Optimism After Bonn Climate Talks

Jun 24th, 2014 | By | Category: Development and Climate Change, News, REDD+, UNFCCC

tony-lavina-purple-romero-20140624-thumbnailThe UN climate change talks held from June 4-15 in Bonn, Germany, was an instrumental opportunity in laying the building blocks of the legally-binding 2015 climate change agreement. There was a sense of positivity as countries moved to advance the negotiations towards drafting a text for Paris, where the deal is expected to be finalized. More than anything, however, the intersessionals in Bonn were a reminder of how integral the values of transparency and participatory decision-making are in coming up with a credible climate change agreement in 2015.

The midyear talks, which drew together 1,900 envoys from 182 countries, showed how essential trust was in a process that could potentially steer nations into creating “new norms” of policies and practices that prioritize greenhouse gas mitigation, clean technologies and adaptation in fighting the “new normal” of strong typhoons, extreme heat and other effects of a warming world.

The Philippines, along with other developing countries, raised in Bonn the need to consider the voices of those most vulnerable to climate change in forming a global deal that binds all countries to reduce their carbon footprint and streamline access to climate change finance. This has become more significant as countries take a step closer to the 20th Conference of Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru, where countries are expected to have come up with a draft treaty text already.

In Bonn, the call to uphold the principles of inclusivity and openness was particularly emphasized in the Ad Hoc Working Group on Durban Enhanced Action Platform or ADP, where negotiators focused on defining the design and elements of the agreement and during the discussions on establishing an international mechanism for Loss and Damage, which mandates wealthy countries to provide critical funds and expertise to poor countries that have suffered from extreme weather and slow onset events.

The climate change intersessionals, however, did not only limit the issue of transparency and comprehensive participation to the parties themselves. A number of negotiators working on REDD+ or reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation rallied with civil society groups to open an informal consultation in Bonn and also suggested more creative, inclusive ways in advancing REDD+ discussions in COP 20.

Climate change commissioner Naderev “Yeb” Sano, in the closing of the Subsidiary Body of Implementation, also urged the SBI to “enhance participation” of civil society. SBI is a body under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC which assesses the financial assistance provided to developing nations and the national communications submitted by countries. Sano said efforts to ensure the “fundamental and effective participation of observers and civil society” must be continued.

‘Cooking’ the 2015 deal

The Philippines was one of the countries which told the co-chairs (European Union and Trinidad and Tobago) of the ADP contact group that the negotiations should be a party-driven process, especially in this juncture when the ADP is already in the process of preparing a draft negotiating text for the 2015 agreement. This means that the negotiating text should accurately reflect the positions and inputs of the countries as stated and explained in their submissions and interventions.

This comment came after the co-chairs tabled a “non-paper” or a draft decision on intended communication of intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs). INDCs refer to the respective emission reduction commitments made by countries to prevent global temperature from going beyond 2 degrees Celsius. Philippine negotiator Bernarditas Mueller pointed out that only parties – and not the co-chairs – can table draft decisions. Similar sentiments were echoed by ministers from China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Nicaragua during a high-level meeting on the ADP. They all warned against the use of a draft text that was not produced during the negotiations itself, saying it is not inclusive and transparent. China and Venezuela’s ministers in particular said they do not want to encounter another Copenhagen scenario, when in 2009, a Copenhagen Accord was drafted by the United States with the support of the BASIC countries or Brazil, South Africa, India and China. The COP only took note of the Copenhagen accord and did not adopt it following objections from other countries that it was not done in a transparent manner.

Finding a way to move forward in the ADP emerged as a big challenge in Bonn as co-chairs and some negotiators differed over how the elements of the negotiating text will be determined. The co-chairs proposed to present issues derived from the submissions made by parties, but blocs such as the Like-Minded Developing Countries or LMDC (to which the Philippines belongs to), the Saudi Arabia and the African Groups said that the elements must come from the details provided by the parties, in adherence to the principle of the Convention that the negotiations must be party-driven. LMDC said the co-chairs should base the text on submissions made by the countries such as the conference paper that the former has submitted. China, using cooking as an analogy, said the parties have provided the “ingredients” to the co-chairs and they do not want the meal to be cooked with any of these ingredients missing.

Divergence of points was also evident in the ADP discussions on the timeline of the INDC submissions, the effectiveness of a possible midterm review of the INDCs and the funding support for INDCs. Some developed countries said there will be no additional finance for INDCs, which they stressed should mainly cover mitigation, but other developing countries disagreed saying there should be a component of adaptation. Ecuador said that a human rights-based approach should be adopted, elucidating the reality that “developing countries will redirect funds for health” and other basic services to mitigation and “sacrifice resources” for INDCs instead.

Fair representation in Loss and Damage execom

Loss and Damage discussions weighed in on the accessibility and transparency of the work plan, the report of the interim committee and the composition of the executive committee, which developing countries such as the Philippines said should be representative of those who have already suffered from loss and damage.

Philippine negotiator Elpidio de Peria, also a convenor of civil society network Aksyon Klima, said the executive committee should comprise of developing countries. “The executive committee should be composed fully of all countries that have experienced loss and damage. We need this body to be informed of what is going on the ground,” he said.

