Monday, June 15, 2015

Trust Building at the Bonn Climate Talks

The 2015 Bonn climate talks wrapped on Thursday June 11 and while some decried the absence of tangible results others optimistically pointed to an increased atmosphere of trust.

Negotiators worked on a draft of the global climate agreement that is expected to be finalized at COP21 in Paris at the end of the year. Our fate and the fate of future generations will be decided by this document.

The scope of cooperation required is unprecedented as is challenge of climate change. Failure to find consensus will likely mean that temperatures will rise well above the internationally agreed upon upper threshold limit of 2 degrees Celsius, while success will increase our chances of securing a sustainable future.

After ten days of talks negotiators were only able to reduce the size of the working draft from 90 pages to 85. This is around three times the size of the final draft which is expected to be no more than 20 or 30 pages. However, they did agree on a plan to consolidate the text further and provide more structure.

Even though there were no headline stealing achievements at the Bonn talks there was some movement on trust building. This has been singled out as an important issue that will go a long way towards laying the foundation of an eventual agreement. "There are three conditions to deliver a successful agreement in Paris: the first one is trust, the second one is trust, and the third one is trust . . . and that, I think, we have gained a lot," explained by Laurence Tubiana, France's ambassador for the climate negotiations

The key to any final outcome is a substantial reduction in global of carbon emissions. Finding ways of reducing our consumption of fossil fuels and advancing the growth of renewable sources of energy are central to this ambition. Other major issues concern adapting to extreme weather and climate finance.

Many of the impediments to progress involve the precise wording of the document. This may seem like minutia but the inclusion or exclusion of words like "differentiated" will have a major impact on the eventual outcome. Developing nations, including China, the world largest GHG emitter, want to include the word, but the US and others want to exclude it. In essence its inclusion would reduce the climate mitigation burden of developing nations while its exclusion would increase their responsibilities.

This is an undeniably complex and technically daunting challenge, but our efforts must equal our need to craft an agreement. A new draft that will form the legal basis of the final document is expected by July 24. The next round of climate talks are scheduled for August and the final round begins on November 30th, 2015.

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