The world’s nations are meeting for the 23rd annual “conference of the parties” (COP) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which aims to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, ie halt global warming. Climate change is already significantly increasing the likelihood of extreme weather, from heatwaves to floods. All the science, and the battering that extreme weather has inflicted this year from floods in India and Nigeria to hurricanes in the Caribbean and wildfires in the US and Europe, indicates that global emissions need to start falling urgently – in the next few years. The Paris agreement set out principles, but not the details. The Bonn meeting will be vital in building the rules that will enable the Paris deal to work.
COPs are always run by a designated nation and for the first time this will be one of the small island nations that are most at risk from the sea-level rise and extreme storms that climate change is bringing. Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, is the COP president, though the summit is being held in Germany for practical reasons. Fiji suffered damages of well over $1bn after Cyclone Winston struck in 2016, which is likely to focus attention on the contentious issue of compensation for climate damage and adapting to future threats, as much as cutting emissions.
Organizing a massive global conference in Fiji would have strained the Pacific nation's resources and posed a travel nightmare for thousands of delegates. Germany offered to host the talks in Bonn, the country's former capital, because it has ample conference space and is already home to the UN climate change agency.
- The 2015 Paris accord set a target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) or 2 degrees at the most by the end of the century. But diplomats didn't agree on the details of how their nations will reach that ambitious goal. The Bonn talks will flesh out the rule book that countries have to abide by. This includes coming up with international standards for how to measure carbon emissions, to make sure that one nation's efforts can be compare to another's.
- A second debate centers around how countries take stock of what's been achieved and set new, more ambitious goals for curbing carbon emissions after 2020.
- The third big issue concerns money. Experts agree that shifting economies away from fossil fuels and preparing countries for some of the inevitable consequences of climate change will require vast financial resources _ including some from the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump, which is doubtful about man-made climate change. Rich nations had already pledged to provide $100bn a year by 2020 to help poorer nations restrict their emissions as they grow and adapt to climate change. But there are rows about what kind of funding should be counted and indeed whether $100bn is enough. The US was expected to be a big contributor and so a question to be tackled in Bonn is whether other countries will pick up the tab
What needs to be done?
The current pledges for carbon cuts by the world’s nations would mean at least 3C of global warming and severe damage. So the Paris agreement included a mechanism for the pledges to be reviewed and ratcheted up, but without setting the rules. The vital groundwork for this has to be done in Bonn before being finalised in 2018. Without serious preparation to build trust and agreement, deals don’t get done, as the failed COP in Copenhagen in 2009 showed. Fiji has renamed the ratchet talks process from the bland “facilitative dialogue” to the “talanoa dialogue” after a Pacific island concept of using storytelling and talking as a way to make good decisions.