By Omar Ramírez Tejada, Guest Blogger
The United Nations Climate Change Conference ended with the slogan “One Conference, Two Zones.” The conference, officially referred to as COP23, took place from November 6-17, 2017 in Bonn, Germany under the Presidency of Fiji. The conference included the 23rd session of the la Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (CMNUCC), the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties which served as the Meeting of the Parties in the Kyoto Protocol (CMP13), and the second session of the Conference of the Parties that served as the Meeting of the Parties in the Paris Agreement (CMA 1-2).
Three subsidiary bodies also met: the 47th session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 47), the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 47), and the fourth version of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA 1-4).
The conference objectives included adjusting the Paris Agreement, especially in the areas of technology; recoup damages and losses caused by the effects of climate change, greenhouses gas emissions and to emphasize transparency. The Conference brought together more than 16,000 participants, including more than 9,200 government officials, 5,500 representatives of UN organizations and agencies, intergovernmental and civil society organizations, and 1,200 members of the press.
Negotiations, which went on until dawn on Saturday November 18, focused on the various aspects of the work program of the Paris Agreement. The Parties adopted 31 decisions, 24 under COP, 7 under CMP, which, among other things will provide guidance on the finalization of the work program of the Paris Agreement. They undertook the Talanoa Dialogue (the name for the Facilitating Dialogue for 2018 requested in decision 1/CP.21 adopted by the Paris Agreement) and stressed the importance of implementation and ambitious action prior to 2020, within the framework of the “Fiji Moment for Implementation.”
Another noteworthy point was the decision that the Adaptation Fund will comply with the Paris Agreement, subject to decisions that will be taken in CMA 1-3; encourage the actions of local communities and adopt the indigenous peoples platform; establish a gender action plan; evaluate the technical review process that supports the exchange of experiences on mitigation and adaptation practices; advance in long-term financing; and conclude the review process of the Permanent Finance Committee, the Adaptation Fund; create capacity in countries with economies in transition and in developing countries; and provide guidance to the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts.
The joint high-level segment under the COP, CMP and CMA brought together 15 heads of state and government, as well as ministers and delegation heads.
Negotiations took place in the Bula Zone and parallel events were held in the Bonn Zone. In the Bonn Zone, many governmental and non-governmental participants announced initiatives for climate action, including the launch of the Ocean Pathway Initiative, which aims to strengthen the inclusion of oceans in the climate change action underway through the UN’s climate processes and the Bonn-Fiji Commitment, that was adopted by more than 300 local and regional leaders to fulfill the Paris Agreement.
Main Points of Achievements at COP23
Throughout the negotiations, the involved countries worked on crucial points for the urgent implementation of the Paris Agreement, which is to keep global temperatures from exceeding 2° C. until its the goal of 1.5 ° C is reached.
It is necessary to prioritize the functioning of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which enables raising funds from developed countries for developing and vulnerable nations that face the negative consequences of climate change. The GCF expects to have $100 billion per year starting in 2020. Without a doubt, one of the great challenges of the coming years will be to advance in this area.
Very important advances were made at COP23 in the context of Latin America and the Caribbean. One of the first relates to the approval of an historic work plan for agriculture and an agreement to discuss the following issues at subsequent meetings: implement new strategies for the adaptation of agriculture in the face of climate change; improve carbon capacity in soil, the livestock sector and GHG emissions as well as food safety, among other issues.
The second theme, considered to be a milestone, is the creation of a platform for local knowledge that will provide provide traditional contribution, for example, from indigenous groups who will participate in climate negotiations and a process that will allow them to share their traditional knowledge, best practices and ancestral capabilities.
Results of COP23 to Implement the Paris Agreement
The Talanoa Dialogue activates and sets into motion the plan to accelerate climate action with the goal of limiting a rise in temperature. The Parties have decided that the dialogue will have preparatory phase and another policy that will be led by the presidencies of COP23 and COP24, the latter to be held in Poland from December 3-14, 2018. Throughout the dialogue, the Parties must be in agreement with the 1.5° C limit that will be presented next year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). While in the policy stage, which will be held in the presence of COP24 ministers, NDCs will report what they expect in terms of goals achieved and their most ambitious actions taken to reduce emissions, especially from countries with greater historical responsibility in the matter.
In terms of the Adaptation Fund, it exceeded its 2017 target thanks to support from Germany and Italy who contributed €50 million and €7 million euros, respectively. The fund currently has $93 million dollars in it.
With regard to the loss and damage mechanism, time is of the essence. The window of opportunity to pressure developed countries to work harder on this issue is closing, especially in view of the urgency to provide necessary tools to vulnerable countries to recover from extreme climactic events.
POSITION OF THE UNITED STATES AND CHALLENGES FOR 2018
The United States sent a document to the United Nations (UN) on August 4, 2017 to formalize its intention to drop out of the Paris Agreement. The missive also announced that the US would continue to participate in international negotiations on climate change, such as COP23. Indeed, the government of Donald Trump participated in COP23 “to protect U.S. interests and ensure all future policy options remain open to the administration.” However, the community of signatory countries of the Paris Agreement expressed its rejection to renegotiate the agreement, which has taken two decades of negotiations to reach.
The United States’ decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement is a complex matter with various elements to consider. First, the US’s share in greenhouse gas emissions is around 17%. Second, by being unaware of previous climate treaties, the current US administration feels free to abandon commitments therein. In fact, it has already cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Everything indicates that the Trump administration will encourage new methods of extraction and production of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) fuels. Thirdly, the US will cut its contributions to the Green Climate Fund, which is earmarked for countries with limited resources so that they can fulfill their GHG reduction commitments and move towards new clean energy. All of this goes in the opposite direction of the clauses enshrined in the Paris Agreement.
The good news is that several regional and local authorities, such as California Governor Jerry Brown have said that cities and states can still make a profound difference on climate change without the support of the Trump administration. New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio said that 375 US cities have signed on to reductions of the Paris Agreement, despite the fact that the United States withdrew. Mayor de Blasio also promised, “that New York City would go even farther with dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions through strict improvements in city codes for its main source of emissions.”
After what happened last November in Bonn, 2018 will be another important year for international climate diplomacy as countries move toward implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The international community is determined to move forward despite the position of the United States, just as it did with the Kyoto Protocol. It would seem that history is repeating itself, but with different characteristics.