Bonn climate talks

Jun 22 2023 | 02:06:08
THE 58th session of the Subsidiary for Scientific and Technological Advice and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SB58) of the United Nations Framework Convention held in Bonn concluded in mid-June. Every year the Bonn meetings represent the last big milestone culminating at the year-end annual Conference of Parties. These meetings are also used to focus diplomatic attention and build champions and alliances that can rally around a shared vision of an ambitious package of outcomes.The end of the Bonn talks, with agenda agreement on SB58 in extremis on last day, mostly on procedural decisions, reflects more than just negotiators reaching the limits of political mandates. The lack of agreement on agenda set the tone of low trust and fragmented outcomes. The delay in agenda agreement also had a negative spill-over into other negotiations and created a disconnect between negotiations and the reality of the escalating climate crisis. The lack of good faith in engagement and vacuum created by the absence of strong leadership highlights challenges that could mar negotiations at COP28. Far from shifting to high-ambition territory, the meeting was not successful in producing a package of comprehensive outcomes that is balanced across thematic areas.In the backdrop of this uncompromising mood and core political differences, it is very important that stalling areas such as adaptation, loss and damage and finance are taken up by champion parties to help shift from current positions and find common ground for unlocking upward movement at COP28.The UAE can play a role by providing greater clarity on its COP vision and how it plans to deliver. The state of play on the Global Stocktake (GST) will make it difficult to develop a coherent vision without political agreement on sticky issues. Bonn ended with a significant consensus gap that needs to narrow on vision and pathways for a satisfactory outcome in Dubai. Political-level diplomacy will be needed especially on fossil fuel transition language, finance outcomes, adaptation, loss and damage and the overall GST package to facilitate dialogue across the diplomatic calendar.The lack of agreement on agenda set the tone of low trust.The next steps in adaptation finance will require greater clarity on the roadmap as well as on other components such as adaptation conversations in the New Collective Quantified Goal, finance targets and indicators in the Global Goal on Adaptation framework, and adaptation in the global finance reform agenda including Bridgetown Agenda.Finance remains central to the agenda. It was contentious in Bonn and is likely to emerge as a fault line across discussions on mitigation, GST, just transition as well as loss and damage. Pledges and signals sent through upcoming moments like the summit in Paris and UNSG, the GCF Replenishment Conference in Bonn and annual meetings in Marrakech in October as well as in discussions taking place in Bangkok and Geneva can help in building trust and moving towards negotiated outcomes.There was growing concern about the effectiveness of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage and its usefulness on feeding into the transitional committee to ensure an outcome at COP28. With little time remaining it will be crucial for TC members to build on progress and work towards potential landing zones for developing recommendations for COP28.With so much at stake, forward movement on mitigation was slow and negotiators fell back on emphasising familiar political statements, ins­tead of using the dialogue as a collaborative problem-solving space. In the coming months, it is important to undertake further political dia­­logue to en­­h­ance mutual un­­­der­standing of the aims and outcomes of the Mi­tigation Work Pro­­gramme and make concrete progress on finance to address the concerns of developing countries.The present situation risks a lowest common denominator outcome across the COP28 package. Parties will need to work intensively to find an acceptable arrangement on the agenda and more work to articulate comprehensive and scientifically rigorous visions of outcomes. The core task of diplomacy in the lead-up to COP28 for the parties and the presidency will be to further flesh out a clear vision of a final package of outcomes.As the climate clock continues to tick, it is time to dial down differences and accelerate momentum on just agreements. The mood at every COP since Poland (2018) has been on a downward trajectory with visible signs of growing frustration at the slow pace of progress. COP28 provides a GST moment of hope where every effort should be made to capitalise on discussions organised under the UNFCCC umbrella, IFIs and other platforms to strengthen cooperation and build resilience for all.