Climate diplomats need to prepare for a hot summer. Leaving Bonn mid-May after two weeks of complex negotiations, the current status of the negotiation text shows how much work remains to be done. Therefore, negotiators have scheduled another week of discussions for early September in Thailand’s capital to close some of the gaps and to ensure that a huge step towards implementation of the Paris Agreement can be taken at COP24 in Katowice.
At least three issues are of major relevance for the current stalemate.
No text – no rules: It became clear early in the negotiations in Bonn that there would be no negotiating text by the end of the two weeks. However, without such a basis, agreement on a substantial rule book for Paris Agreement implementation at COP24 is simply not feasible. One spotlight is on the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) to deliver proposals on contested items such as climate pledges and transparency of activities. The discussions on pledges are focussing e.g. on what elements should be included in the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and what kind of guidance should be established. The transparency item refers to the nature of reporting on action, including support in form of climate finance.
Finance – a lack of predictability: Money is always a crucial element of trust building and there are still quite a number of open questions at the moment. During the negotiations in Bonn in May one could see that it is currently not so much a question of whether there will be sufficient resources available, but how the available resources are reported to ensure some predictability for developing countries. Article 9.5 asks developed countries to review and report on their financial commitments every two years, whereas all other countries should do so on a voluntary basis. Apparently, a number of states are not able or willing to ensure clarity in this regard at the moment, though more transparency could serve as a major builder of trust.
Responsibilities – same, same but different: One of the key reasons for the success in Paris was overcoming the dispute about differentiation of commitments between developed and developing countries. In Bonn, disputes between China, India and others on the one hand and the EU, US and Japan on the other, became obvious – mainly on the question of whether there is to be one set of rules (favoured by developed countries) or two sets, as was proposed for example by India to consider historic responsibilities.
Options to take the lead
In the light of these, partly substantial, differences, renewed leadership is required to create new momentum for the kind of compromises reached in Paris. And there are sufficient opportunities to do so. First, issue-specific round tables will be organised before Bangkok to pave the way toward a concrete negotiating text that is perceived to be party driven. In addition to these more informal formats, there are several high-level opportunities for climate diplomats to enter further discussion and to explain what kind of leadership role they are ready to play:
There is no doubt that Poland’s COP presidency will be among the first to welcome major progress in the weeks to come, not waiting until December in Katowice for high-level engagement.
Jair Bolsonaro, Brasil’s current de facto presidential frontrunner, says he would withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement if he wins the October election. The withdrawal of such an important developing country, home to the world’s largest rainforest, would deal a blow to international climate cooperation. Bolsorano’s opposition to the international pact has drawn criticism from the UN’s environment chief.
Until now, no one had seriously doubted that relations between the US and Europe, for all the difficulties and conflicts they have gone through, would continue safe and sound. Since Trump was elected as US President however, the atmosphere has changed. The re-nationalisation of the world order has gained speed and is making clear how far advanced global interdependencies have become. With global multilateralism in crisis, climate diplomacy could act as a new driving force.
The surge in the frequency and intensity of climate change impacts has raised the alarm about how this could hamper coastal activities. Several critical ports in the Indo-Pacific region are hubs of international trade and commerce and at the same time vulnerable to typhoons, taller waves and erosion. India’s climate diplomacy at the regional level could activate climate-resilient pathways for port development and management.