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| 05/02/18

UN climate rulebook talks ‘on track,’ but not at pace needed


Diplomats are in Bonn, Germany, this week and next for the latest round of UN climate talks aimed at locking down the rulebook governing the Paris Agreement ahead of the next major high-level summit in Poland in December. That’s when the implementation guidelines have to be formally endorsed by parties to the agreement. 

In order to achieve global consensus in 2015 on what is now known as the Paris Agreement, leaders delayed negotiating the fine detail of how to achieve transparent monitoring of national climate actions, how to take stock of achievements (in climate diplomacy jargon: the global stock take), and how to ratchet up ambition.

The chairs of the negotiations say that talks are largely “on track” to completing the rulebook, but that the pace of work needs to be stepped up “significantly” to meet the December deadline.

Sticking points include the need for common language around climate adaptation measures, ensuring that legal requirements embedded within the Paris Agreement are incorporated into transparency procedures, and that the global stock take consider international economic and other inequalities. 

There are two main aspects of the Bonn talks: formal closed-door negotiations between nations and the less formal Talanoa Dialogue, which has also been opened to civil society.

The latter process, launched at the beginning of this year, is primarily focused on exploring how to close the “emissions gap.” This gap is the difference between the level of global warming that will occur if all current national climate plans are successfully implemented and the Paris Agreement guardrail of 2C. The current suite of national climate plans would see a rise in temperatures of 2.7-3.7C of warming according to a number of studies. If national plans are not successfully implemented, we are on track to see 4-5C of warming. 

There has been healthy participation in the dialogue. Some 48 discussion papers from parties to the agreement representing 178 countries have been submitted, along with 369 from non-party entities such as businesses, unions and NGOs. A number of recurring themes in the submissions have emerged. 

First, many countries have already achieved a great deal since 2015. There has been substantial progress in clean technologies and, crucially, the costs of renewable energy are lower than most expectations. Least developed countries in particular are raising this point to suggest that emissions reduction targets could be achieved earlier than planned, allowing for an equally earlier than expected increase in ambition. 

In addition, there is a strong emphasis in submissions on the need to target transport emissions via electrification of vehicles or alternate fuel use, and the build out of public transit.

Expanded flows of finance, technology transfer and capacity building from developed to developing countries is another theme, as are calls for the establishment of long-term decarbonization strategies. The EU and Australia in particular have mentioned the need for moving beyond near- and medium-term climate targets in order to avoid locking themselves into technology pathways that reduce emissions to some degree but may end up being a barrier to deeper decarbonization further down the line.

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