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Delegates from Brazil and Saudi Arabia in discussion at the Bonn climate talks
PARIS SUMMIT 2015
7 September 2015 16:40

Bonn climate talks ask for draft Paris text

Simon Evans

Simon Evans

09.07.15
Simon Evans

Simon Evans

07.09.2015 | 4:40pm
Paris Summit 2015Bonn climate talks ask for draft Paris text

A draft international climate agreement package will be published within weeks, setting the scene for crunch UN talks in Paris in December.

During negotiations in Bonn last week, countries made progress on some key sticking points and started to lay out the skeleton of the planned agreement. Yet with just five more days of formal negotiations before Paris, disagreement over many details remains profound.

The co-chairs of the process will now attempt to cement progress and bridge those divides. They have been given a mandate to prepare a draft agreement by the first week of October. Parties will then start line-by-line negotiations on the draft text when they return to Bonn on 19 October.

Carbon Brief summarises events in Bonn last week and rounds up reactions to the latest talks.

Draft text

Negotiations are working towards a global climate agreement applicable to all countries. It is due to be wrapped up during a two-week summit in Paris in December, with a new legally-binding treaty entering force in 2020 and other decisions covering the period before then. The text of this package is coming together in a slow and often frustratingly convoluted process.

The Geneva negotiating text, an 86-page compilation of proposals from all parties, was published in February as the starting point for the final agreement. After a week of talks in June, a “streamlined and consolidated” text of 85 pages emerged.

On the face of it, this achieved hardly any forward movement. However, there was important progress behind the scenes and a build-up of trust between parties, according to Dan Reifsnyder from the US and Ahmed Djoghlaf from Algeria, the co-chairs who must steer this process to a successful conclusion.

Djoghlaf and Reifsnyder then published a text “tool” in July. This was not officially a draft text and did not remove any options put forward by parties. Instead, it attempted to better organise the mass of options and proposals into three sections.

The first contained options for a legally-binding Paris agreement. The second included options for draft decisions, which will contain flexible provisions and instructions on implementation of the Paris package. The third section contained areas where parties disagreed over placement.

At the conclusion of last week’s talks on Friday, the co-chairs were given a mandate to prepare an official draft text, due to be published during the first week of October, prior to talks resuming on the 19th. The draft will contain two sections: the draft legally-binding deal and draft decisions.

It will be based on discussions at last week’s talks, as well as ongoing bilateral discussions between the co-chairs and parties. It will reflect areas of agreement and set out options where disagreement remains.

In a closing press conference, the EU’s Sarah Blau said that for particularly controversial sections, there should be an option to either include, or exclude them from the final text.

The co-chairs will be aided in their task by specific proposals for the text laid out by parties and country negotiating blocs. These are a response to the co-chairs’ plea for “bridging” proposals; in other words, compromise suggestions that bridge otherwise distant views on key issues.

In a statement, Djoghlaf said:

“At this session, countries have crystallised their positions and have requested the co-chairs to produce a concise basis for negotiations with clear options for the next negotiating session in October [where] countries will continue their important work, basing their negotiations on a clear, consistent, comprehensive, and coherent draft of the agreement and its accompanying decisions.”

When diplomats return to Bonn in October, they will negotiate this draft text line-by-line from day one, in a single drafting committee. This process will be aided by spin-off groups on difficult issues.

Snail’s pace

Some reports bemoaned the “unbearably tardy” progress at Bonn, with just five more days of official negotiations before Paris. It is a complex process, taking place at multiple levels as negotiators, ministers and heads of state try respectively to wrangle with the text itself, key political issues and the overall vision and direction of travel.

The state of play can be gauged from a working document, published on the final day of the talks. One of many documents from the talks available online, this usefully summarises the week’s discussions, where parties began to tackle some of the most challenging issues such as finance, and how — or whether — to differentiate the obligations of developed and developing countries.

The working document highlights areas of agreement and divergence between parties, while also making clear that, beyond agreeing to parts of the structural skeleton of the agreement, progress on the text itself was limited.

The week had begun optimistically, with the head of the EU’s delegation noting talks were closer to an agreement now than at the same stage before Copenhagen in 2009. However, there was a long way to go, said RTCC, rounding up countries’ often diverging opening statements to the talks.

By mid-week, the outlook seemed to be gloomier, as parties held a stock-taking meeting and almost universally called for a faster pace. Some cited “genuine concern” over the lack of progress, reported RTCC. In France, Le Figaro ran the headline “little progress in Bonn”.

