After nine days of negotiations, the mid-year United Nations climate meeting remains bogged down in technical details, forcing countries to agree to an extra week of talks in Bangkok in September before they meet in Katowice, Poland in December to finalize the rulebook for implementing the Paris agreement.
“Countries have spent the past nine days in Bonn, Germany, negotiating the rules that will govern the Paris Agreement, with a decision due in December in Katowice,” Climate Home News reports. But the meeting due to end Thursday, the slow pace of discussions and decisions “has left organizers scrambling for more negotiating time, hence the announcement of the week-long meeting in Bangkok.”
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The Bonn session was supposed to come up with a draft negotiating text that would pave the way for final decisions in Katowice, Climate Home noted  late Monday. “One week ago, this was seen as optimistic but plausible,” the UK-based news outlet stated. “With three days of talks to go, such an outcome is now impossible, UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said.”
But Espinosa maintained delegates were still committed to the all-important task of hammering out a final version of the rulebook before COP 24 concludes toward the end of this year.
“I have not heard anyone saying ‘well maybe we won’t finalize this’,” she told media. “There were some rumours before the session started that some people would not probably be so eager to finalize, but at this session everything I have heard, and I have met with all of the negotiating groups, all of them. All I have heard is, everybody is committed. So that is very encouraging to me.”
UN climate negotiations “revolve around ‘texts’, into which parties add their own lines, before fighting about which parts get to stay in,” Climate Home explains. Ahead of the Bangkok meeting, “officials will attempt to cobble together all of the competing views on dozens of contested issues and build a single text. That would allow time for countries to engage in inevitable, initial fights before the all-important end-of-year meeting.”
Camilla Born, senior policy advisor with London-based E3G’s Climate Diplomacy Programme, told Climate Home she could see the elements of the draft text taking shape. “It seems like we’ve got the ingredients coming together to get somewhere,” she said. But “it’s really important to have that text in Bangkok, because it’s important to have time to let the dust settle. If you have that text first in Katowice, that’s not a constructive moment to get a final outcome.”
Even with government delegations bogging down on the rules that will guide implementation of the Paris agreement once it begins in 2020, the Climate Vulnerable Forum was out with a media release over the weekend that called for early action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change.
“Growing climate risks, economic and technological developments in low-carbon technology, as well as increased action by subnational actors, make the national climate plans submitted by governments in 2015 outdated and requiring review,” said CVF ChairDr. Ayela Anabo, Director General at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
“We can all do more,” added Philippines Senator Loren Legarda. “1.5°C is completely feasible, but it requires bold political will. All countries must internalize the urgency and start the process of revising their current national targets no later than January 2019 to secure survival and prosperity for all of us.”
Climate Action Network-International’s daily newsletter, ECO, echoed the call to amp up countries’ climate response before 2020.
“With insufficient pre-2020 action, ECO sees a very real risk of setting a precedent of not honouring deals made and undermining trust between Parties, just as they are entering the implementation period of the Paris agreement,” the newsletter stated . “Additionally, the IPCC 1.5°C special report coming out this fall is likely to remind us of the urgent action needed for countries to get on track with the Paris agreement’s long-term goals, and sooner will be cheaper.” This is why pre-2020 climate action “is not just a box you have to tick at COP 24.”
Climate Action Network-Canada Executive Director Catherine Abreu reinforced the point on Sunday, as a participant in the historic Talanoa Dialogue .
“This is one of those moments in history that calls on all of us—government, civil society, and community representatives alike—to stand unflinchingly in the hard truth of our condition,” she said. “We cannot shrink in fear of the impacts of climate change and the implications of the tremendous effort demanded of us. We cannot continue to soothe ourselves with half-measures, significant as they may be. While the demand-side policies being enacted worldwide are essential, they will forever be undermined if we refuse to name the problem and introduce supply-side policies that lead to the long-term elimination of fossil fuels.”
But Climate Home News got a very different message from Tomasz Chruszczow, one of Poland’s lead representatives leading up to COP 24 in Katowice, who dismissed calls to keep fossils and other notable polluters out of the talks. Civil society organizations have been calling for a conflict of interest policy for companies participating in the COP process, arguing “that fossil fuel companies are a malign influence and weaken climate ambition to protect their profits,” Climate Home notes.
But Poland, which will assume the COP presidency just before the Katowice meeting begins, is not convinced.
“We want everybody in this action. Even if they are now generating electricity from fossil fuels—the majority of electricity comes from fossil fuels—still it is changing, but it is a process,” Chruszczow said. “The call for exclusion of anybody from the process…I don’t think that is very useful. Let’s think how to incentivize the transition.”
While discussion of a conflict of interest policy will continue at future meetings, support for Poland’s position came from an unexpected source, prompting Climate Home to conclude  that the calls to exclude fossils truly fall outside the COP mainstream.
“Of course the polluters have a role to play; everybody must be on board,” Philippines’ Legerda said. “We want the polluters to stop polluting, we want the polluters to pay, we want the polluters to wake up and help us transition…we can’t isolate them, because they are part of the global scenario. In fact, we must engage them more.”