Stalemate in Bonn

bonnTHE thirty-eighth meeting of the Subsidiary Bodies (SB38) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ended in Bonn, Germany on June 14 with very little progress in preparation for the nineteenth Conference of Parties (COP19) to be held in Warsaw, Poland in November 2013. These two events, COP and SB meetings, are held every year under the UNFCCC with the COP being the high level event with ministers and the SB meeting being a preparatory event with technical negotiators only to prepare matters for the upcoming COP.

The SB meeting is always held in June in Bonn where the UNFCCC Secretariat is located, while the COP moves from one continent to another and is usually held in December each year. COP20 in December 2014 will be held in Lima, Peru and then COP21 in December 2015 will be held in Paris, France. The COP in 2015 in Paris is supposed to be the next big COP where there are expectations that perhaps a new "Paris Protocol" might be agreed.

However, if the behaviour of some countries in Bonn earlier this month is anything to go by then there is very little hope of making any progress in Warsaw this year. From the first day of the Bonn talks Russia along with a few allies put an extra item on the agenda of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) to do with procedural matters, which other countries did not agree with. The SBI president tried his best to resolve the differences but both sides were adamant and the SBI meeting closed without even having adopted its agenda!

Fortunately, the other parts of the negotiations, like the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) actually managed to get some things done.

Some of the key outcomes from Bonn are described briefly below.

All parties agreed that adaptation would have to be a major item in the Paris agreement. A good start was made in Bonn with the launch of the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) which the developing countries (starting with the least developed countries) will now carry out. The Nairobi Work Programme on Adaptation under the SBSTA was also agreed for its next phase of activities. So there was significant progress on the topic of adaptation in Bonn.

This issue has been a major sticking point up to now, with the developing countries making it a major plank of their negotiations while the developed countries tried to sideline it. In Bonn, there seemed to be a better atmosphere to discuss various aspects of equity with many presentations and discussions. It is a good sign that all parties are now engaging on the issue, although their views still remain quite far apart. Nevertheless, there seems to be some positive movement on this very tricky issue.

Loss and Damage:
This is a new issue in the UNFCCC process and was a major political stumbling block at COP18 in Doha, Qatar in December 2012. It seems that in Bonn the rich countries had come with a much more open mind to listen and try to agree on an outcome in Warsaw and avoid the kind of confrontation that occurred in Doha. Thus, for example, Norway held a workshop with negotiators from developing countries to try to reach common understanding. Sweden plans to host another workshop in Stockholm prior to COP19 in November in Warsaw. Thus, it seems that progress might be possible in Warsaw on this contentious topic.

As always the biggest sticking point in the climate change negotiations remains money. Even though that was not the primary topic of the Bonn meeting, it nevertheless loomed large over the talks. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is taking time to get up and running and the Fast Start Funding (FSF) of $30 billion promised from 2010 to 2012 is over with nothing replacing it until the promised long-term finance of $100 billion per year from 2020 onwards. What happens between 2013 and 2020 is totally unclear.

Bangladesh's role:
Bangladesh, as always, played a significant role within the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group to which is belongs. Bangladeshi negotiators are spokespersons for both LDC Group as well as the larger group of all developing countries on some specific topics. A number of Bangladeshi experts also held a major side event on the topic of Loss and Damage, highlighting the pioneering work being done in Bangladesh both by researchers as well as government. A number of other LDCs expressed interest in learning from the Bangladesh example.

Going to Warsaw:
Thus, going in to Warsaw in November there still remain many topics which might cause problems unless all parties come with a greater willingness to work together to solve issues rather than block negotiations for their own petty concerns. The spirit in which countries approach the meeting in Warsaw will determine whether or not it is likely to succeed.

The writer is Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh.
E-mail: [email protected]


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