Over the last fortnight, leaders from around the globe have gathered in Bonn, Germany, to negotiate the next steps for global climate action. In 2015, the 21st of these meetings – the UN Conference of Parties called COP21 – was a landmark moment in worldwide cooperation and climate change ambition. 195 countries committed to limit “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” This international consensus that climate change is our shared threat and responsibility was monumental.
Two years on, we are in the final days of the COP23 is coming to a close. Even after the battleground of Paris COP21, this is the difficult bit – negotiating the actuality of delivering these emissions reductions. Fiji is leading the Conference, the first small island nation to host, which is a significant reminder of those nations facing the most immediate threat from climate change and rising sea levels. The process normally called “facilitative dialogue” has been renamed “talanoa dialogue,” after a Pacific island concept of using storytelling and talking as a way to make good decisions.
Global politics have shifted since the Paris Agreement was made. While Syria and Nicaragua have now committed to the agreement, President Trump has withdrawn the USA, leaving it in dismal isolation as the only country in disagreement with the aims. However, more positively there are many US cities and states which are taking a strong, positive lead.
The financial cost of climate change has been a topic of significant discussion. Previous COPs agreed to deliver $100bn by 2020, with a higher target to be set for 2025 – but the reality is that current flows could be as low as $17 bn, and the US withdrawal has left a further black hole of $3bn. Developed nations are more heavily liable to foot this bill due to their greater historic carbon emissions and wealth, but have been accused of skirting around the topic. It is absolutely vital that sufficient funds are allocated to international climate efforts. It is some of the poorest nations that are facing climate change head on, despite the fact that they have done the least to cause it.
Climate disaster funds are also a very relevant issue after this year’s extreme weather. In 2017, climate disaster is estimated to have caused $200bn worth of damage. This COP23 has seen some significant financial commitments to climate risk insurance with the InsuResilience Global Partnership, including $125 million from Germany, and £30 million from the British Government earlier this year. This funding hopes to insure extreme weather events can be tackled pre-emptively, rather than too late and not significantly enough.
The question of the legal status of these international agreements remains unsolved. The Paris Agreement was not legally binding for the most part, and enforcement of these international commitments would be very difficult. We will have to wait to see if it is tackled at this year’s negotiations.
It has been 20 years since the first international treaty to cut greenhouse gases was introduced in Kyoto, and with this anniversary in mind the UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged nations to take action now, before the window of opportunity closes.
Very best wishes and hopes for good negotiating skills to all those involved in Bonn!