Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary

Bonn Voyage

The latest round in the negotiations leading up to the critical meeting on the future of the climate treaty in Copenhagen in December this year took place in Bonn in early June. Tiempo editors Mick Kelly and Sarah Granich report.

Delegates from 182 countries assembled at the Bonn Climate Change Talks to discuss, amongst other things, the draft negotiating texts that will form the basis of any agreement reached in Copenhagen later this year when the future of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol should be decided. "The political moment is right to reach an agreement," said Yvo de Boer, who heads the climate treaty secretariat. "There is no doubt in my mind that the Copenhagen climate conference in December is going to lead to a result. If the world has learned anything from the financial crisis, it is that global issues require a global response," he continued.

According to Connie Hedegaard, Danish climate and energy minister, agreement on a treaty rests on the richer countries paying for emission control measures in the developing world. "If we do not provide financing then we will not have a deal in Copenhagen," she said. Hedegaard, like others, is concerned about the slow progress of the negotiations.

At the Bonn meeting, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) considered issues related to the goal of a shared vision for long-term cooperative action, enhanced action on adaptation, mitigation and finance, technology and capacity-building. Michael Zammit Cutajar, AWG-LCA chair, noted that the AWG-LCA negotiating text did not prejudge or preclude any particular outcome. "The text is a starting point and now is the time for parties to take position and enrich it," he said. By the end of the meeting, the draft text had been "enriched" from a 53-page starting point to a daunting 200 pages.

The Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Countries under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) focused on a proposal for amendments to the Kyoto Protocol, including emissions reduction commitments of 37 industrialized countries for the Protocol post-2012. "It is important that we complete some of the more solvable issues here in Bonn so that we can then focus on the more difficult ones later on in the negotiations," said AWG-KP chair John Ashe. Unfortunately, there was no clear consensus with regard to the future of the Kyoto Protocol. Whether or not the rules should be amended or simply the national targets was a key issue. Developing countries, for the most part, favoured the simple approach of altering the targets alone, while industrialized nations wanted the rules (re)defined before targets were given serious consideration.

Major Economies Forum meets

The latest session of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate took place in Mexico shortly after the Bonn meeting. The Major Economies Forum consists of nations responsible for 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Its aim is to help generate the political leadership necessary to achieve a successful outcome at the December climate change conference in Copenhagen.

Proposals for a long-term emissions goal on the table in Bonn included stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at specific levels, a 50 per cent cut by the year 2050, limiting temperature rises to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or aiming for a global annual per capita emissions of two metric tons of carbon. The draft document tabled at the meeting by the United States and Mexico proposed an "aspirational" global emissions reduction goal of 50 per cent for the year 2050, with developed nations assigned an 80 per cent target. While Forum delegates supported the notion of a long-term goal, there was no agreement on any specific target.

There have been signs of increasing support for Mexico's proposal of a " green fund". The fund would receive contributions from all nations, with the scale of each national contribution determined by population, gross domestic product and emissions. It may also receive income from the auction of permits in developed countries and a levy on the disbursement of mitigation funds for adaptation. "It's not a question of what we like, but of what may work, and the Mexican proposal gives flexibility that may be appreciated by the United States, Japan and by other donors," commented Jos Delbeke from the environment directorate of the European Commission. The putative inclusion of carbon credits was favourably received at the Major Economies Forum.

In a significant move, the United States announced that it would not demand that China commits to binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, said Jonathan Pershing, head of the United States delegation, "we're saying that the actions of developing countries should be binding, not the outcomes of those actions." Developing countries seeking to grow their economies and alleviate poverty would be asked to commit to measures such as increasing energy efficiency standards and promoting renewable energy rather than specific emissions targets. Both the United States and the European Union stressed that private finance, through, for example, carbon offsetting, rather than government funding would assist developing nations follow a low-emissions development path.

"The only thing that they have agreed on in Bonn, is that they fundamentally disagree on all issues," concluded Regine Günther of WWF. Though there was general disappointment at the slow progress made at the 12-day meeting, Yvo de Boer, who heads the climate treaty secretariat, remained optimistic. "I think that this session has made clear what governments want to see in a Copenhagen agreement. It shows that they are committed to reaching an agreement and this is a big achievement," he said. Even de Boer accepts, though, that it will be "physically impossible" to have a detailed agreement in Copenhagen in December this year. Cutajar warned that big breakthroughs were likely to happen only in Copenhagen. "This is like the evolutionary process in reverse. The Big Bang comes at the end," he said.

The next port of call on the voyage to Copenhagen will be Bonn, once again, in August, followed by a stopover in Bangkok in September and an opportunity for final discussions in November as the subsidiary bodies meet prior to the Copenhagen deadline.

Further information

The Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary provides hourly coverage of climate news. For detailed discussion of all climate negotiating meetings, visit Earth Negotiations Bulletin.


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