Bonn Climate Change Conference Updates

Jun 09, 2015 - 8:00am

This blog will be updated regularly with Erwin's insights and commentary from Bonn. To access other materials relating to international climate change negotiations , visit the Paris and Beyond page here.

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12 June: Countries make progress to Paris as new guide launched to assess Australia's pollution ambitions

The latest round of Bonn climate negotiations has concluded with modest progress being made on the Paris agreement for the end of the year. Eyes now turn more sharply to the credibility of Australia’s new post-2020 pollution target to be announced in July, The Climate Institute said today as it released a guide to Australia’s upcoming post-2020 pollution reduction targets.

“Climate negotiations are difficult because international frameworks put pressure on countries to take more action at home,” said Erwin Jackson, Deputy CEO, The Climate Institute, from Bonn, Germany. “Hours of challenging work on refining the draft Paris agreement has made modest progress, and at the next meeting in August countries will have a more streamlined draft agreement for the final run into the Paris summit at the end of the year.”

The end of year Paris meeting aims to forge an agreement which creates an expectation that all countries will ratchet up action to help limit average global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (2°C) above pre-industrial levels.

Negotiators are working on an agreement that is bankable for investors; accountable and transparent to avoid countries free riding on the actions of others, and; fair in ensuring the world's most vulnerable countries are supported in low carbon development."

“The Australian government’s performance in Bonn was mixed,” said Jackson.

“In the procedural negotiations on the draft agreement the government played a mostly constructive role, seeking to accelerate progress.”

“Last week however, Australia couldn’t meet probing questions from countries like China, the USA and the UK on the credibility of current pollution reduction efforts and policies."

“The eyes of the international community will now turn to the credibility of the government’s draft post-2020 target to be announced in July. This will be the government’s biggest policy decision on climate change to date, and a key test of its commitment to help meet the internationally agreed goal of avoiding a 2°C rise in glo
bal warming,” Jackson said.

Before Paris, countries including Australia are expected to announce their draft post-2020 emissions reduction target and show how they are consistent with helping avoid 2°C warming. To inform the assessment of the Australian government’s draft post-2020 target, The Climate Institute released a detailed guide on how to assess the government’s announcement now due in July. The paper tests possible targets against key benchmarks:

  1. Is the target effective in addressing climate change? Is it a proportional contribution to less than 2, 3 or 4 degrees of global warming?

  2. Are we matching, catching up to, or lagging our peers? Australia’s per capita pollution and emissions intensity levels are higher than our peers in the USA, EU and other advanced economies – will we match, catch or lag these countries?

  3. Are we positioned to remain competitive in a world limiting emissions? Will Australia’s annual carbon productivity improvements (GDP/tonne of carbon pollution), go backwards, stagnate or progress towards ensuring a prosperous economy?

“The primary and core credibility test for the proposed target is whether it is consistent with a fair and ambitious contribution towards avoiding 2°C of warming,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute, from Sydney. “If the government puts forward a target which is not justified against this goal it will truly be a free rider asking other nations to do the our heavy lifting towards a net zero emission global economy.”

“Earlier this week at the G7 summit, the leaders of the world’s leading industrialised economies highlighted the need to decarbonise the global economy and transform their energy sectors. Backed by an ageing and inefficient coal-fired power stations, Australia is starting from behind. The level of our target will define whether we will continue to lag other nations or start to match the decarbonisation pathways of our international peers like the USA.”

“International signals to modernise economies based on clean energy are growing stronger. To remain competitive in a world limiting pollution we will need to accelerate our rate of decarbonisation and prosper through the modernisation of energy and other sectors,” said Connor.

10 June: Mixed progress tempers G7 buzz 

The positive announcement from the leaders of the G7 on the need to decarbonise the global economy has created an optimistic buzz in the hallways of the current climate convention meeting in Bonn. However, the mood has been tempered by the mixed progress of the meeting as delegates make painstaking attempts to streamline the draft Paris agreement.

Areas such as how to facilitate the transfer of clean technology to the poorest developing countries have progressed well. Discussions on how to facilitate action to reduce deforestation emissions in developing countries have also concluded.

However, the core political issues in the Paris agreement such as the framework for future emissions reductions and how to support adaptation to unavoidable climate change impacts are making slow progress. Some of the key elements of the post-2020 framework - like how to ensure the regular ratcheting up of action - have had substantive discussions but still require much more work before a clearer outcome is defined.

Overall, the Australian government delegation has been playing a constructive part in the process and attempting to support more rapid progress in the talks. In some areas more leadership from Australia could make a more positive contribution.

Clear signals that they are moving from passive to more active players on important issues would be a useful additional contribution. Articulating a clear preference for targets that ensure countries are held accountable for their actions to 2025 and not just 2030 is one example of this. Shorter term cycles for target setting would increase ongoing pressure on all governments to step up actions, and is a more credible signal to business that policies will be implemented and countries don't hold back from additional policy implementation.

How successful the meeting is viewed ultimately is now, in part, defined by the mandate given to the American and Algerian co-chairs to take the work that has been done in Bonn and consolidate it into a more workable negotiating text. This would be discussed at the next meeting August and will be tested tomorrow when countries reconvene to take stock of the process they have made to date.

Delegates take a breather before re-entering the fray

9 June: The tale of two climate meetings 

The second week of the Bonn climate meeting started today but some government officials and observers did not have their mind on what was happening in the halls of the UN. Instead, they were focused on what was occurring in the mountains of upper Bavaria at the G7 Summit.

At the G7, Chancellor Merkel put climate change high on the agenda. The leaders of the USA, UK, Japan, Italy, France, Canada and Germany agreed on the need to decarbonise the global economy over the course of the century and committed to strive towards transformation of the energy sector by 2050. This sends another signal to governments, business, investors and communities around the world that momentum is building towards the inevitable modernisation and decarbonisation of our economies.

In the Bonn meetings itself, countries are agitating to pick up the pace of negotiations. All last week diplomats sought, with mixed results, to streamline the draft Paris agreement. The text itself is still expansive and plenty needs to be done to have a streamlined version to be discussed at the next meeting in August. But as the stocktaking plenary started this morning, it is encouraging that a core precondition of faster progress towards Paris is being built – trust.

This morning, almost without exception, country after country lined up to give the American and Algerian co-chairs a mandate to produce a more concise draft agreement. From the outside this is not a huge step forward, but without this kind of mandate the chairs hands are tied and a more useful draft agreement is unlikely to emerge before the end of the meeting. With only around 15 days of formal negotiating between now and Paris this is important. Countries will take a temperature check again on Wednesday to see if the co-chairs need to be more active in this regard.

Delegates assemble to kick of week two of the Bonn climate change negotiations.

The Climate Institute’s latest Global Action Update illustrates that the path to decarbonisation is underway. In May, countries continued to announce targets and implement domestic policies to reduce pollution and boost clean energy investments. Crucially, global capital is also starting to walk the talk, and investors and their regulators are not waiting for the Paris outcome before they start to position themselves for the inevitable transition to a zero pollution global economy. We dedicate a specific section of the update to this. 
Finally, we ask the question of what if Australia followed the USA, Canada or the EU and would our target be consistent with this agreed global goal of limiting warming to less than 2ºC ?


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