The executive committee, after all, is not just any other body as Sudan pointed out. “It is going to deliver the functions of the international loss and damage mechanism.”

The executive committee is currently composed of two representatives from each of the following bodies: the Adaptation Committee, the Consultative Group of Experts on National Communications from Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention, the Least Developed Countries Expert Group, the Standing Committee on Finance and the Technology Executive Committee

Nauru, in behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States or AOSIS, said that the current makeup of the interim executive committee is “unacceptable to the group.”

Some parties also moved for a more consultative and participatory process in the development of the work plan. The Group of 77 and China said that it is “extremely important” that they be given access to documents that will give them a sense of what the work plan is. Ghana, on the other hand, said that parties should be allowed to give inputs to the work plan, while AOSIS also said that there should be space for consultation. Canada also hoped that the interim committee will “inform and consult parties.”

The United States, which is part of the interim executive committee, said that they have not provided any official report or output yet as their work is not yet complete. “There is lack of clarity… To put that work out publicly will cause greater confusion,” the US negotiator said. The committee, which met in March, will meet again in late July or early August.

The US added there will be equal representation in the executive committee, which will also give room for technical experts. It added that everyone should be given a chance to contribute to the implementation of the loss and damage mechanism and not just developing countries, emphasizing that “The US is ready to work.”

Agriculture and REDD+

There was progress on the agriculture front as parties laid out the next steps of conducting four more workshops (a previous one was concluded in Warsaw in COP19) which will tackle the following: development of early warning systems and contingency plans, assessment of risk and vulnerability of agricultural systems, identification of adaptation measures and assessment of agriculture practices and technologies.

Alicia Ilaga, Climate Change Office Director of the Department of Agriculture, also a Philippine negotiator, said that the text “was good, but there should be more urgency for action.”

What made the text on agriculture better for developing countries particularly the bloc of G77 and China was the removal of references to mitigation. EU wanted to insert text on mitigation in the agriculture sector, but this was not adopted after intense discussions among the parties.

Mitigation in the agricultural sector could have serious economic impacts on developing countries. Reducing greenhouse gases in this area should be carefully studied then – and this was one of the subjects looked into in a technical experts meeting on land use, which was also conducted in Bonn. The land use experts’ meeting tackled ways of linking carbon reduction with sustainable development as well as balancing it with food security.

REDD+ is one of the opportunities for decreasing greenhouse gases in the forestry sector. After negotiators agreed on seven decisions in Warsaw that covered results-based payments and identified drivers of deforestation, among others, a contact group was tasked to come up with guidance on non-carbon benefits and non-market approaches. Bolivia pushed for joint mitigation and adaptation as a non-market based approach in REDD+, which was supported by Ecuador and the Philippines but was heavily opposed by Brazil. Philippine negotiator Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said it will be “premature” for the parties to say that they cannot make a decision on non-market based approaches and that this will be tantamount to “closing the door.” The Philippines added that they could conduct a workshop for “deeper analysis.”

The United States, Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico said there is enough guidance for the implementation of REDD-plus and there is no need for further decisions or conclusions. Brazil said that REDD-plus is not a “silver bullet to address all issues related to forest” and that it is “not interested in engaging in everlasting negotiations on REDD-plus.”

There was also disagreement on providing international guidance for non-carbon benefits, or social, environmental and governance gains from implementing REDD+ projects. Some countries such as Indonesia, Mexico, Colombia and the United States said NCBs should be defined at a national level.

Money for adaptation fund

As negotiators welcomed the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund, the Philippines rued the lack of additional money for the adaptation fund. “Adaptation finance is in crisis,” Sano said at the closing of SBI and SBSTA. The adaptation fund is sourced from a part of the proceeds from clean development mechanism projects but as the price of carbon credits went down, it had to rely from donations. Countries have pledged in Warsaw to provide $100 million to it, but it remains a question on how it can be sustainably funded.

The Adaptation Fund is a significant source of funding for developing countries that have to implement measures which can help minimize the adverse effects of climate change to their ecosystems and economy. A second review of the Adaptation Fund was done in Bonn, where vulnerable countries sought for predictable and new sources of funding.

Continuing to Lima

Despite outstanding issues on transparency, Sano said Bonn, all in all, was able to achieve the following: build confidence and provide a better understanding of work to be delivered in Lima, a “transitional COP” that will prepare the world for Paris.

After Bonn, the ADP will meet again in October. Prior to that, the co-chairs will produce a “non-paper” in July which will contain bullet points summarizing the positions and views of the parties. In September, heads of state will meet in a UN Climate Summit, an event seen to send a strong signal for more ambition in 2015.

There is good reason to remain optimistic. It is universally recognized that the Philippine delegation’s strength and influence has been because of the robust and complementary relationship between civil society representatives and government officials. Indeed, in Bonn, those veteran negotiators who were not included in the Philippine delegation showed incredible patriotism by helping us in the work that had to be done.

It is my hope that we will hopefully work to resolve our internal challenges so we can maintain the clarity of its mission in the global climate change talks. This is to ensure that the outcome of Lima in 2014 and Paris in the following year will pave the way for a climate change resilient world.



Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>

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