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Takeaways from Bonn

The recently concluded 23rd edition of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn was termed a damp squib by many environmentalists as there was no clear-cut outcome on discussions related to the issues of finance, loss and damage, and ‘pre-2020 actions’

Even the clause of finance and technology transfer was added in the last minute after developing countries raise the issue of no mention of the same. One of the main outcomes of the conference was the Talanoa Dialogue.

Many European countries including Germany emphasised the importance of working together to deal with the climate change crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “This conference must send out the serious signal that the Paris Agreement was a starting point, but the work has only begun.” Today’s pledges in the nationally-determined contributions were not enough to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, she said. “Now it’s about walking the talk.”

This is to see how Germany and other developing nations keep their promise. The recent anticipation by Germany’s environment ministry fears high emissions from coal-fired power plants, and transport will make the country miss its 2020 climate targets by a wider margin. The measures countries have committed to under the Paris Agreement are voluntary, but there has been no mechanism to double-check the progress of the nations. The rulebook for the historical Paris Conference could not be finalised in Bonn and is expected to be completed by Dec 2018. The rule book will establish the rules and processes needed to provide the operational guidance for fulfilling the ambition of the Agreement and providing clarity on countries’ efforts to reach the global goal.

Developing countries reiterated that the developed nations are not extending the required financial assistance to under-developed and developing countries. In the two-week long conference, many developing countries including India have demanded sure-shot deliverance of their promises including the commitments made under the Kyoto protocol that will expire in 2020. Several amendments were made in the protocol in Doha and extended the mandate of developed nations to make the GHG emission cuts till 2020. India, Brazil, China and South Africa have also expressed serious concern over the attempts of some developed countries to tweak the criteria for providing finance to the developing countries through multilateral funding agencies.

India at COP23
India requires over one trillion dollars for its fight against climate change. Raji Gain, chief general manager of NABARD, said in Bonn that the country needed $206bn to support plans to curb emissions, $189bn to execute national and state-level climate action plans and $834bn for low carbon growth-related mitigation. India also demanded that developing countries must reveal how much money they would contribute to the first tranche of 100 billion that is to be made available to developed countries by 2020.

India anchored the issues of sustainable lifestyle and climate justice at the conference. Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr Harsh Vardhan said climate change would put a disproportionate burden on the poor and marginalised sections of the global community.  He added that scientific evidence clearly indicates the severity of climate change and the cost of delayed action. “Access to clean air, water, and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is just not a question of politics, it is our moral obligation”, Dr Vardhan said. Emphasising that though India’s per capita emissions are only one-third of the global average and its contribution to the worldwide stock of carbon dioxide is less than 3 percent, India has still moved ahead with implementation of path-breaking initiatives.

Many developing countries including the host country Fiji and India pushed for setting the target of preventing global temperature rise beyond 1.5 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels. Though, the Paris Agreement had set the threshold of 2 degree Celsius. Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said, “We must not fail our people. That means using the next two weeks and the year ahead to do everything we can to make the Paris Agreement work and to advance ambition and support for climate action before 2020. To meet our commitments in full, not back away from them. And to commit ourselves to the most ambitious target of the Paris Agreement. To cap the global average temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius over that of the pre-industrial age.”

Problem with the solution!
With 197 signatories, the 2015 Paris Agreement marked an important milestone for global climate talks, specifically for its encouragement of governments to reduce carbon emissions to limit global warming to below 2°C.

According to Emissions Gap Report, the NDCs that form the foundation of the Paris Agreement cover only approximately one-third of the emissions reductions needed to be on a least-cost pathway for the goal of staying well below 2°C. The gap between the reductions needed and the national pledges made in Paris is alarmingly high.

Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres said in his opening remarks, “Climate change is the defining threat of our time. Our duty — to each other and future generations — is to raise ambition. We need to do more on five ambition action areas: emissions, adaptation, finance, partnerships and leadership.”

After Trump decided to withdraw its support from the Climate Change, over 250 local governments in America reiterated that they would implement the Paris agreement locally. However, the pullout decision has affected the efforts in gathering necessary funds for climate actions as the capability of the USA to mobilise financial resources is beyond compare. Technically, the pullout decision will not be effective until November 2020. French President Emmanuel Macron said that “we can all come together” to mobilise the necessary public and private funds to act on climate. To guarantee quality science needed to make climate policy decisions, Macron proposed that the EU should fill the financing gap for the IPCC left open by the US administration’s decision to reduce funding. Now, all eyes are on participating developed countries to know: will they keep their word and support the global cause without tweaking the commitments to their benefit?

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