UN Climate Talks in Bonn.

UN climate talks resumed in Bonn, Germany on Monday, with just 10 days of formal negotiations left before the climate summit in Paris later this year. Government delegates are tasked with making progress on what a new climate deal – to be signed in Paris – could look like; and many of our partners have joined them in Bonn to ensure that deal is in line with a long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuels and keeping warming well below the internationally agreed 2DegC danger threshold.

A new text, released last month to help create a “clearer picture” of the new agreement, separates the issues and elements of a potential Paris outcome into three main sections. The first contains text pertaining to the core legal agreement. The second contains elements likely to be incorporated into a supporting (COP) decision. The final section contains a number of important elements that haven’t yet received enough support to find a home in the legal agreement or accompanying decision.

This final section includes many of the more ambitious proposals that are essential to the Paris deal’s integrity – such as on a long-term goal to phase-out greenhouse gas emissions; a toolkit to allow government’s climate action plans to be regularly reviewed and scaled-up over time in line with this goal; and mechanisms that will allow communities to build resilience and ensure vulnerable countries are given the support needed to take action. Many of our partner’s will focus on moving these essential options into the first two sections, as the text is whittled down into a manageable menu for ministers to engage later this year.

While work in Bonn focuses on the agreement’s structure and streamlining, much of the heavy lifting will happen outside of formal negotiations. September marks the start of an intense and vital few months of climate diplomacy, with a ministerial hosted by the French and Peruvian presidencies immediately following the Bonn talks. Ministers are due to discuss how finance and adaptation will be included in the agreement, and are expected to map out how they can deliver the $100 billion a year in climate finance promised by 2020, which is a prerequisite for poorer countries to sign on to the new agreement in December. The ministerial and a host of other high level events in the coming months, will give ministers the opportunity to dig into substance and provide clear instructions toward further shaping the Paris agreement ahead of the December conference.

At the same time, it’s increasingly clear that the UN Climate Talks are only part of a larger transformational agenda – from high to low carbon economies. In June, the leaders of the world’s largest economies signaled game-over for fossil fuels when they called for a global decarbonisation during the course of the century. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff became the first leader from a major emerging economy to do the same, joining German Chancellor Angela Merkel in committing to decarbonising their countries’ economies. French President Francois Hollande made similar signals acknowledging a “viable” Paris agreement would see 80 per cent of fossil fuel resources stay in the ground, while Anote Tong, President of the republic of Kiribati, has called for a global moratorium on new coal.

  1. We’re starting to see that transition enshrined in policy. To date, some 56 countries, representing 60 per cent of global emissions, have submitted national climate action plans – or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – as part of their Paris preparations. These including some of the world’s biggest emitters such as Canada, the EU, the US, China; and many of the world’s most vulnerable nations, most recently the Marshall Islands and the Democratic Republic of Congo. While these plans move us closer, but not all the way to, a safe climate. Combined with a robust Paris agreement that scales up action over time, they can keep our chances of holding warming well below the politically agreed 2DegC threshold alive, while signaling the collective decision of all nations to end the fossil fuel age and embrace the era of renewables. Those leaders that continue to drag their feet and undermine action – such as Australia, Canada and Japan – will be left looking increasingly out of touch with reality.
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