Bonn talks end amidst US’ uncertainty and Fijian “Bula Spirit”

The second week of the UNFCCC negotiating session in Bonn closed on Thursday (May, 18), laying down the ground for the UN Climate Change Conference to be held at the end this year (COP23, 6 – 17 November) in Bonn again. Although all eyes were pointed to the U.S., preparations are well underway and on track to deliver the infrastructure and arrangements needed for a successful meeting, the UNFCCC release declared. This May intersessional meeting was the first since COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, decided that the Paris Agreement’s “rulebook” has to be adopted by 2018, at COP24.

Negotiations were, therefore, organized within the three bodies that are in charge of progressing the elements of the Paris Agreement: the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA). Among the topics being discussed in Bonn there were: the modalities for accounting of financial resources, the cooperative approaches under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the mitigation  component of the NDCs, and the agricultural activities. Although the efforts to advance in a coordinated and balanced manner, some of the traditional divides, such as the differentiation of commitments and the mitigation predominance, resurfaced as soon as the talks picked up speed. Moreover, some elements being addressed for the first time into the UNFCCC process, namely the Global Stocktake and some aspects of the cooperative approaches, needed considerable time to find agreement among Parties on how to proceed.

These two weeks also saw the COP22 and 23 Presidencies’ hand-over. Fiji Prime Minister Mr. Frank Bainimarama, the in-coming COP23 President, and his Chief Negotiator, Ambassador Nazhat Shemeem Khan, expressed Fiji’s gratitude for the support and encouragement and took the opportunity to share their vision for the session starting in November.

As the first Small Island Developing State to assume the Presidency of this process, Fiji Prime Minister emphasized the opportunity to bring their own perspective to these negotiations. The perspective of a region that is bearing the brunt of climate change, whose existence is already threatened by rising seas, extreme weather events and changes to agriculture. “Those who are most vulnerable must be heard” he highlighted, affirming that COP 23 will forge a coalition to support and advance the Paris Agreement.

In summary, the main objectives of the  COP23 Presidency, as stated by the Fiji Prime Minister in his closing address, are:

  • To advance the work of the UNFCCC and preserve the multilateral consensus for decisive action to address the underlying causes of climate change, respecting climate science.
  • To uphold and advance the Paris Agreement, ensure progress on the implementation guidelines and undertake consultations together with the Moroccan COP22 Presidency to design the process for the Facilitative Dialogue in 2018.
  • To build greater resilience for all vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events and rising sea levels;
  • To enable access to climate adaptation finance, renewable energy, clean water and affordable climate risk and disaster insurance; and to promote sustainable agriculture.
  • To forge a grand coalition to accelerate climate action before 2020 and beyond involving between civil society, the scientific community, the private sector and all levels of government, including cities and regions.
  • To harness innovation, enterprise and investment to fast track the development and deployment of climate solutions that will build future economies with net zero greenhouse gas emissions, in an effort to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • To draw a stronger link between the health of the world’s oceans and seas and the impacts of, and solutions to, climate change as part of a holistic approach to the protection of our planet.
  • To infuse COP23 with the Fijian “Bula Spirit” of inclusiveness, friendliness and solidarity and promote the Pacific concept of talanoa. This is a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue that builds empathy and leads to decision making for the collective good. It is not about finger pointing and laying blame but is about listening to each other, learning from each other, sharing stories, skills and experiences. By focusing on the benefits of action, this process will move the global climate agenda forward.

Finally, the new ad hoc Fiji’s website for COP23 was released, gathering information about next COP participation but also about Fiji’s national climate plans for the coming year, and about the effects of climate change on Fijians and other Pacific Islanders, as well as general information about engagement with the rest of the world.

Negotiations will formally resume in Bonn from November 6 to 17, 2017 in the context of COP23.


(Image: In-session workshop on opportunities to further enhance the effective engagement of non-Party stakeholders, Bonn, May 9th 2017. Credit: UNclimatechange/Flickr)