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Slow progress at latest UN climate talks in Bonn

08 June 2010
Slow progress at latest UN climate talks in Bonn

The Climate Group's Damian Ryan reports on the slow progress made during the first week of the latest round of UN climate talks, which began in Bonn on May 31st.

The fortnight of meetings is the first time countries have fully re-engaged in negotiations since the Copenhagen Climate Conference. As before, the negotiations are taking place under two-tracks: one focused on agreeing a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012; and another broader negotiation seeking to strengthen the overarching UN Climate Convention.

Most of the attention in the first week was centered on the Convention negotiations. Countries worked their way through some of the main elements of a new ‘Chair’s’ text, which incorporates previous draft text as well as the key parts of the Copenhagen Accord. Parties discussed financing; emissions reduction by both developed and developing countries; monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV); market instruments; and adaptation.

Progress was limited, with familiar divisions quickly apparent.

In the finance discussions, for example, countries remained split over new institutional arrangements and whether funding should come from mainly public or private sources. In the mitigation talks, developing countries called for greater ambition from developed countries and the need to increase emission cuts to at least 40% by 2020. Developed countries, particularly the US, stressed the importance of new, robust and transparent MRV guidelines for tracking developing country action. Unfortunately, much of the debate across all issues simply repeated well known positions.

In an effort to move negotiations forward in both the Convention and Protocol tracks, a number of countries proposed establishing a “common space” for discussion on emission targets for developed countries. Developed countries that are parties to the Protocol have been keen to link the two tracks for sometime, although with a broader mandate to discuss mitigation action by all countries. The US, however, opposed any linkage, arguing that it would be inappropriate given that not all countries were party to both treaties. Despite this, an informal linkage of some kind seems inevitable.

Overall, the first week of negotiations went largely as expected, with no substantive breakthroughs or major movements on key issues. The good news was arguably the tone of the talks, which remained constructive, despite the clear divides. The relatively benign response to the inclusion of Copenhagen Accord elements in the Convention text is also a hopeful sign, although a small minority of countries remains sharply opposed to it.

Week two of the talks will see negotiators return in more depth to earlier issues, while also discussing technology transfer and sectoral initiatives. An update from the UN High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Finance will also take place. High on the agenda for many, however, will be a final address from outgoing UN climate chief, Yvo de Boer, who stands down from his position at the end of June.

The next negotiating session will be held in Bonn from 2-6 August. A final pre-Cancun meeting is being discussed for sometime in September/October, but funding and a venue have yet to be agreed.

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