Bonn bulletin: Fears over “1.5 washing” in national climate plans

Next round of NDCs in focus as negotiations wrap up with a final push to resolve fights on issues including adaptation and just transition

Bonn bulletin: Fears over "1.5 washing" in NDCs

Delegates inside the conference centre for the UN climate change talks in Bonn, Germany, June 13, 2024. (Photo: UNFCCC/Amira Grotendiek)


At an event on the sidelines of Wednesday’s talks, the “Troika” of COP presidencies was very clear that the next round of national climate plans (NDCs) must be aligned with a global warming limit of 1.5C. The three countries – the UAE, Azerbaijan and Brazil – have all promised to set an example by publishing “1.5-aligned” plans by early next year.  

What their negotiators were not so clear on, however, was what it means for an NDC to be 1.5-aligned.

Asked by Destination Zero’s Cat Abreu about the risk of “1.5 washing”, Brazil’s head of delegation Liliam Chagas replied that “there is no international multilaterally agreed methodology to define what is an NDC aligned to 1.5”. “It’s up to each one to decide,” she said.

The moderator, WWF’s climate lead Fernanda Carvalho, pointed out that IPCC scientists say 1.5C alignment means cutting emissions globally by 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035 – but without giving national breakdowns.

She added that Climate Action Tracker does have a methodology. This shows that no major nations so far have climate plans aligned with 1.5C.

E3G expert Alden Meyer followed up, telling the negotiators that “while we may have some disagreements on exactly what an NDC must include to be 1.5-aligned, we know now what it must exclude – it must exclude any plans to expand the production and export of fossil fuels”.

All three Troika nations are oil and gas producers with no plans to stop producing or exporting their fossil fuels and are in fact ramping up production.

Claudio Angelo, international policy coordinator for Brazil’s Climate Observatory, said the onus is on rich countries to move first, but “this is no excuse for doing nothing”. Even yesterday, he noted, President Lula was talking to Saudi investors about opening a new oil frontier on Brazil’s northern shore.

Whether 1.5-aligned or not, no government has used Bonn as an opportunity to release an early NDC. Azerbaijan’s lead on Troika relations Rovshan Mirzayev said “some”, but “no more than 10”, are expected to be published by COP29 in November.

Rovshan Mirzayev (left), Fernanda Carvalho (centre-left), Liliam Chagas (centre-right) and Hana Alhashimi (right) in Bonn yesterday (Photo: Observatorio do Clima/WWF/Fastenaktion/ICS)

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Napping on NAPs or drowning in paperwork?   

As he opened the Bonn conference last week, UN climate head Simon Stiell bemoaned that only 57 governments have so far put together a national adaptation plan (NAP) to adjust to the impacts of climate change.

“By the time we meet in Baku, this number needs to grow substantially. We need every country to have a plan by 2025 and make progress on implementing them by 2030,” he said.

The South American nation of Suriname is one of the 57. Its coast is retreating, leaving the skeletons of homes visible in the sea and bringing salt water into cropland – and its NAP lays out how it wants to minimise that.

Tiffany Van Ravenswaay, an AOSIS adaptation negotiator who used to work for Suriname’s government, told Climate Home how hard it is for small islands and the poorest countries to craft such plans.

“We have one person holding five or seven hats in the same government,” she said. These busy civil servants often don’t have time to compile a 200-page NAP, and then an application to the Green Climate Fund or Adaptation Fund for money to implement it, accompanied by a thesis on why these impacts are definitely caused by climate change.

“It takes a lot of data, it takes a lot of work, and it takes also a lot of human resources,” she said. What’s needed, she added, are funds for capacity-building, to hire and train people.

Cecilia Quaglino moved from Argentina to the Pacific Island nation of Palau to write, along with just one colleague, its NAP. She told Climate Home they are “struggling” to get it ready by next year. “We need expertise, finance and human resources,” she said.

According to three sources in the room, developing countries pushed for the NAP negotiations in Bonn to include the “means of implementation” – the code phrase for cash – to plan and implement adaptation measures, but no agreement was reached.

Talks on the Global Goal on Adaptation are also centred on finance. Developing countries want to track the finance provided towards each target, whereas developed countries want to avoid quantification – and any form of standalone adaptation finance target for the goal.

They are also divided on the extent to which negotiators themselves should run the process for coming up with indicators versus independent experts. Developed countries want more of a role for the Adaptation Committee, a body mainly of government negotiators, whereas developing nations want non-government specialists with a regional balance to run the show.

Bonn bulletin: Fears over "1.5 washing" in NDCs

The island of Pulo Anna in Palau, pictured in 2012, is vulnerable to rising sea levels (Photo: Alex Hofford/Greenpeace)

Just transition trips up on justice definitions 

At COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, governments agreed to set up a work programme on just transition. But justice means very different things to different governments and different groups of people.

For some, it’s about justice for workers who will lose their jobs in the shift away from fossil fuels. For others, it’s more about meeting the needs of women or indigenous people affected by climate action.

Many developing countries view it as a question of justice between the Global South and North, and trade barriers that they believe discriminate against them. Or it can be seen as all of the above.

That’s why negotiations in Bonn about how to work out what to even talk about under the Just Transition Work Programme have been so fraught – resulting in “deep exasperation”, according to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative’s Amiera Sawas.

While the elements of justice that could be discussed seem infinite, the UNFCCC’s budget is very much not – a fact brought up by some negotiators when trying to limit the scope of the talks.

Ultimately what does make it onto the agenda for discussion matters, because climate justice campaigners hope there will be a package agreed by COP30 in Belem that can help make the clean energy transition fairer and mobilise money for that purpose.

Caroline Brouillette from Climate Action Network Canada has been following the talks. “The transition is already happening,” she told Climate Home. “The question is: will it be just?”

E3G’s Alden Meyer described it as a “very intense space”. Rich countries, he said, don’t want a broader definition of just transition in case that opens the door to yet more calls for them to fund those efforts in developing nations.

Despite these divisions, after a late night and long final day of talks, two observers told Climate Home early on Thursday afternoon that negotiators had reached an agreement to present to the closing plenary session – where it’s likely to be adopted.

Just Transition Working Group negotiators huddle for informal talks yesterday (Photo: Kiara Worth/IISD ENB)

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