The focus at UN climate talks in Bonn next week will be on the “rules” governing the roll out of the Paris Agreement and the mechanisms intended to boost the ambition of countries around the globe. The discussion comes amid fresh warnings that current emissions mitigation is insufficient to avoid dangerous global warming.
More than 50,000 diplomats, civil servants, NGOs and journalists are to descend on the German city next week, between Nov. 6-17, for the 23rd annual Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP23.
Climate watchers will be keeping a close eye on whether tangible progress is achieved on what is being called “the rulebook,” or “operating manual,” or the technical guidelines and procedures for implementing the Paris Agreement and, in particular, its mechanism for ratcheting up ambition: the “stocktake” review of national actions that will occur every five years. The rulebook will come under the spotlight because tension and disagreements in Paris two years ago were largely swept under the rug as lead negotiators said controversial issues could be tackled later during the crafting of such guidelines.
There are two potential flashpoints in the negotiations: the transparency framework, including common, easily comparable metrics for measuring, reporting and verifying emissions; and how to govern the stocktake.
The UN is aiming for the rulebook to be finalized and signed off at the next COP in Poland next year. The opening stocktake, which diplomats are calling the facilitative dialogue, or the Talanoa Dialogue, is also to take place in 2018.
This latter aspect will be a challenge for Canada, as the country already has one of the least ambitious emissions reduction targets of the developed world, and is on track for breaching it. The former Conservative government of Stephen Harper committed to a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction of 30 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. Meanwhile, all European Union member states have committed to a 40 percent reduction by the same date, but use the common international baseline of 1990. Canada’s pledge works out to be a reduction of just two percent if the 1990 baseline were used.
Ahead of COP23, the UN Environment Programme re-issued its warning first made last year that the current set of national pledges, even if realized, would lead to average global temperature rises of 3C or more by the end of this century, well above the Paris Agreement target of 2C. The view from other countries will likely be that the easiest way to ratchet up ambition will be to place pressure on those rich countries with the weakest targets, places such as Canada. The framework governing how the peer review system is to work will thus be of great interest to Canadian diplomats.
Energy economist Mark Jaccard helped design BC’s carbon tax, and he still supports it. But he questions just how politically viable a stringent tax—at the level needed to meet climate targets—can really be. So he also continues to explore how other policies that the public find more acceptable could work.