Bonn conference ends casting shadows and lights on COP21

Upon the conclusion of the Bonn conference on climate change on Thursday (June 11), critics highlighted both positive and negative outcomes from the climate talks paving the way to Paris COP21. This ambivalent feeling was caused by the inaction that characterized the bulk of the talks until the very end, when countries eventually settled on a measure to speed up the drafting process.

Negotiations progressed at a slow pace due to the contrasting opinions about the wording the agreement should contain. With this regard very little was achieved, as the initial 89-page draft text was reduced by only four pages. Much more will be needed to slim down the current document (pdf) to a manageable size. A main cause of issues that slowed down the process is connected to the wording for defining the contributions developing countries should make for climate mitigation, the Guardian reports.

However, towards the end of the negotiations countries announced that co-chairs would be allowed to make their own text editing and will present the results to the next meeting in July. This is encouraging news as it should speed up the pace of the drafting process, although it does not exclude further edits and discussions.

For a series of other issues, the Bonn meeting brought satisfactory results, such as in relation to the deforestation and forest protection scheme REDD+. The acronym refers to the framework for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and enhancing the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. Negotiators agreed on a package of three decisions, dealing with transparency and reporting of forest protection programmes, to be approved by COP21. Forest experts said that the deal was not expected to be agreed upon this promptly, Reuters reports.

Another activity that attained fruitful results was the multilateral assessment (MA) of mitigation measures. Multilateral assessments aim at engaging parties in evaluating developing countries’ mitigation efforts, with the goal of increasing transparency and experience sharing. A first group of MAs were undertaken in Lima 2014, where it was decided that the review of mitigation measures from Annex I countries would continue in Bonn and Paris this year. The Bonn meeting saw 24 countries being reviewed on their mitigation actions, an activity that was perceived as trust-building and transparent.

The climate talks encompassed a series of other topics, including a review of the adequacy of the 2°C goal, discussions on climate education and training, as well as gender and climate change.

What the Bonn conference failed to discuss is whether the aggregate national emission targets are consistent with the global 2°C target. BBC reports that negotiators refused to discuss intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), and postponed the debate until the main summit in December. This implies that there will not be any possibility to discuss the effectiveness of aggregate efforts and increase contribution levels before COP21.

(Image: UNFCCC Bonn Meeting, Germany, June 2015. Photo credit: UNFCCC/Flickr)