What went on in Bonn: Climate talks stall ahead of Paris

The UN climate talks in Bonn have been "painstakingly slow" according to some observers, but the final day (Friday) generated some optimism, particularly with regards to funding for poor countries dealing with extreme weather.

Negotiators gathered in Bonn over the past four days to work on the text of a climate deal that can be presented to heads of state in Paris in December.

The negotiators’ role is to simplify and streamline the text into a document that can be easily debated and hopefully agreed upon.

Reports from Bonn have described the progress as ‘snail paced’ raising concerns that time is running out with just five more negotiating days to come in October before the Paris conference.

Climate charity Action Aid said it was seriously concerned about the ‘fragile progress’.

“There are still no clear text options from which a deal in Paris can be negotiated,” said ActionAid’s climate policy manager Harjeet Singh. “Critical time has been lost for meaningful discussion.”


However, Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), rejected the idea that negotiations were moving too slowly.

At a press conference on Friday, Figueres said: “There is no objective pace that is ideal for negotiating, so the question of pace is somewhat of an irrelevant question. I think its important to find out if we are actually moving in the direction we should, and to that, the resounding answer is absolutely yes.”

She added that the four pillars needed for a climate deal were all in place: 57 INDC’s have now been submitted covering nearly 70% of global emissions; a finance package to support mitigation and adaptation is ‘on track’; and non-state actors – such as General Mills – are making bold pledges of their own.

Figures also said that discussion were ongoing on at a ministerial and head-of-state level.

Her optimism was mirrored by the World Resources Institute (WRI), whose spokesperson Jennifer Morgan added: “The week ended on a positive note with delegates giving the co-chairs a clear mandate to jump start the next session with a tighter and more polished negotiating document.

“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.”

The co-chairs of the Bonn talks – Algerian diplomat Ahmed Djoghlaf and US envoy Daniel Reifsnyder – will now continue streamlining the document , before the next Bonn conference in October.

Damage and loss

One area where real progress has been made is the debate over compensation for extreme weather impacts.

Poorer countries argue that rich countries should pay for the spiralling costs of extreme weather events – $50bn a year in the 1980s to around $200bn now – which they say has been caused by rich countries’ emissions.

The topic has previously been a sticking point, but reports emerged on Friday that the US and the EU were edging towards a compromise.

Christiain Aid welcomed the progress, but warned delegates that time was running out. The organisation’s senior climate advisor Mohamed Adow said: “It’s been good to see the increasing understanding amongst nations regarding the importance of adaptation and loss and damage.  Against the background of recording breaking temperatures and extreme weather events helping the poor adapt and recover is vital to any global deal.

“But progress in Bonn has been painstakingly slow and to get a deal worth the effort then they must speed up the process between now and the next session in October.”

Brad Allen

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