Can Climate Negotiators Reach a Final Draft in Bonn This Week?

(Bonn, Germany) — The last round of talks before the Paris negotiations in December began this week at the headquarters of the UN climate change body in Bonn, Germany.  The goal of this penultimate round of negotiations is to coalesce around a final draft text that member states will refine and further negotiate in Paris in about six weeks time.

They have just one week to get there, but a number of contentious issues continue to stifle meaningful progress toward a final draft.

Here are some of the major points to keep an eye on for the week:

“U.S. Text”

Two people are tasked with leading the discussions, called Co-Chairs, and their actions – and inaction – seems to have drawn the ire of the developing world. The chairs are Ahmed Djoghlaf of Algeria and Daniel Reifsnyder of the U.S.

In a press conference at the start of the conference, Azeb Girmai of LDC Watch, a watchdog group advocating for the inclusion of the world’s least developed countries in the global agenda, came of the gate saying the “text has been hijacked by the powerful and few.” She and several others from the G-77 developing countries feel the U.S. has had undue influence on what the draft text has come to be and have dubbed it the “U.S. text.” It implies that perhaps the Algerian co-Chair has been silenced.

“They’re not playing their role as non-partisan,” said Meena Raman of the Third World Network.

“Loss and Damage”

At the Warsaw round of negotiations in 2013 it was agreed that language for the concept of ‘loss and damage’ would be included in the final Paris Agreement.Basically, this is when a county needs help recovering from natural disasters in the short-term and cannot wait for long-term assistance in adapting to the changing climate, the latter of which is really the purpose of the bulk of the Paris agreement.

However, now it may only be mentioned in name and without any substantive meaning or commitments that would set to help developing countries, especially the small island developing states.

Harjeet Singh, the international climate policy manager of Action Aid, explained it this way: if a developing country has a choice between spending money now to address people dying from typhoons, hurricanes, and deforestation, they’ll choose that over spending on long-term projects adapting infrastructure to changing climates.

One positive aspect about the debate over ‘loss and damage’ is that it is considered a separate point from adaptation. That recognition will likely be driven home by the least developed and small island countries this week in order to ensure a more meaningful inclusion.

If not, there is a risk, however unlikely, that developing countries will walk out of the negotiations in Paris as they did in Copenhagen since this is one of the points of solidarity.

Finance

Follow the money and you get to the heart of the entire climate negotiations process. Climate finance is a convoluted and complicated part of the talks – in fact, most people here can’t even agree on what constitutes climate finance.  As of these disagreements, finance is the least discussed topic in concrete terms.

Some believe that climate finance should be all public money doled out in the form of grants from developed countries to developing countries, much in the way current aid and disaster relief funds are disbursed.

Others believe that at least some of the money should be in the form of loans, especially to countries like India and China who have rapidly growing economies that will soon surpass some developed countries and who have also contributed a significant amount of carbon emissions themselves during this economic growth process. This camp seems to also be more open to involving the private sector in funding climate-benefit projects, despite the possible alternate agenda and profit-making bottom line of companies that are willing to come to the table.

But there is one possible point of convergence: Both these sides appear to agree that climate finance is not the same as development and aid money. For instance, even if a USAID project about women’s empowerment in a rural farming community has an added-on benefit for the climate, the funds for that project should not be counted under the U.S. aid budget as well as the country’s financial commitment under the Paris agreement.

Member states have only one week to decide the draft text for Paris. The stakes are high and the choice seems to boil down to two key challenges: whether a draft text will be fair for developed and developing countries alike and whether it will be a solid base to negotiate an agreement that can ultimately be ratified by countries.

 

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