November 6 – 17 2017, Bonn, the political city of West Germany played hosts to the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Although the norm has been that the country holding the presidency of the UNFCCC hosts the event, Fiji, from which the current president hails from, could not accommodate the 25,000 diplomats and ministers from across the globe. Thus, Bonn, Germany was chosen to host the event convened by the Presidency of Fiji under Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.
COP23 is the second conference after the historical COP 21 otherwise called the Paris Agreement. This is also the first conference to hold after the United States under President Trump announced its intention to back out of the Paris Agreement. By many faces, it is deemed to be a very interesting and technical event as countries, delegates and policymakers continue to negotiate on the details of how to manage the menace of climate change.
BUILDING ON PARIS: RECAP OF COP21 AND COP22
As the plan, COPs are held annually. COP 22, the “Implementation COP” crossed the Atlantic from Paris and held in Marrakesh, Morocco with an objective of outlining implementation plans for the Paris Agreement as well as discussing ways of water management and decarbonizing energy supplies. Despite a league of professors from high profile universities across the UK and US expressed skepticism about the Paris Agreement, the international community was once again motivated to come together and discuss how to ensure the Paris Agreement is not all an ambitious unachievable plan. The Marrakech Action Proclamation was issued by the attending presidents to reiterate their commitment to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Major Talking Points and Agreements of COP23
Trump’s decision to pull out of Paris agreement
Consolidating on the agreements reached in Paris and working on its finer details is one of the major agenda of the Bonn-in-Fiji conference. Recall that President Trump rescinded his predecessor’s commitment to the Paris Agreement already ratified by 195 countries. Although this was meted with thunderous condemnations from environmentalists, political leaders, diplomats, and business executives all around the globe,Bonn was the avenue to work on some grey areas. Trumps decision, though will not be actual effect till 2020, has emboldened China to take a major role and become a big brother.
Extreme weather and coal phase-out
Extreme weather has been on the front burner of UNFCCC conferences, it is particularly an important agenda in the COP23 event. This year, 2017 has been dubbed one of the warmest ever years, leaving many countries and continents vulnerable to disasters as it has reduced their ability to resist the effects of climate change.
The coal phase-out was another major agenda in Bonn. This was under the “Powering past coal” declaration led by the UK and Canada. The initiative is another precursor to cutting carbon emission and working towards the actualization of the Paris agreement. So far more than 20 countries have committed to the alliance.
Financing the fight against climate change has always been a major issue. Manuel de Araujo, Mayor of Quelimane rightly posited that although there is “good intention, initiatives, ideas and the technology, the money is needed to implement these good ideas”. The finance discussions held on the final day of the conference and its meeting didn’t quite end on time and amicably as there were disputes and fights over finances. Developing countries queried developed and rich countries on their plans to release funds and help them cope with the effects of climate change. In their defense, the rich countries argued that this was beyond the 2015 agreements reached upon in Paris.
Seyni Nafo, the leader of the African negotiators said that “What was promised by leaders of developed countries has not trickled down to negotiators” adding that US’ withdrawal from the Paris agreement has influenced the behavior of the developed countries despite their promise to step in regardless of Trump’s withdrawal. Through the tail end of the meeting, however, the heads of delegations agreed on put forward a proposal for resolving the dispute. The issue would be discussed and resolved in the intersessional meetings in the build-up to COP24.
Last year in Marrakesh, the COP22 resolutions included designing a technical master plan for the rules and process of the attainment of the Paris Agreement which was termed the Paris “Rulebook”. This year, it was also brought to the fore. The Ad-hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement oversees the discussions on the Paris rulebook to include setting up of NDCs, reporting climate change adaptation efforts and monitoring of the compliance of the Paris Agreement. The goal of the rulebook in this year’s COP is to create a draft of the implementation guidelines, with options and disagreements in order that grey areas be identified and resolved. The deadline for the rulebook is next year’s COP24 in Poland.
Originally called the “facilitative dialogue” was an adoption by the delegates in COP21 in Paris as a precursor to the Paris agreement to be a one-off moment to take stock on the gains of the actions against climate change. This year the dialogue was renamed Talanoa dialogue under the Fijian presidency and is supposed to be constructive, solution and opportunity-oriented conversation and an opportunity to be positive about it.
The dialogue has been categorized in two phases; the preparatory phase which will begin over the coming year ahead of the second phase, the political phase which will be conducted by the ministers of the next COP in Poland 2018. The phases are captured in the figures below.
To put things clear, The Paris Agreement hasn’t officially come into action till 2018. All that has happened from COP21 was putting first things first before it becomes actionable by 2020. However, this doesn’t mean committed countries won’t do anything they mentioned. In fact, many are already stemming up the efforts.
However, notable issues to address before the next COP is US leadership and role in the agreement. The US has a commitment to provide climate adaptation financing and has also been pivotal it the success of previous COPs. With the current Trump leadership, a dark cloud seems to loom, despite France’s and many other developed countries effort in cushioning US blow.
When the document is finalized next year, its tick-tock before 2023 when all 196 countries are obligated to submit the achievements of their INDCs.
COP24 is taking place in Katowice Poland December next year and we hope to see the finalization of the Paris Agreement and the first set of responses to the Talanoa dialogue.
Blog written by Abdulmumin.
Abdulmumin Tanko has a master’s degree in Civil Engineering with an insatiable desire for research and writing. A staunch environmental enthusiast and a fervent campaigner for environmental consciousness, he works to break the silence and end the nescience, largely responsible for environmental indiscretion. He believes that a serene and safer environment begins with YOU. Follow him on Twitter @Tikaysmalls