Skip to main Content

Copenhagen Accord to be under spotlight in Bonn

30 May 2010
Copenhagen Accord to be under spotlight in Bonn

The Climate Group's Damian Ryan looks ahead to the UN climate talks in Bonn, discussing the likely focus of attention.

The Copenhagen Accord is likely to be the focus of attention next week when countries reconvene in Bonn, Germany for the latest round of UN climate talks.

Following agreement at an earlier procedural meeting in April, parties will have a new ‘Chair’s’ text to consider in the main negotiating group. This document is likely to be hotly debated. Although it is based on the structure and content of previous negotiating texts, it also incorporates the core elements of the Copenhagen Accord.

Countries remain split over the exact status of the Accord.

Developed countries, and in particular the US, believe it should be the main vehicle for guiding negotiations. Many developing countries, including the influential ‘BASIC’ group*, believe it provides useful political guidance, but consider the existing ‘Bali Roadmap’ as the only legitimate framework for negotiation. A small minority of developing countries have rejected the Accord outright.

Finding common ground will be the key challenge for negotiators.

In a number of respects there is a firm foundation to build on. For one, a majority of parties, representing over 80% of world emissions, have now associated themselves with the Accord, including all the major emitters. Good progress has also been made on a number of the core building blocks of a final deal.

Talks on both deforestation issues (i.e. ‘REDD+’) and technology transfer, for example, are well advanced. Action to provide ‘fast-start’ finance by developed countries, is also gathering pace. Spain, for example, recently announced a €45 million contribution for adaptation, while Norway and Indonesia are in discussions over substantial levels of REDD financing.

Set against these positives, however, are a number of long-standing obstacles. These are likely to ensure that progress in Bonn is incremental at best.

As always, the continuing uncertainty over US climate and energy legislation remains one of the most important brakes on movement in the UNFCCC.  In addition, countries continue to ignore two major ‘elephants in the room’: the legal form of an ‘agreed outcome’ and the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

The two issues are closely related and critical to the success of the overall negotiations.

With respect to ‘legal form’, developing countries have been clear that the final outcome should preserve the existing two-treaty system. This would mean new voluntary actions for developing countries under the UN Convention and new mandatory commitments for developed countries under both the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol.

Since the US is only prepared to make commitments under the Convention, and because many other developed countries (such as Canada and Japan) are likely to follow the US’ lead, the Protocol’s future is by no means guaranteed based on the current direction of talks. Such an outcome would be a collective failure and puts at risk the many progressive mechanisms the Protocol created, such as the CDM.

Yvo de Boer, the outgoing UN climate chief, has been at pains to engage ministers on these two issues. This reflects their highly politicized nature and the importance their resolution has to the successful conclusion of negotiations. Discussions in Bonn on whether to hold an additional high-level ministerial meeting before COP16 to provide extra political guidance are therefore particularly important in this regard.

Overall, however, the next two weeks of negotiations are likely to provide few surprises or breakthroughs. Progress, to some extent, has been calibrated already by statements from various sources that a final deal is unlikely this year. In many ways this may be for the best if the outcome is a stronger, more stable agreement at COP17. The key task for negotiators in Bonn is to lay the foundations for such a deal.

*BASIC: Brazil, South Africa, India, China

Latest from Twitter