Against a backdrop of real world momentum for climate action, the latest round of UN climate talks wrapped up today in Bonn, delivering some progress on the road to a meaningful climate deal in Paris but with widespread demands for negotiators to “pick up the pace” in the coming months.
A historic announcement from the G7, signalling the beginning of the end for fossil fuels, the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund’s decision to divest from coal and IKEA’s announcement to pledge €1billion to climate action all show the real-economy and real-Leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel understand what’s at stake in Paris.
Yet with the Bonn negotiations criticised for “moving too slow” and for failing to get into the substance of a Paris agreement, these external realities are yet to penetrate the plenaries, and some countries are yet to harness these growing signals from the outside world.
Some progress was seen over the last two weeks, with governments delivering steps towards more ambitious and immediate emissions cuts over the next five years – a key element of the Paris package – and producing a breakthrough on the UN-backed forest protection scheme, REDD+.
They also reorganised and streamlined the draft negotiating text, and gave a “green light” for the co-chairs of the negotiations to produce an even more compact version ahead of the next round of talks in August.
This will allow negotiators to get straight to the “crunch issues” when they meet again, such as “ensuring that the Paris deal is funded, that it protects vulnerable communities and it has a mechanism to increase ambition over time”.
Pressure is now on governments to “make more rapid progress” and “make the necessary, bold decisions in the coming months that will ensure historic international action on climate change”.
With business leaders, major investors, faith groups, youth networks, trade unions, and frontline communities all adding to the momentum demanding and driving the transition away from fossil fuels and towards a future powered by renewables, the message to governments is clear: “The transition to a low carbon world is speeding up. Countries can either ride that wave or be washed away by it.”
- The ransition away from fossil fuels and towards a future powered by renewable energy is happening and is speeding up. Around the world people are waking up to the reality of climate change and taking their own action to tackle the crisis while calling on their government leaders to do the same. G7 countries led the charge on global decarbonisation, with a commitment to transform their own energy sectors by 2050. Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund pulled US $9 billion out of coal companies, and furniture-giant IKEA pledged €1billion to climate action. With the deadline for a new global climate agreement fast approaching, these major political and economic developments set the pace for governments to follow.
- Inside the negotiating halls, the sleepy pace of the Bonn talks shows some countries are yet to harness the signals from the outside world. Negotiators spent the last two weeks reorganising and streamlining the lengthy Paris agreement, but they have yet to move onto substantive negotiations on key issues. Meanwhile a call by over 100 vulnerable countries to keep temperature rise within 1.5DegC was blocked. Pressure is now on governments to “pick up the pace” and build an agreement which moves beyond current commitments which scientists warn would see the climate spin out of control, devastating vulnerable communities and impacting human rights.
- African countries Morocco and Ethiopia have shown they are ready to step up and lead. Both countries used the Bonn meeting to submit ambitious national climate action plans, with Morocco pledging 32 per cent emissions reductions and Ethiopia 64 per cent – if rich countries deliver the support they have promised. Their efforts stand in stark contrast to other countries, includingCanada, Japan, and South Korea whose weak efforts could leave them missing out on the multiple co-benefits of the transition to a renewable energy future, including more clean jobs, improved public health and energy security.
- The latest round of talks in Bonn has set the stage for governments to “make more rapid progress” in the coming months. Countries were unanimous in giving a mandate to the co-chairs of the negotiations to produce a more compact draft agreement and set forward initial ideas of what a Paris package that covers finance, mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage, should look like. Meanwhile, negotiators also came forward with proposals to achieve more ambitious and immediate emissions cuts over the next five years – another key element of the Paris package – and pushed abreakthrough on the UN-backed forest protection scheme, REDD+.
- NGOs are calling on ministers to do their homework and come back to Bonn in August ready for real negotiations. At the next round of talks, countries will be expected to add to the flow of national climate contributions and tackle the difficult issues that still need to be sorted for a strong Paris agreement that delivers the action needed to keep temperature rise below the 1.5DegC danger threshold. Crunch issues will include “ensuring that the Paris deal is funded, that it protects vulnerable communities and it has a mechanism to increase ambition over time”. Such a deal would send a clear signal that governments have collectively embraced the vision for a complete phaseout of fossil fuels and phase in 100% renewable energy by 2050.
- Governments have a choice: listen to this growing call for climate action or end up on the wrong side of history. Major investors, faith groups, youth networks, trade unions, and frontline communities are calling for climate action, and 6.5 million businesses have endorsed a call for a phase-out of fossil fuel emissions. In June, the Pope is expected to join other faith leaders in highlighting the moral imperative of climate action, while the world’s leading health publication, the Lancet, will release a definitive report on the devastating impact fossil fuel pollution and climate change have on public health. Opinion poll after opinion poll around the world has shown people want the fair transition to renewable energy to speed up.
Tierney Smith is editor of TckTckTck.org