015 and 2016 at face value, they collectively delivered $48 billion a year. But much of that was in loans to middle income countries, not grants to the poorest. If you calculate the grant equivalent, which Oxfam says is becoming the standard measure for aid spending, the figure falls to $16-21bn. That is a long way short of the $100bn the developed world has promised to mobilise annually by 2020.

“Despite people in poor Caribbean islands staring down supercharged hurricanes and others in Africa reeling from brutal droughts, the money flowing to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable to climate change remains woefully inadequate,” said Tracy Carty, co-author of the report.

UN makes safe environment a priority

As Climate Home News has previously reported, the closed-room confidentiality and power dynamics of these talks can make people vulnerable to unwanted sexual advances or gender-based bullying.

So we were pleased to see UN Climate Change publish an updated code of conduct, which fleshes out its “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment and discrimination.

If you experience or witness harassment on site, you are advised to report it to security staff.

If you have suffered harassment or abuse at the talks, we want hear your story. Contact Megan on [email protected].

‘The Paris Agreement is a health agreement’

While climate change remains on the fringes of humanity’s collective experience, pollution is something we can taste. It’s also something that is proven to drive political decisions to cut back on fossil fuels – see China.

That’s the connection the World Health Organisation (WHO) made on Thursday, on the back of their assessment that exposure to air pollution kills seven million people each year.

“We see the Paris Agreement as a fundamental public health agreement, potentially the most important public health agreement of the century. If we don’t meet the climate challenge, if we don’t bring down greenhouse gas emissions, then we are undermining the environmental determinants of health on which we depend: we undermine water supplies, we undermine our air, we undermine food security,” said Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, WHO team lead on climate change and health.

Get Friday’s daily programme here.

Read more on: Climate politics | UN climate talks