Bonn bulletin: Fossil fuel transition left homeless

Countries clash over where to negotiate the shift away from dirty energy agreed at COP28, while talks on a new climate finance goal make little progress

Bonn Fossil fuel transition talks june 11

UN climate talks take place in Bonn, June 11, 2024 (Photo: UNFCCC /AmiraGrotendiek)


It’s been less than six months since countries struck a historic deal to “transition away from fossil fuels” after bitter fights and sleepless nights at COP28. But, in Bonn right now, discussions on what to do next about the biggest culprit of climate change seem to have largely disappeared from the agenda.

“It’s really jarring to see how quiet the conversation on fossil fuels has gone,” said Tom Evans, a senior policy advisor at E3G, adding that the trouble is this issue “doesn’t have a clear home at the UNFCCC right now”.

Last week negotiators clashed over whether that space should be the newly-created “UAE Dialogue” on implementing the outcomes of the Global Stocktake – the centrepiece of the Dubai climate summit.

Developed countries thought so and argued that talks should consider all elements of the global stocktake, including mitigation. But the Like-Minded Group of Developing Countries (LMDCs), which includes China, Saudi Arabia and India, retorted that the focus should be exclusively on finance and means of implementation. Small island states and the AILAC coalition of Latin American countries took the middle ground, pushing for discussions on all outcomes with a special focus on finance, according to observers and a summary of the discussions by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

Pending an agreement on that front, developed countries believe the mitigation work programme – a track set up at COP26 – is the only other natural forum to wrangle over emission-cutting measures.But negotiators there have failed to even agree on what should or should not be discussed.

An EU negotiator told Climate Home attempts to start a conversation on the way forward continue to be blocked by the LMDCs, with China and Saudi Arabia “the most vocal” among them. “The reason is that they fear this would put pressure on them to keep moving away from fossil fuels,” the EU delegate added.

The LMDCs argued that discussions over how to follow up on the COP28 agreement on fossil fuels are outside the mandate of the mitigation work programme. They have also hit back at rich nations accusing them of not doing enough to cut emissions.

Speaking on behalf of the group at a session hosted by the COP29 Presidency, the Bolivian negotiator said developed countries should be required to get to net zero by 2030. “The Annex 1 countries’ pathway to achieve net zero by 2050 does not contribute to solving the climate crisis, it is leading the world to a catastrophe,” he added.

In his intervention, the head of the EU delegation urged the COP28 and COP29 presidencies to “break the deadlock” on mitigation. “What are we waiting for?” he cried.

Shortly before, Yalchin Rafiyev, the lead negotiator for Azerbaijan’s COP29 presidency, had outlined his vision for the summit. The 1,918-word-long speech did not mention fossil fuels once.

As the negotiations focus on Loss and Damage, members of civil society demonstrate in the corridors calling for polluters to pay up. (Photo: Kiara Worth/IISD ENB)

Go slow on finance 

Monday’s session on finance ended with concerns from both the Arab Group and the US that the current text collating views on the new climate finance goal (known as the NCQG) is “unbalanced” and may not produce an outcome that is “fit for purpose” by the end of the Bonn talks on Thursday. The NCCQ is due to be agreed at COP29 in Baku in November.

The 35-page “informal paper” – from which an actual negotiating text needs to emerge – is a hotch-potch of views on what the post-2025 goal should look like (a single target for public finance from rich nations or a multi-layered target with a range of goals covering various sources and purposes); who should contribute (only developed countries or a wider pool, even mentioning countries with a space programme!); and how much money (no quantified amount, a percentage of gross national income, or about $1 trillion a year). And that’s only a taster of what’s in the document…

No shortage of public money to pay for a just energy transition

One major sticking point for the Arab Group on Monday was the lack of negotiations so far on the size – “quantum” – of the NCQG (it wants an annual $1.1 trillion plus arrears from the existing $100 billion goal). Its negotiator expressed disappointment that everything else is being discussed in Bonn apart from that.

As the session came to the end of its allotted two hours, a long list of 23 delegations had yet to take the floor, including the European Union, the UK, China, Japan, Bolivia, South Africa and many African countries. It’s going to be a tough task getting through them in the last slot this afternoon – and with just three days left when will the real horse-trading start?

Iskander Erzini Vernoit, founding director of the Imal Initiative for Climate & Development, a Morocco-based think-tank, told journalists on Tuesday finance talks in Bonn had “not advanced significantly beyond where we started”, with the text going no further in resolving the fundamental debates. The way forward to Baku on the NCQG is “murky”, he warned.

World Bank greenlights role in L&D Fund 

On Monday, the World Bank’s board approved the bank’s role as trustee and host of the secretariat for the new “Fund for Responding to Loss and Damage” for an interim period of four years. This is a procedural step – which had to be taken before a deadline of June 12 – on the road to getting the UN-agreed fund up and running this year.

In a short statement announcing the decision, the bank stressed that the fund’s independent board will determine “key priorities, including financing decisions, eligibility criteria, and risk management policies”. The bank also made clear that it won’t play a role in raising money for the fund or deciding how to spend its so-far meagre resources.

Climate activist and loss and damage expert Harjeet Singh said the next step is to push on with setting up the fund’s secretariat, including appointing an executive director. The World Bank must facilitate the receipt of pledged funds while the fund’s board (which next meets in July) needs to adopt key policy decisions to enable earliest possible disbursement to affected countries, he said.

“It is crucial that the success of the Loss and Damage Fund is measured by how quickly and adequately those facing the harsh realities of the climate emergency receive support for recovery,” he told Climate Home.

North Africa’s disappearing nomads: Why my community needs climate finance

At COP28, countries – including the host nation UAE – pledged close to $700 million for the new fund, but substantive discussions about how to mobilise the amounts needed to cover fast-rising losses from extreme weather and rising seas have yet to take place.

In Bonn, climate justice activists are lobbying hard for the L&D Fund to receive finance under the new post-2025 goal. But developed countries are pushing back, saying there is no basis for this under the Paris Agreement, which refers to them providing financial resources only for mitigation (measures to reduce emissions) and adaptation to climate impacts.

Read more on: Climate finance | Fossil Fuels | UN climate talks