FEATURE: Cancun to Durban via Bonn
By Saleemul Huq, Senior Fellow, Climate Change Group, IIED
I have just returned from attending the climate change talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Bonn, Germany during the last two weeks. These talks were meant to develop the various elements agreed under the Cancun Agreements at the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 16) held in Mexico in December 2010, and take them further for adoption at COP 17, which will take place in Durban, South Africa in December 2011.
The Bonn talks got off to a rocky start, with the first three days taken up with haggling over the agenda. After that, things got bogged down in a number of negotiating tracks, while some progress was made in a few of the other tracks. One issue that held up consensus for several days was whether ‘adaptation to response measures’ – which would compensate countries for switching from fossil fuels – should be included when discussing ‘adaptation to climate change’. Some parties, led by Saudi Arabia, were in favour of the former while most developing countries, particularly the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS) were not in favour of mixing the two. In the end agreement was reached to keep the two issues separate. Some text was also agreed on the adaptation, loss and damage and REDD (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation) negotiation tracks. However, as not all the issues could be resolved by the end of the Bonn talks, they were suspended and will be taken up again at another inter-sessional meeting before Durban, to be held at the end of September in either Panama or Bangkok.
From the perspective of the vulnerable countries (which I follow in the negotiations), some good progress was made towards operationalising the Adaptation Committee which was agreed to under the Cancun Agreement, as well as developing the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) in all developing countries following the example of the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) by the least developed countries (LDCs). Progress was also made on the second phase of the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP) on Adaptation under the Subsidiary Body on Science and Technology Assessments ( SBSTA), where information and knowledge on adaptation is pooled and shared between parties as well as researchers, UN agencies, donors, and NGOs. The first phase was deemed to have been a success, and a mandate for the second phase was agreed in Bonn. Further work on loss and damage was also agreed.
While some progress was made on a few issues, unfortunately the major issues of mitigation actions, the future of the Kyoto Protocol, or other legally binding agreements still remain unresolved. It is looking increasingly unlikely that these will be resolved even at COP17 in Durban in December. The UNFCCC talks have definitely lost a great deal of political momentum, and, given the current global economic conditions, this is unlikely to change any time soon. This was reflected in the lack of media interest in the Bonn talks, which were at a very technical level and hence of little interest to general audiences.