Alphabet soup in Bonn

By Gareth Renowden 16/05/2012

Emma Renowden is attending the first few days of the UN climate change conference in Bonn. In this guest post she looks at how negotiations are progressing, what the major issues are likely to be, and what New Zealand’s up to.

After the near-failure of Durban in December last year, the current Bonn Climate Change Conference promises to be interesting. With the Kyoto Protocol commitment period ending this year, the development of a second commitment period is perhaps the most important objective that needs to be met. A number of states have already submitted their Quantified Emissions Limitation and Reduction Objectives (QELROs), signalling their continued commitment to the KP, but it has become clear that not all countries are so eager to sign themselves up again.

States were ‘invited’ to submit their QELRO figures, leaving it as a matter of choice. New Zealand, for instance, has yet to do so, and is ’still considering whether to take its target under a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol or under the Convention.’ When NZ’s submission does come, it is expected to demand a number of conditions, mainly around forestry rules (the LULUCF) and the carry-over of surplus emissions units. However, NZ faces a lot of criticism for its current stance. The Alliance Of Small Island States (AOSIS) called on it to submit its QELRO without such limitations, on the grounds that the KP is not the place for conditional commitments.

The Climate Action Network (CAN) also urged NZ and Australia, to fulfil their commitments and not to follow in Canada’s ’dirty footprints’ by pulling out of the treaty.

One of the key disagreements over the second commitment period is about the time frame. Many groups would prefer a five year Kyoto period, and we have seen strong statements from AOSIS, the Africa Group and the Philippines in favour of this. On the other hand, many Annex 1 countries and their relevant groupings insist on a more conservative eight year period. The European Union, for example, called for ambitious targets and across-the-board participation in the KP, but still called for an eight year time frame. However, as the African Group pointed out in the AWG-KP plenary, this time frame would internalise low ambition within the climate process, which would be disastrous for Africa, and the rest of the world. This issue is unlikely to be resolved in Bonn, and will remain a major — and possibly decisive — negotiating point in Doha in December.

Another key issue in this session is the development of National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPs and NAPAs), and in order to facilitate these plans, a review of the Adaptation fund. Adaptation deserves to funded and maintained in the same way that mitigation is in order that developing countries can carry out well-designed and participatory planning. This review has been encouraged by the Philippines, the G77/China and the least developed countries (LDCs). Related to this, the issue of loss and damage will be discussed, as there is a need for an effective international loss and damage mechanism and climate risk insurance facility. This was especially stressed by AOSIS and the LDCs in the opening plenary.

New Zealand’s inclusion of reduced subsidies for fossil fuels in their Durban Platform submission is positive in regards to building climate ambition. However, this is not enough. It is essential that they fully commit to an unconditional second commitment period and support a five year time frame.

It will also be interesting to see how the issue of an aviation emissions trading scheme pans out during the next two weeks. It has already been a contentious issue outside of Bonn, and should continue to be so within negotiations.

On a side note, as one of the younger people present, I admire the statement of Camilla Born on behalf of YOUNGO, who called on states to increase their ambition in these negotiations. Ambition is an essential component of the UNFCCC talks. Youth movements around the world have called on leaders to acknowledge our generation as the future, and act in our interest as well as their own. There are some states that seem to agree with us, with the Philippines stating in the opening plenary session that ’the youth are vigilantly watching us.’

Overall, it is critical that the ambition gap — and the equity gap — are closed in order to make progress in these negotiations. Bonn provides countries with the opportunity to take significant and positive steps before COP18 in Doha later this year. Let’s hope that they take those steps, and make concrete commitments before it’s too late.

Follow Emma’s occasional live tweets from the Bonn conference at @emmarenowden.