The “snail’s pace” of talks — which were focussing on conceptual discussions rather than moving forward with the text — was reported by AFP, with the metaphor also taken up by the BBC’s final report from the week.

Bonn progress

Yet there was progress at Bonn. Laurence Tubiana, France’s chief climate diplomat told a closing press conference that the week had seen an exchange of views, and that all parties now knew each other’s positions on all aspects of the deal. This backed up Djoghlaf’s view that countries’ positions had “crystallised”.

In a statement, Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU’s climate chief, said:

“This week’s talks have been useful in bringing partners closer together and clarifying some of the key issues on the tableâ?¦But now it’s time for a step change. The real deal needs to start taking shape.”

Christiana Figueres, UN climate chief, was “very encouraged”. She said that “all countries are moving in the direction of progress and all agree that Paris is the final destination for the new universal agreement”.

There was also movement on some key issues, such as climate-related loss and damage. The incidence of climate-related disasters facing developing countries was highlighted in the days before the talks, reported Reuters, as tropical storm Erica hit the Caribbean island of Dominica.

As talks progressed, the US, EU, Switzerland and Australia were reported to be working on a proposal on loss and damage, softening their position on including the often-divisive issue in the Paris package. A counter-proposal from the G77 and China group also offered something of a bridge on the issue.

(Last week, a US National Public Radio primer laid out the history of the country blocs and alliances — including the G77 and China — that populate the climate talks. Carbon Brief produced a detailed view of country climate groupings from late last year.)

The deadlock between rich and vulnerable nations over loss and damage was starting to ease, reported Business Green. The Financial Times tracked the details, including whether loss and damage ought to be addressed in the legally-binding Paris agreement or in more flexible decisions.

Despite the progress in some areas, however, the Bonn talks had merely inched forward, reported RTCC. The Guardian called it a “climate stalemate”, saying it had prompted a group of senior world statesmen and women known as the Elders, to issue a call for faster progress.

Differentiation

Another more pessimistic take on Bonn, and the likely outcome from Paris, was carried by India Climate Dialogue. It highlighted difficult issues, such as finance and differentiation, UN-speak for who should bear responsibility for cutting emissions. A Chinese-language article for Xinhua also pointed to differentiation as a key sticking point for the talks.

China and India are pushing for clear differentiation between developed and developing nations, while the EU and US want all countries’ obligations to converge into a common framework. Highlighting why the issue is emotive, the Times of India reported president Narendra Modi calling for a shift from “climate change to climate justice”, because the poor are disproportionately affected.

A study published today in Nature Climate Change arguably feeds into a potentially divisive narrative on differentiation. Its attempt to calculate countries’ financial climate “debts” and “credits”, according to past emissions, “could reignite the political posturing that has blocked progress [at climate talks] on earlier occasions”, said a commentary published alongside the research.

Conclusion

All in all, negotiators left Bonn with much still to do, yet there is hope that progress will continue between now and the next round of talks in late October.

This is already in evidence. After discussions in Paris on Sunday, developed nation ministers issued a short statement, reaffirming their commitment to provide $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020, and setting out what types of support should count towards the total.

A plan on how the $100bn pledge is to be delivered will be presented on 9 October, at the start of a meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, reported RTCC.

Other stepping stones on the road to Paris include an informal ministerial meeting taking place in Paris yesterday and today. It is due to discuss adaptation, loss and damage and climate finance. A previous round of Paris informal talks is said to have already aided progress at Bonn.

On 17 September, EU ministers will meet and attempt to hammer out a common position on key elements of the Paris deal. A week later, on 24 September, the Pope will address the US Congress, with many expecting him to mention his encyclical on climate.

UN chief Ban Ki Moon has invited 40 leaders to a closed-door meeting in New York on 27 September to discuss plans for a climate deal. Countries being targeted include China, the US, EU and India.

This has been scheduled around the UN meeting that is due to sign off post-2015 sustainable development goals, including on climate. It will be closely followed by the Major Economies Forum on 28-29 September and the 1 October deadline for countries to submit their climate pledges. Major emitters including India, Brazil and Indonesia are yet to make their offers.

In a statement, Jennifer Morgan, global director of the World Resources Institute’s climate programme, said:

“Now countries must move the ball forward during the numerous gatherings of ministers and heads of state before the next negotiating session in October. We need a fast pace from here on out to set the stage for a strong agreement in Paris.”

Image: Delegates from Brazil and Saudi Arabia in an informal consultation. Credit: IISD/ENB.
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