Bonn bulletin: Climate finance chasm remains unbridged

Governments split on when and how to set a dollar amount for new finance goal, and human rights activists seek stronger protection in COP host nations

Banners show where the UN Climate Change Conference is taking place in Bonn, Germany, June 11, 2024. (Photo: UNFCCC/Amira Grotendiek)


At the start of the two weeks of talks in Bonn, UN Climate Change supremo Simon Stiell called on negotiators to “make every hour count” and to “move from zero-draft to real options” on a post-2025 finance goal. “We cannot afford to reach Baku with too much work still to do,” he warned. 

But, at the last of Bonn’s sessions on that new climate finance goal on Tuesday afternoon, the chasm between developed and developing countries remained unbridged and, rather than “real options”, all negotiators have to show is a 35-page informal input paper.

Perhaps the biggest divide is over setting a dollar target. Developing countries have put forward figures like $1.1 trillion and $1.3 trillion. Developed nations have suggested nothing other than that it should be higher than the previous $100-billion goal.

“Every time there’s been [one] excuse or another why we couldn’t discuss quantum,” said Saudi’s infuriated negotiator yesterday.

Australia’s representative responded poetically. The number is just the “star on the top of the Christmas tree”, she said – and so should only be decided once the goal’s structure has been defined.

One branch of that Christmas tree is who pays. China’s negotiator was clear it shouldn’t be them – and developing countries have backed him all the way so far. “We have no intention to make your number look good,” he told developed countries.

He was, however, magnanimous enough to wish Swiss negotiator Gabriela Blatter a happy birthday. She later said arguing about all this yet again wasn’t a great way to spend it but invited her fellow negotiators to join her at a Bonn Biergarten last night regardless.

Will an evening on the Kolsch leave negotiators more willing to compromise by the next round of talks (dates yet to be fixed)? More likely that ministers will have to get involved and use their authority to narrow the gaps between the two sides.

Barbados’s representative laid out the real-world stakes, as climate-driven disasters mount. Talks must speed up, he said, before more and more small islands and least-developed countries “disappear from this gathering because we disappear from the planet”.

After tough debates, some of the negotiators headed to one of Bonn’s Biergartens last night. (Photo: Joe Lo)

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Azerbaijan’s critics silenced 

Azerbaijan’s COP29 presidency is pitching this year’s climate summit as an “inclusive” process where “everyone’s voices are heard”. A laudable undertaking that jars with Baku’s intensifying crackdown on media and civil society at home. At least 25 journalists and activists have been arrested over the past year “on a variety of bogus criminal charges”, according to Human Rights Watch.

Dr Gubad Ibadoghlu, a senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, is one of them. An active critic of the regime run by President Ilham Aliyev, he led campaigns on oil and gas interests and alleged money laundering in Azerbaijan. In July 2023, Dr Ibadoghlu was arrested on charges of handling counterfeit money and extremism, which were described as “fabricated” by his family and “politically motivated” by a European Parliament resolution.

Climate Home met his daughter, Zhala Bayramova, on the sidelines of the Bonn climate conference, where she is trying to raise awareness of the case.

“They [Azerbaijan authorities] are doing this to him to show off that if this can happen to an LSE professor, then they can do it to anybody,” she said. “They’re trying to create a chilling effect on society.”

She said her father was kept for nine months in an “overcrowded” jail in poor conditions with extremely limited access to medical care and appropriate nutrition. Dr Ibadoghlu suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, and his health condition rapidly deteriorated during his detention, his family reported. He was released from prison in April but has since been kept under house arrest.

Bayramova hopes the climate summit will bring attention to the plight of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. “Western countries need to uphold human right values,” she said. “We want to be part of the discussion [at COP29] but we don’t have people left because they are in prison. We want to ensure people are released unconditionally.”

Climate Home has reached out to the COP29 presidency for comment.

In a Guardian article published on Wednesday, the Azerbaijan government is quoted as saying: “We totally reject the claims about [a] crackdown against human rights activists and journalists in Azerbaijan. No one is persecuted in Azerbaijan because of political beliefs or activities.”

Over the past year, at least 25 journalists and activists have been arrested in Azerbaijan, according to Human Rights Watch. Climate Home spoke with the daughter of one of them. (Photo: Matteo Civillini)

Host-country agreements – lost and found 

Climate Home reported yesterday on the mystery of the missing agreements between the UNFCCC and the host countries of COPs. Amnesty International has been trying for months to get hold of the one with the UAE, where COP28 took place. On Tuesday afternoon, civil society groups told us that agreement had finally been provided by the UN climate change secretariat.

Ann Harrison, Amnesty’s climate advisor, duly went through the document – which mainly sets out logistical arrangements for the annual summit – and found it does not include explicit language on human rights protection. That is viewed as crucial by campaigners because of concerns over what they see as limited civic space for protest and government restrictions on civil rights in host countries with a poor international record. That applies to the hosts of the last two COPs – Egypt (whose agreement is still missing) and the UAE – as well as this year’s location: Azerbaijan.

Harrison emphasised that all governments have already agreed both to make the host-country agreements public and to ensure they reflect the UN Charter and obligations under international human rights law, while promoting fundamental freedoms and protecting participants from violations and abuses.

A push at these Bonn talks for host-country agreements to be published on the UNFCCC website did not succeed. But Harrison told Climate Home she hopes to see stronger rights protection included in the hosting agreement with Azerbaijan, which is still being worked on – and that the document should be made available well in advance of the COP to be useful for advocates.

“The main thing is that it should include what was mandated for it to be included in last year’s and this year’s conclusions [at Bonn] – that there should be a commitment to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly – so that people can be comforted that those rights are respected,” she said.

COP 29 President-designate Mukhtar Babayev, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan, and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell sign letters of intent for the upcoming COP 29 in Bonn, June 7, 2024 (Photo: Kiara Worth/IISD ENB)

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