Local weather talks in Bonn stall over cash, rising strain on COP28

Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), looks on during the opening session of the UNFCCC SB58 Bonn Climate Change Conference June 5, 2023 in Bonn, Germany.

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Negotiators left the United Nations campus in Bonn this week with a palpable sense of frustration over key decarbonization issues such as climate finance and the pace of carbon reductions.

The Bonn climate conference, which ended late Thursday, is set to prepare decisions to be adopted at the COP28 summit in the United Arab Emirates later this year. It is widely seen as an interim check on the progress of talks leading up to the world’s largest annual international climate conference.

For many attendees at the two-week event, the lack of progress on issues such as climate finance and the pace of carbon reduction left a lot to be desired.

“Progress has been disappointing in almost every way, with one main reason: money,” said David Waskow, international climate director at the World Resources Institute, a global nonprofit.

“Discussions on the first-ever global inventory stalled on how to integrate funding and support,” Waskow said. “This poses another obstacle to using the Global Stocktake to mobilize transformative action to curb emissions, build resilience and mobilize more finance at COP28.”

The United Arab Emirates, the third largest oil-producing member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, will host the COP28 summit from November 30 to December 12.

The Dubai Summit is considered one of the most important climate conferences since the groundbreaking Paris Agreement. At the Dubai summit, the United Nations will release a global inventory on how to address the climate emergency – the first since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

In Bonn, however, low-income countries were deeply frustrated that the funds they had been promised to implement their climate plans had not yet materialised.

WRI’s Waskow said that while the thorny issue of climate finance is not on the official agenda, “it is clearly casting a shadow over the negotiations”.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg attends a press conference at the UNFCCC SB58 Bonn Climate Change Conference, June 13, 2023 in Bonn.

Sascha Schuermann | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“The Bonn climate conference exposed the blatant hypocrisy of wealthy nations and demonstrated a remarkable indifference to the struggles of developing countries,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at the Climate Action Network, which brings together more than 1,500 civil society groups.

“To be clear, without delivering on their financial pledges – which are directly linked to their historic role in driving the climate crisis – these wealthy countries lack the moral authority to pressure poorer countries,” Singh said on Twitter on Thursday.

Global Inventory

For some, the struggle to agree on a formal agenda for the Bonn talks was the culmination of the struggle, as a compromise could only be reached the day before the meeting officially closed.

United Nations Executive Secretary for Climate Action Simon Stiell nonetheless expressed optimism about the potential for progress in the coming months.

“Having taken almost two weeks to agree on an agenda, it’s easy to think we’re far apart on many issues, but from what I’ve seen and heard there are bridges that are being built can be used to see the commonalities that we know exist,” said Stiell on Thursday.

“World-changing deals come about when negotiators face the situation, find compromises, and then manage to convince their capitals of the value and necessity of those compromises.”

Demonstrators demonstrate during the UNFCCC SB58 Bonn Climate Change Conference on June 13, 2023 in Bonn, Germany, on climate justice, loss and damage, fossil fuels, human rights, exploitation of poor countries by rich countries and other climate-related issues.

Sascha Schuermann | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Highlighting the global balance sheet, Stiell said this procedure “represents a moment to correct course to put the world on track to limit temperature rise in line with the Paris Agreement.”

The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Beyond this critical temperature threshold, it becomes more likely that small changes can trigger dramatic changes in Earth’s entire life support system.

“Big polluters should rejoice”

“It is extremely worrying that during these talks, rich countries have blocked discussions on climate finance and equity at every turn, yet carbon markets are quietly advancing. Big polluters must be pleased,” said Sara Shaw, climate justice and energy coordinator at Friends of the Earth International, an environmental group.

Work continued in Bonn to establish a global carbon market in accordance with Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, on which emission credits are traded. Companies tend to use these markets to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Shaw, carbon markets serve as a “dangerous distraction” from meaningful climate action, undermining both an urgent transition away from fossil fuels and additional financing for low-income countries.

The United Nations has long faced criticism for the involvement of fossil fuel delegates and lobbyists at its annual climate conference. The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas is the main cause of the climate emergency.

Looking ahead to COP28, Shaw said the conference was a “big battle” between high- and low-income countries.

“Developing countries are struggling for the climate finance that is not only theirs, but that is needed to ensure a just transition to a new renewable energy system for all,” she added.

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