UN Negotiations Open in Bonn with Calls for Faster Climate Action, Tougher Carbon Targets
With the United Nations climate secretariat opening a 10-day negotiating session in Bonn, Germany this morning, seven EU countries are pushing their bloc to boost its commitment under the Paris agreement, while the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) calls for bold action before 2020 to keep average global warming below 1.5°C.
In the EU, the joint effort by Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, and Luxembourg doesn’t indicate what new target the continent should aim for, but affirms that it has to be consistent with the Paris agreement. The EU’s current commitment calls for greenhouse gas emissions to fall 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels.
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“European Union must raise its level of ambition to reach the Paris Agreement goals,” French junior environment minister Brune Poirson said in a release. “France is taking its part by defining and implementing new policies for a fair and ecological transition, and is currently revising its national long-term strategy to aim at carbon neutrality at horizon 2050.”
Sweden, meanwhile, has already set a net zero carbon target for 2045. “Science tells us we only have a few years to respond forcefully in order to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change,” said Climate Minister Eva Svedling. “Sweden also believes the EU should set a target for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, or even earlier if science shows that it is needed.” From the other side of the Brexit divide, the UK has also committed to introduce a carbon-neutral target.
In the first edition of ECO, its onsite newsletter for the Bonn meetings, Climate Action Network-International sets out the milestones it hopes to see countries reach in this round of negotiations. They include clear options for the negotiating text that is to be finalized later this year at COP 24, energetic participation in the Talanoa Dialogue on enhanced climate action, and a commitment to tackle tough issues like loss and damage, climate change and agriculture, climate empowerment, and pre-2020 action and finance.
“Delivering the Paris Agreement was a huge, life-changing experience with a lot of attention and support, particularly from your Ministers and even Heads of State,” ECO said in its opening message to negotiators. “The first year after Paris went by in a hormone rush—the spirit of Paris on steroids. Collectively carried by a feeling of accomplishment and trust, you even managed to overcome the orange fever that threatened the entire Agreement before its first birthday.”
But now, “reality kicks in; attention has shifted to other issues and you are the ones that must do the heavy lifting to keep Paris alive by delivering on the implementation guidelines, the ambition mechanism, and other key issues in 2018.”
In a guest post for Climate Home News, AOSIS Chair and Maldives Energy and Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim warns that “time is not on our side. Early drafts of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the impacts of a global temperature increase of 1.5°C and what can be done to stop it suggest the window to avoiding catastrophic climate change is rapidly closing.” The related problem, he adds, is the “significant lag between when a country commits to action and the time it is implemented on the ground.”
The solutions to the climate crisis are more affordable than ever, Ibrahim notes. But if developed countries are to step up and take their share of the responsibility for putting those solutions in place, funding to developing countries will have to flow and international trust will have to be built—and the last two years of this decade are the time to accelerate that activity.
“As important as it is to measure global progress toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions, it must be recognized that the national contributions under the Paris sgreement don’t legally commence until 2020,” Ibrahim notes. “But many developed countries’ pre-2020 obligations remain unmet, and now some seem eager to forego early action altogether.”
Last week, the Act Alliance released a report indicating that more than three-quarters of EU climate finance goes to middle-income countries, with only 19% directed to the least-developed countries that often need it most.
In China, meanwhile, a recent cabinet shuffle has shifted responsibility for the climate file to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, which will need many more trained staff to manage the country’s emissions trading system, Climate Home reports.
The shuffle “is expected to further strengthen China’s action towards its goals to fight global warming. The country’s climate policy and targets will remain the same,” said Climate Change Department Director Li Gao. “Under the leadership of the new environment ministry, we hope we can better implement the country’s mid- and long-term low-carbon development strategy.”
In his first public appearance since the shuffle, Li said a national carbon trading plan will remain a key policy tool for regulating greenhouse gas emissions, adding that “there will be a lot of capacity-building work to be done when the tasks are handed over to the environment ministry.”
When the shuffle was first announced, Climate Home notes, it “sparked worries among some policy watchers that China’s climate action might lose some of its hard-fought momentum under the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), which—as Li pointed out in his speech—has two decades of climate change experience.”