COP23 ends smoothly in Bonn

COP23 ends smoothly in Bonn

Giancarlo Strocchia
The closing stages of the Climate Change Conference that has just ended in Bonn highlighted the need for a thorough review of the pledges made in Paris. It will be up to the COP24 conference in Poland to ratify the new goals to combat global warming

As expected, the 23rd session of the Climate Change Conference of the Parties, organized by the United Nations in Bonn, closed without with any momentous decisions. Despite dragging on until dawn on Saturday, November 18, the final draft agreement setting out the technical details for the implementation of the Paris 2015 Agreement contains few significant new elements, except for an awareness that the pledges made in the French capital two years ago to curb greenhouse gas emissions are not commensurate with the goal of keeping global warming to below the 2 degree centigrade target. Everything is thus postponed until COP24, set to be held in Katowice, Poland, in November 2018.  Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who presided over the conference, congratulated the Parties for their commitment and hard work in setting out the rules for implementing the Paris agreement and charting the course to step up their efforts and raise the goals to reduce global warming.

Reviewing the Paris goals by 2020

The process of adapting the measures to mitigate CO2 emissions, in preparation for the ratification of the new document that will give effect to the Paris goals, will take place within a discussion framework dubbed the "Talanoa dialogue", which in Fijian means "shared decisions", due to begin in January 2018. This is where national targets will be reviewed in the run-up to the next conference. Meanwhile, the Bonn conference set out the actions for monitoring the initiatives to contain emissions, ahead of the forthcoming outcomes assessment and final review. On this subject, speaking at the conference, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres had this to say: "The world should adopt a simple rule: if big infrastructure projects are not green, they should not be given the green light. Otherwise we will be locked into bad choices for decades to come. Floods, fires, extreme storms and drought are growing in intensity and frequency - said Guterres - and atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are higher than they have been for 800,000 years." The Secretary General also noted that carbon markets are growing and green bonds are expanding, exceeding last year’s record figures. The Green Climate Fund issue, on the other hand, remains unresolved, and whether this fund to help poorer nations combat global warming will actually be set up remains uncertain.

International alliance for a low-carbon future

The Bonn Conference, however, saw the establishment of a genuine anti-coal alliance, with around twenty states coming together with the aim to completely phase out energy production from this fossil fuel. A number of leading environmental organizations expressed great satisfaction at this initiative, including WWF. Manuel Pulgar Vidal, leader of the World Wildlife Fund’s global climate and energy program, said: "The science is clear: there is no place for coal in a 1.5C world. Our societies and economies must be powered by clean sources of energy that are good for people – their lives and livelihoods – and the planet. We welcome the first steps countries and regions have taken today to make this vision a reality through the alliance, but this is only the start."

France and Germany lead the fight against climate change

The commitment to a low-carbon world was also strongly reaffirmed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, who were gusts of honor at the Bonn Conference. Both leaders underscored their commitment to decarbonization. Angela Merkel, who is still grappling with the challenging task of forming a stable government after October’s general elections in Germany, did not put forward any specific measures and has been criticized on that account by many environmentalists. The United States kept a low profile and adopted a dual stance in Bonn, on the one hand stating their willingness to remain within the Paris agreement after a proper review of their commitments, while playing a marginal role on the other. However, several U.S. cities and states (foremost among them California and New York) participated in the conference individually and renewed all the pledges made in 2015.

Poland to take center stage in 2018

The final decisions will have to be reached next year in Katowice, in the heart of Silesia, one of Europe’s major coal mining hubs. Poland is heavily reliant on coal for its power plants, and the Polish government has frequently held back the EU from adopting more stringent measures on climate change. An open and heated confrontation is thus expected to lie ahead. In the meantime, two international summits on climate change are due to be held before the Katowice Conference, one in Paris in December 2017, and the other in California next year.