The UN climate change negotiations got underway again in Bonn today, with UN climate chief Christiana Figueres urging countries to “build bridges” towards a major new global climate agreement in 2015. Working against deadlines to develop a draft text for that agreement, this is the third large meeting of countries’ negotiators in Bonn since the year began; and the final round of talks before the year’s major summit – COP20 in Lima this December.
The importance of this week’s summit also resonates for another reason: as the first time negotiators will meet since the UN Secretary General’s climate summit in New York last month, where the 2015 agreement received fresh endorsement from world leaders. Delegates in Bonn must now take the growing momentum witnessed in New York and turn it into concrete climate action. Figueres opened today’s plenary session warning that the climate summit “shifted the ground on what is possible in climate change.” She told the delegates: “Collectively your Heads of State have reassured the world that we will address climate change. Today, dear delegates, the world’s eyes turn to you.” Meanwhile, incoming COP20 president and Peruvian Environment Minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal urged countries to stick to the deadline of producing a draft text in Lima and warned that “sticking to old positions is not negotiating.”
Much of today’s discussions focused on setting out country positions going into this weeks’ talks. There were also hints of emerging consensus around the shape of the 2015 agreement; though hints of long-standing divisions that could slow progress were evident as well. Of the specific questions on the negotiating table, the first big one is how long countries’ commitments will last under the 2015 deal. Many countries, including vulnerable nations and the US, along with many of our partners, called for a five-year period to ensure that countries do not lock-in low ambition. Some called for a 10-year commitment, arguing that it could provide a longer-term signal to business and investors.
Later this week, we expect negotiators to dig further into the specifics of what individual country commitments must include (their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) as part of their contribution to the 2015 agreement. Questions about whether commitments should focus solely on mitigation or include other aspects, such as adaptation and finance, and the nature of the agreement – i.e. how binding it will be – are at the heart of these discussions. In recent weeks a submission from New Zealand, has seen some support. Setting out a legally binding agreement on the process of delivering commitments and monitoring countries progress, while leaving the numbers themselves out of the agreement. However, the idea is unlikely to be accepted by all. Near-term ambition – emissions reductions to take place before 2020 – will also be a focus of this week’s talks, with Figueres reminding countries they must still ratify the second period of the Kyoto Protocol, and countries, including the Least Developed Countries group, warning that strengthening near-term ambition is a prerequisite for the new agreement’s success.