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OPINION: G7 leaders put their weight behind Paris deal, but progress at UNFCCC talks in Bonn is glacial


Christina Elvers and Kiran Sura of CDKN with Chris Webb report on progress last week in international climate negotiations. 

All eyes were on Germany last week as the G7 leaders met in Bavaria to discuss the global economy and climate change; and climate negotiators met in Bonn to continue working on an international global climate deal. While the G7 was expected to deliver much-needed political affirmation of world leaders’ willingness to combat climate change, the Bonn talks were supposed to hammer out the technical details on a future climate agreement. The G7 leaders fulfilled expectations, but negotiations in Bonn failed to deliver, leaving one to wonder what these different outcomes may mean for the climate talks in Paris later this year.

Everything is in, until it isn’t – but when will that be

On arriving in Bonn, negotiators were faced with the task of streamlining the 89 page Geneva text which will form the basis of a global climate agreement in Paris. During the first week, negotiators worked tirelessly in facilitated thematic groups to reduce duplication and consolidate options in the text. However, as the first week drew to a close, the text had rather disappointingly only been reduced by approximately 5% (whilst using up 26% of negotiating time). There was a sense of frustration that more progress hadn’t been made and at the start of week 2. Parties called upon the ADP Co-Chairs to find ways to expedite the negotiation process, noting that there are very few negotiating days left until Paris and that they have a lot of work to do given that the UNFCCC was 22 pages long and the Kyoto Protocol 18 pages long (excluding annexes)!

As talks drew to close in Bonn, it was agreed that the ADP Co-Chairs would produce a streamlined version of the text before the next round of talks in August. They intend to issue a document on 24th July that “will present clear options and will not omit or delete any option or position of Parties”. But with no omission or deletion, how much shorter will the text really be?

However, there were a few positive outcomes in the negotiations. After 10 years, the negotiations on forestry (and specifically REDD+) came to a conclusion late Monday night – generating enough excitement for a number of negotiators to go out and celebrate. In addition, a number of countries published their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) over the course of the two weeks. INDCs lay out countries’ mitigation goals and are to form the basis of the Paris agreement. While some INDCs were less ambitious than was hoped and Australia and Japan were both lambasted for intending to bring forward unambitious targets, others – including Ethiopia’s – were hailed for their ambition and progressiveness.

Leaders of some of the world’s largest emitters pledge their support for action

Meanwhile, in other parts of Germany, the G7 convened their annual meeting in the beautiful mountains of Bavaria and  climate change was high on the agenda. Leaders committed to a “decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of the century” but left it open as to whether the end game was net zero emissions or zero missions. Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to provide and mobilise climate finance, and also to intensify “support particularly for vulnerable countries’” own efforts to manage climate change related disaster risk and to build resilience. With the worlds media picking up on these developments, the question now is will the leaders come good on their commitments?

Political support is important; but the devil is in the detail

It is often stated that for real success in the climate negotiations, strong political commitment is needed from the world leaders. The G7 leaders certainly showed this commitment. However, the G7 only represents leaders from a small number of most-developed countries, while a global climate agreement will need global political buy-in. Observers will look closely at the commitments China puts into its INDC, and at the G20 summit, which will take place shortly before the Paris talks.

In addition, strong political commitment alone does not an agreement make. And climate negotiators now only have 10 negotiating days left to come up with a workable draft text before Paris. We can only hope that the political commitment gives them the mandate to work on and agree a strong agreement.

 

Image: UNFCCC Secretary Christiana Figueres, credit UN.

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