The Fiji UN Climate Change Conference 2017, COP 23 – what is at stake in Bonn?

The 23rd meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will convene from 6 to 17 November in Bonn, Germany, under the presidency of the government of Fiji, the first time that a small island nation has served in this role.

Expect the most contentious issue, as at most COPs, to be how to mobilize financing to assist poor countries to lower their greenhouse gas emissions and especially how to increase funding significantly to help them adapt to the effects of climate change.  Add to that another hot-button issue re-emerging prominently in the wake of high profile hurricanes and typhoons, how to compensate countries for “loss and damage” already caused by climate change.  This and much more will play out against the backdrop of the Trump Administration’s notification that it plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement – putting the U.S. in the same category as international pariah Syria as the world’s last climate holdouts.

This article provides a short overview of key issues at stake and a summary of our expectations for COP 23. It does not claim to be comprehensive or complete and is necessarily biased towards the issues that the authors and the Heinrich Böll Foundation follow more closely and consider relevant for the overall debate.

The full article can be found on the Heinrich Böll Stiftung's website.

Summary: What’s at stake at COP 23?

Fiji intends to bring vision to what would otherwise be a technical COP through the Pacific tradition of “talanoa,” derived from “tala” meaning “talking or telling stories,” and “noa” meaning “zero or without concealment” and thus laying the ground for a frank and open dialogue between governments and other stakeholders.

Fiji is meant to be a “Loss and Damage” COP. But there is no money on the table to compensate the victims of climate change and, so far, little appetite to hold talks about mobilizing finance for loss and damage in the official negotiations.  An outcome leading to a substantive plan for finance of loss and damage would be a major breakthrough for the Pacific COP.  Otherwise, expect strong opposition and protests from civil society.

Reports from the pre-COP in Fiji indicate broad commitment to the $100 billion per year by 2020 goal and the need to highlight progress at COP 23 to reach it. Climate finance remains high on the agenda for negotiations in Bonn. The sixth review of the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism, a process mandated every four years under the Convention, will occur at COP 23. 

While the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is making progress, very little of its money has gone out the door by COP 23. Expect governments in Bonn to demand that the GCF Board and Secretariat further increase their efforts so that direct access entities are ready not only for accreditation but also to bring forward bankable projects.

Almost all of the elements mandated in the Paris Agreement and Decision text are scheduled to be adopted next year at COP 24.  Serious progress, in the form of clearly distinguished options in draft texts, must be made at COP 23 if the Paris Rulebook will be ready for delivery and adoption in 2018. The Human Rights language from the preamble of the Paris Agreement must be embodied in all key elements of the Rulebook currently being negotiated.

While it is likely that COP 23 might approve a gender action plan, its implementation is far from secured. For any gender action plan to have traction in the UNFCCC, its champions must compel negotiators to include gender considerations across all negotiating tracks of the Paris Agreement.

The Paris decision also mandates the COP to convene a “Facilitative Dialogue” in 2018.  The Dialogue is essentially a test run for the “Global Stocktake” which all countries will conduct every five years starting in 2023 to assess and strengthen individual countries’ NDCs and global progress toward reaching the goal of the Paris Agreement. The technical and political details of the Facilitative Dialogue must be hammered out at COP 23 to ensure that it actually happens in 2018.

The agriculture, forestry, and land use sectors will play a key role in the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and will be the subject of negotiations on mitigation in the Paris Agreement track and in the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA).  The instruments discussed in Bonn could help trigger a positive transformation.  They could, however, also intensify industrial agriculture and forestry, lead to further evictions of indigenous and local communities, and open new back doors to offsetting fossil-fuel emissions through dubious compensation measures.  Much is at stake and the crucial political issues are often hidden behind the complicated and technical items on the SBSTA agenda.

The lack of climate action and ambition in the national climate plans creates a sense of urgency that is bringing risky and dangerous technofix proposals of geoengineering to the surface of the climate policy agenda. Negotiators at COP 23 need to ensure that they do not open new backdoors for the fossil fuel industry to sustain their old business model by promoting geoengineering. Instead, COP23 could send a strong signal to the world by denouncing outdoor experiments and deployment of Solar Radiation Management that would violate the de-facto moratorium agreed in the CBD. Any debates on closing the emissions gap and increasing ambition need to seriously consider real radical and transformative emission reduction strategies that rely on proven technologies and contribute to climate justice in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals and Planetary Boundaries.

Tens of thousands will join the People’s Climate Summit from 3-7 November at various locations, the Climate March and redline demonstration on Saturday the 4th, and Ende Gelände, a peaceful mass civil disobedience action against coal mining in the Rhineland, from 5-7 November.  All of these events will articulate a message of global solidarity and climate justice and highlight feasible alternatives to a corporatist approach to climate negotiations with false solutions in addressing the climate crisis.

Further information about COP23:

UNFCCC COP 23 information

Website of the Fiji COP 23 Presidency

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