Bonn climate talks poised to be more intense than usual UNFCCC May sessions

Intersessional climate talks are held every year in Bonn in May to prepare the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) in autumn. Bonn talks usually feature technical and detail-oriented discussions, that take the back seat in mainstream media with respect to the more well-known and covered COP (this year the COP23 will be held from 6 to 17 November in Bonn as well, but under Fiji’s presidency).

But the forthcoming UNFCCC sessions in Bonn starting on Monday  (May 8) are likely to be different, due to the uncertainty surrounding the next steps of the new US administration.

The agenda  of the event is mostly focused on the work of defining mechanisms and rules to put the Paris Agreement into action, ranging from transparency standards to capacity-building tools, financial provisions and clear instruments to ensure compliance. According to the UNFCCC schedule agreed in Marrakech at COP22, an operational “rulebook” of the global climate treaty (adopted in 2015 in Paris at COP21 and already formally in force) should be finalized in 2018.

In the past weeks the US administration announced that a final decision on the Paris Agreement will be taken by May. During his campaign, US President Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to dismantle most of the climate legislation and initiatives put forth by the Obama administration and to “cancel” the Paris Agreement, according to which the United States should reduce its emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025. In March Trump signed an executive order keeping the first part of his promise but the administration remained vague on the strategy to take with respect to the US international climate pledges. The options on the table for a US u-turn are essentially three. The first is to withdraw from the Paris Agreement but it will take four years to complete the process, the full period of Trump’s mandate. The second is to withdraw from the UNFCCC: a very radical decision that would make US free from any climate obligation in just one year. Third, the United States may formally stay in the pact and simply ignoring the commitments taken.

Recently many news media have revealed that the White House is leaning toward exiting the Paris pact, on the basis that sticking with the deal would pose legal hurdles. However, there is no formal confirmation or denial and the US climate negotiators are gathering in Bonn with little direction, Climate Home said. The official stance is that the US “is reviewing existing policies and regulations in the context of a focus on strengthening U.S. economic growth and promoting jobs for American workers, and will not support policies or regulations that have adverse effects on energy independence and U.S. competitiveness”. The formula is widely repeated in the answers submitted by the US for the UNFCCC Multilateral Assessment process, a peer-review system to discuss and review climate pledges and strategies of the richer and most industrialized country Parties to the UNFCCC.

According to Reuters, there have been several attempts and statements pressing the White House to not leave the Paris pact, from UN agencies and EU representatives and also, less predictably, from US coal companies and NATO officials.


(Image: Stocktaking Event, Bonn, May 21st, 2016. Photo credit: UNclimatechange on Flickr)