Bonn: Between Ambition and Accountability

Kate Yoon | June 5, 2015.

Blame and credit were both given where due on the fourth day of the UN climate change conference in Bonn. As thing fall into a steady rhythm, events held during the day took the time to look back on the progress made so far—both within the conference and in the longer-term preparation for Paris and beyond.

The Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) meeting started with stocktaking. Concerns were voiced that the negotiating text was not being edited at the pace necessary; the size of the Geneva text has reportedly been reduced by five per cent with 30 per cent of the conference time has passed. With the opportunity to reflect and reconsider, negotiators were able to bring priorities into focus. The G77 and China in particular expressed a strong willingness to move forward and accelerate work.

Meanwhile, the multilateral assessment of Annex I countries’ progressed toward reduction targets was conducted. Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland and Japan’s commitments and progress came under scrutiny one by one. This brings an end to a three-month “question and answers” period, in which countries received and responded to questions online.

Some, such as Hungary and Germany, highlighted that economic growth had been achieved recently without an increase in emissions. Countries used the word “ambitious” liberally in defending their own targets, although not without repercussions.

Canada came under fire for its lacklustre goals and unclear mechanisms for achieving them. Questions were asked, and dodged, about Canada’s intention to use international mechanisms and LULUCF to mitigate, even with a baseline of 2005 emission levels. A delegate of Brazil pointedly expressed a “deep concern regarding the difficulties” that Canada reported in predicting mitigation outcomes. “We are talking about developed countries which have the best capacity…to [quantify expected mitigation effects],” he said.

Similarly, Australia maintained that its target of a five per cent reduction compared to 2000 levels was “fair and equitable”, to the frustration of questioning countries including China and South Africa. The Australian delegation mentioned that further review of the 2020 targets was underway, but details were not provided. It seems that Australia nonetheless felt the pressure from other parties, having received the most questions from other countries in the preparation period.

Civil society responded accordingly, with credit where credit was due (and blame as well). Japan, whose targets were also criticised in the multilateral assessment session, received the daily Fossil of the Day award. The Climate Action Network presents Fossil of the Day to the “countries that perform the worst at the UN Climate Talks”. Among criticisms were Japan’s weak Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) and its funding of carbon intensive coal projects in developing countries. The Ray of the Day was awarded to the Climate Vulnerable Forum—the 20 most vulnerable countries in the world—for the group’s efforts in pushing for a global goal of 1.5°C.

Outside of the UN, IKEA pledged 1 billion euros to climate change mitigation and adaptation. This commitment is even larger than some countries’ total pledges to the Green Climate Fund — to be precise, almost 16 times larger than Belgium’s pledge and 10,925 times larger than Poland’s. As the role of non-state actors in climate change responses is being hotly debated, IKEA’s example might set a precedent for more private sector involvement.

More meticulous evaluation is expected to take place in the days to come. Moving forward is the shared priority; countries will be held increasingly accountable for contributing to the solution as negotiations progress. As momentum builds, causes for delay will receive more and more blame.


Photo credit: UNFCCC

The Verb will be on the ground in Bonn to cover the UN climate change conference as it unfolds over 1-11 June 2015. 

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