Bangkok bulletin: ‘We are not ready’

UN talks on the Paris Agreement reach a critical stage in Bangkok, sign up for daily briefings

September in Bangkok sees a foot of rain a day - for now (Photo: Deposit Photos)


Welcome to Bangkok.

Time is very much running out. That’s the clear feeling as UN delegates return to talks to broker agreement on global climate rules. We’ll be here all week. If you haven’t already, sign up to our newsletter to get it first.

Courting chaos

At the meeting’s opening ceremony, Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama also expressed urgency. “In three months’ time, we will be in Katowice and frankly, we are not ready,” said the president of the 2017 summit.

“Without implementation guidelines that everyone can live with, we risk chaos at Katowice and the possibility of yet another delay in the urgent work of combating climate change.”

Read his full speech here.

Upbeat start

Leaders of the negotiations adopted a more positive tone to begin the talks. The four co-chairs of the various discussion streams released a joint statement on Monday which said canvassing ahead of the summit gave them “a clear sense” their goals and approach was supported by all parties.

That positivity has flowed into the first full day of the conference, said one source: “We started without a hitch. That’s good.”

Get it together guys

In a press conference before talks kicked off, UN climate boss Patricia Espinosa had stern words for negotiators, writes CHN’s Natalie Sauer. The time for stalling is passed and the Bangkok talks really must be a jump in progress.

Least developed country chair Gebru Jember Endalew said “a last-minute rush in Katowice” would overwhelm the voices of the poor.

In at the deep end

Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, from DRC, had to quickly get up to speed on an unfamiliar element of negotiations after the Africa Group colleague who was due to co-facilitate could not get a visa in time. He is now the expert on public registries of national climate plans. Ask him anything. The group is hopeful Senegal’s Madeleine Diouf Sarr will resume the role before the end of the week, he said.

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African renewables…

…are about to get a new champion. Safiatou Alzouma, from Niger, is set to take over the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative’s independent delivery unit after interim director Seyni Nafo steps down later this month. Alzouma was previously with the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

The AREI ran into controversy 18 months ago, when its former chief Youba Sokona quit, accusing the EU and French donors – led by Ségolène Royal – of hijacking its agenda. “We are way beyond that,” said Nafo, adding the initiative was “deep into” engagement with African governments and had some 440 projects worth 50GW in the pipeline.


September is the wettest month in Bangkok, when the coastal city’s drainage systems get put to the test. About a foot (320mm) of rainfall is standard – for now. Climate change, along with concretisation of canals, increases the risk of flooding.

Citing a paper by the World Bank, Agence France Press reports that nearly 40% of Bangkok will be partially submerged due to extreme rainfall and changes in weather patterns.

Flood barriers protect some, at the expense of poorer neighbourhoods, according to this great primer by Thin Lei Win for Thomson Reuters Foundation.

No parking

On the way into the UN conference centre in Bangkok, Climate Home News passed a flustered cyclist. Apparently there are parking spaces for scooters and cars, but no bike racks.

It may be only sweaty farangs who are foolish enough to cycle in this muggy heat when they could get a taxi, but wouldn’t a green organisation encourage it?

Do as I say…

…not as I do. Signs at the coffee stalls proclaimed a zero waste trial, with a deposit-and-return scheme for mugs. Great idea! So why was CHN served coffee in a single-use paper cup?

Three things that need to happen in Bangkok

WRI’s Yamide Dagnet and Nathan Cogswell have set up some goalposts for the talks this week. The pair say that without clear compromises on the table, legal language and a text that is organised for negotiations, the Bangkok meeting will have failed

Have a read and tell us if you agree [email protected].

New faces

Climate Home News welcomed reporter Natalie Sauer to our newsroom on Monday. Natalie comes to us after a stint with Politico Europe. Give her a follow and a hello on Twitter.

It’s a busy week in our office. Our other new recruit, senior reporter Sara Stefanini (also a alumna) starts Thursday. She’ll be focusing on Brexit, among other stuff. Find out how you can help here.

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Read more on: Climate politics | Paris Agreement | UN climate talks